Review (and more): Richard III by Independent Shakespeare Company

OK, I’m late to the party on this one.

Last night, my wife Lisa and I saw part of the final weekend (yes, Wednesday is now a part of the weekend in Griffith Park, Los Angeles) of Independent Shakespeare Company’s FREE production of Richard III. If I say it was worth the price that would sound snarky, but the truth of the matter is that in the run-up to their two-production summer season, I had donated a fairly large chunk of change, and then at the end of the show last night, dropped another $20 into their donation “bucket for ducats” for good measure.

David Melville as Richard III for Independent Shakespeare Company (photo courtesy StageAndCinema.com)

And yes, the show was that good.

With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, let me count the ways (in an abbreviated Top Five listing, as I’ve got some Macbeth-related fish to fry later in this post):

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Make This Weekend a Dickey Three Weekend!

check your local listings… I’ve always wanted to say that

Tonight on the Smithsonian Channel, there is “The King’s Skeleton: Richard III Revealed.” This is a 90-minute special that goes over the discovery of the purported remains of the bunchback toad, the use of DNA evidence and skeletal analysis and to verify the identity of the bones and the possible cause of death… I’ve got the show DVR’ed and I’m hoping to follow up with a review or some remarks later next week.

And if your TV viewing time will monopolized by the NBA Finals or the battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup (go, Kings go!), or you just need something to listen to, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC has released a podcast on the same matter, entitled, “I, That am Rudely Stamped: In Search of the Real Richard III.” I’m hoping to listen to that on the treadmill tomorrow, and–again–I’ll try to get some remarks to you next week.

Act Three: The Chimes at Midnight

It is only with the beginning of Act Three of The Second Part of Henry the Fourth that we finally meet our titular king. He enters in his nightgown, sending off a page to get Surrey and Warwick. This is not what we expect the king to be: he’s a dying man. But he cannot sleep:

O sleep, O gentle sleep,
Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?

— III.i.5-8

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My Gossip, Report

The Merchant of Venice is a play about Shylock. Wrong. But that’s what people think.

Shylock is an evil Jew. Well, maybe. But that’s certainly what people IN the play say.
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OK, So…. The Dog is Dead…

It’s February 1, and technically, the month ended yesterday and with it, our discussion of Richard the Third.  But like everything else in the oversized legend of the ol’ Crookback, the month’s not even big enough to contain him.  While we should be moving on to Love’s Labor’s Lost today, I want to say good-bye to “misshapen Dick” (3HVI, V.v.35).
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Podcast 30: Richard the Third Wrap-Up

This week’s podcast is a conclusion of our month-long discussion of Richard the Third, including some non-DVD reviews (including a discussion of the You-Tube’d presentation of the English Shakespeare Company production of 1990, as well as two books by actors who’ve performed the role, and one book of note for Richard fans), a production concept, and possible casts.  We’ll have some final opinions on the play, and we’ll do our usual recap of this week’s blog entries.
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Richard the Third by the Numbers: overall

Richard the Third

  • 3601 total lines; second longest play in the Canon (only Hamlet is longer); longer than average play, longer than average history (average play: 2777; average history: 3009)
  • At 14 lines, Act Three Scene Sixth is the shortest of its kind
  • At 247 and 352 lines, Act Three Scene Seven and Act Five Scene Three are the longest of their kind in the Canon
  • Act One: 1063 lines; longest first act in the Canon (second longest is King Lear 576); longer than average, longer than average history (average play: 590, average history: 612)
  • Act Two: 415 lines; shorter than average (average play: 568, average history: 621)
  • Act Three: 826 lines; longer than average (average play: 576, average history: 632)
  • Act Four: 838 lines; longer than average (average play: 563, average history: 651)
  • Act Five: 459 lines; shorter than average (average play: 480, average history: 493)
  • only 104 lines of prose (2.89% of total lines [as opposed to The Comedy of Errors: 13.31%, Titus Andronicus: 1.39%, The Taming of the Shrew: 20.82%, 1HenryVI: 0.37%, 2HenryVI: 16.64%, and 3HenryVI: 0.14%])
  • 272 rhyming lines (7.55% of total lines [as opposed to The Comedy of Errors: 20.10%, Titus Andronicus: 2.42%, The Taming of the Shrew: 3.93%, 1HenryVI: 9.79%, 2HenryVI: 3.16%, and 3HenryVI: 5.37%])
  • 25 scenes; more than average (average play: 21; average history: 24)
  • 63 characters (second highest total in the Canon, behind only 2HenryVI; more than average (average play: 36, average history: 48)

Numbers: Midpoint

Using Professor Rodes’ midpoint theory, let’s take a look at Richard the Third.

There are 3601 lines in this very long play, which puts the midpoint at line 1801, which is at the end of Act Three, Scene Two, the scene at Lord Hastings’ home (just before the execution of Rivers, Grey and Vaughan).
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What to Cut, Part Two

Back near the beginning of the month, when we were just starting our discussion of Richard the Third, I asked a pretty straightforward question: What to Cut?  Citing the length of the play, and the fact that it’s rarely done uncut, I said we would need to cut.
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What to Do about Ghosts, and I and I?

In Act Five, Scene Three of Richard the Third, Shakespeare presents us with parallel views of two men going in opposite directions: the ascending Richmond, and the falling King Richard III.  Both appear on stage, raise their respective tents, and sleep, only to be visited by the ghosts of Richard’s victims.
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