Richard III by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm nearly speechless.
I'm certain that most of my inability to form words is because I read so much history, even a few days ago, about the War of the Roses, and then, having plowed through Shakespeare's line of kings from Richard II through Richard III, having history be retold in oft-pleasing shape (inaccuracies aside), the whole shape of that history has built up into such a crescendo of howling misery in my mind that I can't except get horribly emotional about all the players in these plays.
I can't recommend total immersion enough. Truly. This is the only way to do the histories.
When I first read them, I missed so much because names and houses really didn't *mean* that much except where Shakespeare could draw them out warmly on the stage, and then when I first read Richard III I was just shocked by how damn evil and machiavellian he was, not because I really cared a whit about the people.
But now? After getting to know the history of the time AND even setting every play upon the next, giving me an unbroken line of successions, strifes, sources of woes, and, finally, a final scene of such resolution and utter endless horror, with Margaret laughing insanely atop a mountain of corpses?
Speechless. Absolutely and utterly speechless.
And I loved her from the start, too. I was amazed at how strong she became, how she took over the kingdom from her pansy husband, how warlike and valorous in battle in part 3, and then, the skulking prophetess of curses, curses, and curses in Richard III... just... WOW.
And I thought I was knocked flat on my back with Richard's performance and setup for his o'erweaning ambition and bloody nightmare that had become his "performance" in his titular play! Indeed, he was brilliant and amazing, too, but it is Margaret that brought me to tears.
I always knew that this one was one was one of the most beloved of Shakespeare's histories and so much quoted, too, but I wasn't blown away by it the first time I read it. I enjoyed it, yes, but I cannot stress just how completely amazing it is as a capstone to the War of the Roses.
Hell, those Henry the VI's that are somewhat or actually very weak in comparison, having been written before Shakespeare's powers of writing were really in full bloom, now feel as if they're required reading for me. Weak, yes, but so necessary for the full bloom of horror and tragedy that finally snuffs out the lines of both York and Lancaster.
One thing that readers might really enjoy is all the nearly-formed themes and ideas that become some of the most memorable features of so many of his other works, all put into the single basket of VI, not quite ripe yet, but sitting like a cutpurse at the crossroads. :) Anyone who loves Shakespeare really should do themselves the great justice of going through all the histories in a row. :)
I will never forget this. :)
Think about your favorite epic fantasy, all the effort you put into getting to know all the characters and their cares, and turn it into a long-drawn-out Hamlet-like affair, and weep. That's what this is, filled with poetry, brilliant conflict, and fearless manipulation of us dear readers. :) And that's just his weaker works...
Richard III is *not* a weak work. It is the knife in your back. :)
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