Saturday, June 04, 2005

Richard III Take 2

I’ve finished rereading Richard III and watching McKellan’s film version, and have begun watching Olivier’s. I wonder if this play was a favorite before 1945? I’ll have to do some research on that. As for Olivier’s version, I was disappointed in the addition of material to the opening soliloquy (and some key portions omitted), although Olivier’s performance is incredible.

But McKellan’s is a work of post-war vision (and visually stunning). And little added, although some material subtracted. The major addition that I can see is the marriage of Elizabeth to Richmond, which I believe makes clear that mirror scene (to Richard's amazing courtship of Anne, possibly my favorite scene in the play) when Richard woos her mother for the daughter’s hand. The play leaves it somewhat a question. McKellan doesn't. It also adds some weight to Richmond, who, in the play, truth be told, seems a lightweight. Although how can he not be? Richard is the story after all, and a work of art he is.

It's a story of power. And Richard is a powerful character. That would present a problem in a play without another strong character. But Will allows Richard to self-destruct before our eyes. Richmond doesn't take Richard. Richard takes himself to hell (and McKellan's ending is an amazing image of that very fall). Not to overplay McKellan's Gandalf connection, but I will anyways. Shakespeare has given us the schizoid Gollum scene 400 years before Peter Jackson did. And it's telling.
What do I fear? Myself? There's none else by.
Richard loves Richard: that is, I am I.
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.
Fool, of thyself speak well. Fool, do not flatter.
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.
And Richard finally defeats Richaed.

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