"Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun [or son] of York".
Richard III is an important play in the Shakespeare canon since it depicts the dangers of hubris and nemesis by leaders who are crazed with power. My reading and interpretation of the play is focused on the American Presidency which will feature a particular President as Richard III who will do his utmost to usurp power and will use every single method in the book to get to his goal. It is an interpretation based on the utter ruthlessness of a dictator who brooks no qualms about destroying the social order of the country to achieve his own selfish gain.
This interpretation of the play has a lot of relevance to American society today. The dangers of holding Executive Office can get to one’s head and the amount of power which is wielded can be quite enormous. With a constant descent into corruption and power grabbing, the Presidency as well as other executive positions have become filled with hubris and there seems to be no turning back in this regard. Although Richard III is set in times which are several hundred years in the past, its message is still very relevant today.
The ideological vision for this play is centred around the theme that ‘power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely’. The modern setting may perhaps not be exactly relevant to the past but it is also a challenge to match the power grabbing and violence which marred Richard III’s career. The play attempts to focus on the intricacy of relationships between the main Richard character and his sycophant courtiers who are only out after one thing and that is the grabbing of power.
The focus of the play remains the study of how power corrupts and how death begets death. The scene where Richard III is haunted by the ghosts before the Battle of Bosworth Field may be reproduced by a similar scene with the President facing impending death. Everything comes to a dramatic conclusion showing that the sins of the past will eventually come back to haunt you.
The plot will remain very much as is in the original play but will include certain departures from the text to factor in the modernist element. The music used will be classical mostly featuring dark parts such as Rachmaninov’s ‘Isle of the Dead’ and Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony Adagio. The staging will be modern and will be as close as possible to the audience to enable interaction.
The play is focused upon the tyranny of Richard III who uses everyone to justify his own means and to arrive at a self-serving conclusion. However one must also focus on the Machiavellian instincts which permeate the play and applying them to a modern setting. The portrayal of John Malkovich in the film ‘Being Malkovich’ may be used as a leitmotif or inspiration for this modern Richard III setting. The quote; "Was ever woman in this humour woo'd? / Was ever woman in this humour won?" is an important part of the whole hubris surrounding Richard III where he is boasting about his success and exhortation of power.
The play has the power to convince and portray the real power of evil and the eventual descent into the maelstrom.
Ribner, Irving. 1999. "Richard III as an English History Play" Critical Essays on Shakespeare's Richard III Ed. Hugh Macrae Richmond. New York.
Kiernan, Victor. 1993. Shakespeare: Poet and Citizen London: Verso.
Haeffner, Paul. 1966. Shakespeare: Richard III London: Macmillan.
Sila Senlen. "Chapter 3:Rhetoric in the Hands of the Machiavellian Villain: William Shakespeare's Richard III". In Words as Swords: Verbal Violence as a Construction of Authority in Renaissance and Contemporary English Drama. Stuttgart: ibidem verlag, 2009.60-95.