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Tuesday, February 5, 2013


American Kevin Spacey in a recent,  campier stage version of Richard III
OLD BONES TALKING--If bones could talk what tales they’d tell.  Enter King Richard III as he has reappeared (after a 527-year nap) on the world stage and given the tsunami of media coverage today--his bones are talking non-stop.

Shakespeare's folio page, 1597
Richard III, King of England (1483-1485) feared dying alone as depicted in a famous 1745 painting by William Hogarth.  No doubt he would have been irate that his mortal remains (dna tested and approved) would be found under a paved parking lot in 2012 by University of Leicester scholars.  Little doubt exists why Shakespeare’s play was titled a tragedy (written in 1591) because R3 did die alone mainly because he killed off most of his friends and relatives.  R3 was a serial killer, but that’s unkind (except victims would disagree).

Burial site, Leicester, UK
Flash forward to today. Phillipa Langley, a film producer championed the search for the “mysterious” whereabouts of R3’s remains.  She convinced archaeologists and city officials that they’d find R3 once they found that church.   She was right. “Powering through red tape and initial skepticism, Langley obtained permission from Leicester City Council, commissioned a dig by University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS)  and, when funding fell through at the last minute, raised £13,000 in two weeks from an appeal to ‘Ricardians’ around the world,” said Radio Times reporter E. Jane Dickson.

Salvador Dali paints actor
Sir Lawrence Olivier as part of
a 1955 promotional stunt for Olivier's film
Dali's painting
As for the missing bones mystery, there was none. Historians century’s ago wrote he was buried in a corner of Grey Friars church, which was right where they found him.  The true mystery was locating the remains of the church that in turn had been unceremoniously leveled when Henry VIII was busy baiting all things Catholic.

The discovering film producer—no doubt-- will start cameras rolling soon on another film of Richard III.  Until then, we blog images of a few actors, who have appeared in Shakespeare’s tragedy, plus a YouTube snippet of Sir. Lawrence Olivier’s 1955 tinny voiced performance of the opening soliloquy. 

One famed Brit actor you would have thought would have played R3 didn’t.  Welchman Richard Burton did not portray R3 on stage or in film, but shortly before his death (1984) had shown interest in such an attempt.  In Burton’s diaries, he is bemused by American actor Al Pacino having the courage to tackle the role.


“…It is certainly appealing when a leading character like King Richard, Prince Hamlet or Ancient Iago, talks directly to the audience in soliloquy. In these monologues, however deceitful and scheming a character may be within the play. he never lies to the audience. Richard opens the play with a disarmingly honest confession. He invites your sympathy and also makes you smile.

It is no wonder that the part has attracted so many actors who enjoy playing up to an audience, nor that the play has thereby retained its popularity worldwide. Shakespeare's stage version of Richard has erased the history of the real king, who was, by comparison, a model of probity. Canny Shakespeare may well have conformed to the propaganda of the Tudor Dynasty, Queen Elizabeth I's grandfather having slain Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. Shakespeare was not writing nor rewriting history. He was building on his success as thee young playwright of the Henry VI trilogy, some of whose monstrously self-willed men and women recur in Richard III. But this play he called "The Tragedy" and it stands alone.”

--Program notes of the U.S. tour (1992) of Richard iii played by Ian McKellen


R3, THE PAINTING (right)
English actor David Garrick as Richard III just before the battle of Bosworth Field. His sleep having been haunted by the ghosts of those he has murdered, he wakes to the realisation that he is alone in the world and death is imminent. The painting, David Garrick as Richard III (1745), is by William Hogarth.

The portrait of R3 that is now on the wall inside London’s National Portrait Gallery is now the last big mystery for Richardians around the world.  It seems no one knows who painted it.
Richard III by Anonymous 

The following are notes from the Gallery: “…Richard III was the last Plantagenet king of England. As Duke of Gloucester he was a staunch supporter of his elder brother Edward IV against the Lancastrians, but after Edward's death he steadily assumed power during the minority of Edward V, and was crowned in his place. When in 1483 Edward and his brother the Duke of York disappeared from the Tower of London it was rumoured that Richard had slain the boys. This portrait, in which he appears to be placing a ring on the little finger of his right hand, has been seen by some as evidence of his cruel nature and by others as evidence of his humanity. Immortalised by Shakespeare as 'Crookback', scholars now believe that the emphasis put on what was probably only a slight bodily deformity was part of the negative propaganda arising from his reputation as a murderer.”


American Al Pacino

Brit Kenneth Branagh

Brit Alec Guinness

Brit Ian McKellen

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