You are a director.
Write a letter to an actor who has been selected to play the part of Richard explaining to him what you would expect of him in terms of:
- His interaction with other characters.
- His interpretation and delivery of language within the play.
- His physical representation of Richard
These issues will be highlighted from the key scenes which are
Act 1 Scene I (Introductory scene)
Act 5 Scene III (eve of battle scene)
These will be accompanied by points from other scenes, namely Act 3 Scene VII and Act 4 Scenes II & III
No. 10 Road Lane
Dear Mr Akter,
I am writing to congratulate you upon being chosen to play the part of Richard in our forthcoming production of Richard III. This letter is a guide for you for how I would like the part of Richard to be acted. This shall be primarily based upon two key scenes in the play, which are Act 1 Scene I (opening scene) and Act 5 Scene VII (eve of battle scene). This guide covers 3 main aspects of playing the part of Richard. These are: Your interaction with other characters, your interpretation and delivery of speech within the play and your physical representation of Richard.
The reason why these two scenes have been concentrated on is because they occur at key moments within the play and at opposite ends as well. Not only do they appear at opposite ends of the play but they also occur when Richards’s confidence is at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. This enables us to see Richard from multiple perspectives and it shows us his multi-faceted mental and emotional states.
As I am sure you are aware, Richard is portrayed as an Evil and conscience free king as well as being physically deformed. Although elements of this are based upon the truth, it is appreciated that Shakespeare made many of these descriptions up. Due to limited other historical reference this is how Richard is portrayed nowadays. Shakespeare’s reasons for, perhaps, making up these facts are to please the Queen at his time, who was Queen Elizabeth I. This would please her because it was her grandfather, Henry Tudor (later Henry VII (Richmond in the play)), who became King after Richard III was killed in battle. Obviously this made Richmond and Richard enemies, so portraying Richard as both evil and deformed would put Queen Elizabeth and her ancestry in better light.
Richards’s evil is very evident from his very first speech (a soliloquy) in the first scene of Act 1. This solo speech to the audience sets the tone for the nature of Richards’s evil worlds and actions throughout the rest of the play.
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This supreme malignity is evident in the quote’... that I will shortly send thy soul to heaven,’ when referring to his Brother Clarence who he has sworn to save from imprisonment. This is remorseless in its extreme form considering that he has pledged to his brother to have him released form the Tower, which Clarence believes, but in truth he is going to have him killed. This means you must portray an immense feeling of evil and remorselessness to the audience. This could be done by snarling and almost spitting when speaking of what you plan to have done as well as making angular and jerky motions rather than smooth rounded ones.
However Richards’s evil is often matched by his intelligence and an example of this is in the quote ‘To set my brother Clarence and the king in deadly hate, the one against the other’. This shows how he is manipulative and again you must get the audience to believe this about you as well as making them in awe of your intelligence and scheming. It is obvious that Richard is aware of his intelligence, so portray this to the audience with a swagger and self confidence of a man who knows of his large capabilities.
A lot of the reasons behind Richards’s hatred for all things jovial is due to his physical deformities and his hatred of his own appearance. He knows of his own deformities, obvious in the line ‘...Nor made to court and amorous looking glass’. He does however use this to focus himself on his intentions. An example of this is apparent in the line ‘...And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover...i am determined to prove a villain.’ These abnormalities should, at first, appear to displease you and annoy you; however within in an instant this should be changed to relief when he realises that his peculiarity can work in his advantage making him focused and more determined to achieve his goals. To make these deformities appear powerfully they must be exaggerated to let the audience know, although his abnormalities are making him more focussed, that they are still a physical weakness and therefore a hindrance. This can be achieved by appearing dependant on a cane that you shall be carrying. This is to give the impression that physically you are dependant upon other people or objects. This will also provide opportunities for people to attack you and taunt your disabilities, such as the cane could be kicked from beneath you and you could use it to regain your feet, again showing physical dependency.
The focus that has stemmed from these disabilities must be showed prominently also. Richards focus is clear in the quote’ For then I’ll marry Warwick’s youngest daughter.’ This shows us what lengths he is willing to go to get and then keep the crown in his family after his death. His efficiency and preparation must be extravagant to give the audience reason to believe Richards apparent relief that his deformities can focus him on success. This means also that, regardless of the situation, you appear in control and assured, particularly in the earlier scenes of the play.
From this scene where Richard is efficient, assured and organised, we move onto the other key scene. This is the eve of battle scene where both Richard and, his enemy, Richmond are preparing themselves and their army for battle. The scene starts with a quote from Richard saying ‘Why, out battalia trebles that account; besides the Kings name is a Tower of strength’. I for one believe that this act of confidence is one where the speaker, in this case Richard’ has very little faith in his comment so I would appreciate you saying this line with a distinct lack of conviction in your own remark. It seems to me also that with this comment he is not only trying to convince those listening of his army’s strength, but he is also convincing himself.
