Home > Article > My kingdom for a horse! All about Richard III.

My kingdom for a horse! All about Richard III.

Richard III, King of England, Uncle of Elizabe...

Image by lisby1 via Flickr

As the Sam Mendes / Kevin Spacey production of Shakespeare’s Richard III gets into gear at the Old Vic in London, this is a good time to look at what the play represents and the actors who have made the title role their own over the years.

So what’s it all about? Enotes Study Guide says this:

Richard III is the last of the four plays in Shakespeare’s minor tetralogy of English history: it concludes a dramatic chronicle started by Henry VI: Part I and then moving through Henry VI: Part II and Henry VI: Part III. The entire four-play saga was composed early in Shakespeare’s career, most scholars assigning Richard III a composition date of 1591 or 1592. Culminating with the defeat of the evil King Richard III at the battle of Bosworth field in the play’s final act, Richard III is a dramatization of actual historical events that concluded in the year 1485, when the rule of the Plantagenet family over England was replaced by the Tudor monarchy. A full century after these events, Shakespeare’s Elizabethan audiences were certainly familiar with them (as contemporary Americans are of their own Civil War), and they were particularly fascinated with the character of Richard III. Shakespeare’s audiences could readily identify the various political factions and complex family relationships depicted in the play as they proceed from the three parts of Henry VI.

You probably know (or can imagine) the Laurence Olivier version, but did you know these other actors have all played the title role?

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Strange Random Richard III Quote:

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover

To entertain these fair well-spoken days,

I am determined to prove a villain

And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

(I, i)

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