richard IIISo I read Richard III.

And I listened to Richard III. 

And although the 1995 movie starring Annette Bening was not available for rent, I did watch the 1955 movie directed by and starring Laurence Olivier. The movie was torturous even though I was on the treadmill.

I also watched Al Pacino’s Looking for Richard and I wanted to write him a love letter–Al Pacino, that is, who with the movie is on a quest to help people understand Richard III and Shakespeare. The documentary could easily be titled Loving Shakespeare, or Loving Richard, or Loving Al. And I can’t wait to watch it again. But beware, if you watch it, you’re going to want to join me in my quest.

Confession: I am seriously behind in my secondary reading–Bloom and Garber, primarily. Still, onward…

So Richard III. Here is where Shakespeare figures out how to start a play

Now is the winter of my discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York

Versus these first lines:

Henry VI, Part OneHung be the heavens with black, yield day to night! [which is not bad]
Henry VI, Part TwoAs by your high imperial Majesty I had in charge at my depart for France…
Henry VI, Part Three: I wonder how the King escaped our hands.

The power of the following passage hit me each time I heard it. To set the scene: Richard killed Lady Anne’s husband and her husband’s father, King Henry VI, and now he’s attempting to woo her with the dead King lying there beside them:

Speak it again and, even with the word,
This hand, which for thy love did kill thy love,
Shall for thy love kill a far truer love.
To both their deaths shalt thou be accessory.

(Act 1, sc. 2, lines 207-210)

In this play, we have GHOSTS who visit Richard while he sleeps, a parade of all those he has killed or has had killed. When he wakes:

What do I fear? Myself? There’s none else by.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am.
Then fly! What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
Alack, I love myself. Wherefore? For any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O, no. Alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself.
I am a villain. Yet I lie; I am not.

(Act 5, sc. 3, lines 194-203)

Wandering the battlefield, it is Richard III who utters the famous lines:

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!

(Act 5, sc. 4, line 13)

Surprise: to find the phrase pell mell in Shakespeare, but here it is in Richard’s address to his army:

March on. Join bravely. Let us to it pell mell,
If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell.

(Act 5, sc. 3, lines 330-331)

In a couple of weeks I will see Richard III on Broadway!