Had Shakespeare established a literary estate to which performance royalties were due after his death, probably more than any of his plays, Richard III would have most swelled the coffers in the four centuries since 1616. With a handful of other plays (Othello, 1 Henry IV, Macbeth and Hamlet) it has enjoyed a continuous, highly successful stage life from the Restoration to the present day. The title role is a gift that most actors are loath to refuse. The British theatre at least has been dominated for most of its history by actor-managers, towering figures such as David Garrick, John Philip Kemble, William Macready, Charles Kean and Henry Irving, for whom the choice of performing Richard III not only confirmed their place within a theatrical tradition, but also often made sound financial sense. In the twentieth century, the rise of the director did little to dent the frequency with which the play was revived, increasingly in conceptual interpretations or in the context of history play cycles, such as the Royal Shakespeare Company’s ‘This England’ double tetralogy of 2000, when Richard was seen as the culmination of a historical sequence stretching back to the deposition of Richard II. The range of interpretations and styles of performance has been remarkable. From one Dr Landis who in 1876 hired Tamany Theatre in New York in order to perform Richard alone on stage while all other parts issued from behind opaque screens, to Kathryn Hunter’s gender-bending Gloucester in a distinctly inauthentic all-female production at Shakespeare’s Globe in London in 2003.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Key Productions and Performances
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number