His apparent lack of confidence is than compounded by the appearance of the ghosts. There are many quotes from the ghosts to Richard. A typical example of this would be ‘And fall thy edgeless sword; despair and die!’ which was said by the ghost of Clarence. These quotes must appear to affect you now as perhaps they wouldn’t have done in the earlier scenes. These effects include paranoia and further dents to your confidence which can be acted by adjusting your posture and body language.
Then when he awakes from this dream he is convinced he has awaken from battle. Evidence of this is in the line ‘Give me another Horse! Bind up my wounds’ and following this he begins to question his conscience for the first time which is present in the quote ‘O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me’. This shows us that he is no longer invulnerable and that the atrocities he has committed are beginning to take effect on him.
His lack of confidence is further exemplified by his decision to check on the tents of his soldiers to check that no one shall desert him in battle. This is distinctly obvious in the quote ‘under our tents I’ll play the eavesdropper.’ This shows us that his faith is dwindling and that he will sink to extreme lows to reassure himself. As it has been said from other sources ‘As his wits desert him and he becomes more tyrannical, Richard seems weaker and less attractive.’
As his confidence abandons him, so does his ability to prepare. This is exposed in the quote from one of his Dukes states ‘Arm, arm my Lord, the foe vaunts in the field!’ this shows that Richmond’s army is better prepared and that recent events have effected Richards’s organization and concentration.
Then before his oration to his army, Richard says, aside,’ let not our babbling dreams affright our souls.’ This is Richard trying to convince himself that the dream of the ghosts and other events should not affect the outcome of the battle. Again this going to require you to put on an act of confidence that is obvious enough for the audience to see through and realise that it is only an act.
As well as these two scenes, there are many others that give us insight into Richards’s character. Three particular scenes are Act 3 Scene VII, where the Lord Mayor offers Richard the Crown, and Act 4 scenes 2 and 3, where Richard first plots to have the young princes killed and then how he reacts once it has been done.
In Act 3 Scene VII we see, again, Richards’s immense intelligence and his ability to scheme. In this instance it involves Richard acting to the Lord Mayor who is offering Richard the Crown. Richard acts as though he feels he is not the right man for the position, as in the quotes, ‘So mighty and so many are my defects’. This then turns into fake defiance when he says ‘I cannot nor I will not yield to you’. This shows that he is cunning when influencing his ‘seniors’ at the time. He does this to hide his intentions and to make it seem as though he had little or, better, nothing to do with any of the murders prior to that point. When acting this part you must, obviously, seem convincing but as director, I would prefer you to make sure the audience can see through this act. This makes it easier for them to follow the act and gives them a better insight into Richards affore mentioned ‘qualities’.
Act 4 Scene II sees Richard ordering his second in command, Buckingham, to have the sons of Edward, the Princes at the time’ to be killed in the Tower. It is here that, once again, we see Richards’s absolute evil and his Machiavellian nature. Evidence of these is in the quote ‘I want the bastards dead.’ This also shows his growing paranoia and his attitude that one more murder will make little difference due to the number he has already had killed. In this particular passage you must, again, show the audience Richards’s evil in the form of voice change and meticulous body language and it is up to you to portray the evil and hatred from the script to the audience.
In the following scene we see Richards’s evil again but this time in a different form. This is in the form of pleasure once the killing of his nephews (the Princes) has been completed. His evil is apparent in the line ‘thou shalt tell the process of their death’. As well as his evil, we once again witness his remorselessness in how he speaks of their deaths as a process. This also shows how efficient he is and how he sees death as a plan for success. As Actor you must take this guiltlessness to the extreme and make it very obvious to the audience that none of the murders have effect either your confidence or your conscience.
Throughout the play I feel that it would be effective if you were to partake in dialogue either in the face of the opposing actor or conversely for you to be separated and reserved from the conversation, possibly on the other side of the stage. The specific occasions for these actions will be specified at a later date. This is because if you were to be in the other actors face when in conversation it would appear that you are grovelling and therefore influencing the other characters, which would fit in with Richards scheming nature. Then when you converse to others from a distance it would be symbolic of your separation from others and the many differences that you have with other people.
Lastly, I feel that humorous touches i.e. winks and nods to the audience, will have a positive effect upon the performance. This is because despite the atrocities Richard commits, I feel it necessary for Richard to receive a sympathy and respect from the audience partly due to his irregularities and for his determination. Humorous instances will enable this to be possible and this will provide entertainment outside of the script.
To conclude, it is imperative that Richards’s confidence and outrageousness of the earlier Acts is shown to the same excess as his neurotic behaviour and paranoia of the last scenes. His character interaction must change as well and this is due to a change in the tonal delivery of your lines. Simply, I appreciate how hard Shakespearian plays are to understand from and audience perspective and it is your job to make it simpler for them as well as keeping it entertaining.
Thank You for Your Time
Bibliography: Richard III – William Shakespeare
Notes on Richard III – Rebecca Warren