Long before I became interested in the real Richard III, I enjoyed going to Shakespearean plays, and a long standing favorite was his play about Richard III. This Shakespearean Richard was the arch-villain I loved to hate. The play is brilliant. And while the Richard in the play bears no resemblance to the real medieval monarch, I have to thank Shakespeare for writing such a memorable work that Richard is alive in our minds more than 500 years after he was killed in battle. Because Richard reigned for a little over two years (June 26, 1483 to August 22, 1485) I firmly believe that without this play, Richard III would be a forgotten footnote in our books on English history.
About eight years ago, I read a historical fiction about the real Richard III—Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman. Because her depiction of Richard was so different from Shakespeare’s, I read all I could find on him and soon became convinced that the play was not about Richard III, but that he was an allegory for the politics of Shakespeare’s time. That Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather, Henry Tudor, defeated Richard, probably helped the play’s political acceptance.
A few weeks ago, Emily Mattina, the Artistic Director for Shakesperience, contacted me because this year they are giving a performance of this play and Emily knows that the real Richard was far different from Shakespeare’s portrayal. While she is not changing the character for the play, she is introducing the audience to the concept that the real king, though flawed as all humans are, was essentially a good person and a good king. For example, one of the things that most impressed me about Richard III was his affect was on the justice system when, for example, he enacted laws where people who were charged could post bail, that one couldn't be held without charge, fixing the corrupted jury system, and protected property rights, writing that "the law shall cease to be an instrument of oppression and extortion."
Shakesperience is performing at the end of the rainbow, Waterbury Connecticut's Library Park, this weekend, June 28 - July 1, 2012. Performances of Richard III are Thursday at 7pm Friday & Saturday at 8pm & Sunday at 2pm. Library Park is located at Meadow & Grand Streets Parking is free. Admission is Free! Donations to support Shakesperience are gratefully accepted—suggested amount is $15.
Friday 6-7pm with Shakesperience’s Artistic Director Emily Mattina for Richard III: Fact vs. Fiction with Joan Szechtman, author of This Time and Loyalty Binds Me. Books are available for purchase and Joan will autograph your copy.