Hello Richard III

It was confirmed today that the skeletal remains found underneath a parking lot in England last year indeed belong to King Richard III (www.guardian.co.uk).

King Richard III's skeleton (guardian.co.uk)

King Richard III’s skeleton (guardian.co.uk). Hunchback and all….

Richard III's skull (from: guardian.co.uk)

Richard III’s skull (from: guardian.co.uk)

King Richard (from gaurdian.co.uk)

King Richard (from gaurdian.co.uk)

This fascinating discovery led me to think of Shakespeare’s play, of course, and how we read plays in general.

from goodreads.com

from goodreads.com

If memory serves me right, the first play I read was Shakespeare’s Macbeth (I can still picture my small, rotund teacher stirring an imaginary cauldron and cackling, “Eye of newt, and toe of frog”). I’ve read many plays since then (mainly Shakespeare’s but some others), but I remember how I initially struggled to understand how one should read a play.

Should I read it aloud? In that case, should I give each character a different voice?

How much time should I spend on the stage directions? Should I mentally construct the stage before each scene?

I think it takes us all a little time to figure out the best way to read a play that suits our personal needs. For me, it turns out that reading aloud in my head works best: giving each character a different voice and “hearing” that voice in my head.

Rest in Peace, King Richard….

87 thoughts on “Hello Richard III

  1. Macbeth consistently seems to be the gateway drug for Shakespeare. Probably, if I’m not mistaken, because it’s the shortest of the tragedies. “Well, that wasn’t so bad,” the student thinks, then, BAM!, King Lear.

    • He died in battle and historians knew he was buried in the long gone Church of Grey Friars, but they only recently found where that site probably was (the parking lot). It’s really an incredible story!

  2. I once took a course on Shakespeare called ‘text into performance’ – one of the things that really struck home for me was that there are no real stage directions as we know them today, but that they are all in the text – ‘what lies beyond yonder etc etc’ suggests that the player must look past something etc.

    It’s moments like these that I would love to get out my handy pocket time machine and pop back to the battle of Bosworth (in a protective time-capsule of course – not sure how well I would survive otherwise), and take a look at how things happened. While I was there, I would check out the Princes in the Tower thing just for good measure, and then possibly bring back Dickie for a quick look at the car park – we could have a cup of tea and a good old laugh about the funny side of life and then I could pop him back before disrupting the space-time continuum too much. 🙂

    • Your visit to the past sounds wonderful, and quite charming (cup of tea and all). I believe that the protective time-capsule would be a good idea (perhaps a transparency coat while we’re at it).

      You’re right, Shakespeare requires even more imagination in terms of setting than some other plays, although perhaps it’s less necessary at the same time. The course you took sounds really interesting.

      • Yes – good idea re the transparency coat.
        It was a great course – with the Open University and timed to perfection because it coincided with the building of Shakespeare’s Globe on London’s South Bank. So we were taken on the most fabulous tour of the half-built theatre as part of our study – fabulous! Mind you, despite our best efforts once the Globe was open, we found it hard to love. We went to lots of plays there and although we were really behind the authenticity principles, it was something of an endurance test to sit or stand through a play.
        Best ever shakespeare performance I have seen = Kevin Spacey as Richard III at London’s Old Vic. Stunning doesn’t even come close. Second best = Dustin Hoffman many years ago, also in London as Shylock.

  3. Interesting a king in a parking lot, but they found him and he will finally rest in peace imagine after all those cars. The voice plays a very crucial part in a play, sometimes we won’t perceive what the writer wanted us to perceive, now you got me thinking what voice do I use, I think I am like you I read aloud, silently.

    • I was thinking of all those parked cars too. I will now think of what lies beneath the paved road a lot more now.

      You’re right, the voice is so important in the reading of a play. It’s our own personal re-enactment so it gives us more power over the story than a novel perhaps.

  4. When I love a text as much as I love Shakespeare, I read aloud (being sure no one can hear me), my favorite passages….. It is my tribute to these wonderful writers…
    I am glad they found King Richard, his perfect skeleton (except the feet which were missing if I remember well). He will be less lonely in Westminster Abbey….

    • I agree, so much of Shakespeare deserves to be read aloud. Whether in the company of others or when we are by ourselves.

      It’s fascinating that they found King Richard III after all of this time. In this way his story remains part of the present.

  5. New question on senior exams: Where was Richard III buried? Now they can say under a parking lot. Says a lot about the past is truly buried only to be discovered. When I read a play, I don’t think of voices any more than reading fiction packed with characters. I just give it a persona based on all the description.

    • “Where was Richard III Buried?” sounds like the title of a game in itself 🙂

      That’s interesting that you read plays the same as you read novels; I can do that with some plays but not all of them.

  6. I prefer to not read plays at all. I think that is most likely a hangover from forced reading out loud at school. However, I do enjoy listening to plays on radio. Does anyone do that anymore? 🙂

    • I listened to a play once on the BBC but couldn’t quite get into it (but I think it was the play itself that didn’t enchant me rather than listening to it on the radio as I often listen to podcasts). I love that you listen to plays on the radio!

  7. I regret I did not start with Shakespeare. My first experience with him was in the 4th year of college at the age of 24. Started school late, the courses were messed up- and I think I lost out a lot in the process.
    I have read a few plays, but not so much. I want to read and understand Macbeth, but I no longer go to any school or have someone around me who is into literature. All I have read seriously is Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. Thats it. Tried reading Sonnets once but found them too difficult.
    Any suggestions ?

    • It just takes some time to get used to the language (and to reading a play itself). For the first time, I recommend familiarizing yourself with the plot ahead of time and then reading it. You may even want to read it with a study guide as it will help point out the beauty of the language and just make it easier so you can enjoy it. Once you’ve read your first Shakespearean play, then it will be easier to read the others.

      Maybe start with Julius Caesar, Macbeth, or Romeo and Juliet (considered a little “easier”- fewer subplots than the bigger historical ones and the comedic ones?)

      Anyway, I think you’ll enjoy it and you’re so bright I’m sure I’ll start seeing some Shakespearean references in your writing soon, hahaha!

      • That certainly would happen Letizia 🙂 Its an obsession really. Whatever one interacts with in life, seeps down into his scribblings.
        I have heard so much about Shakespeare, and his quotes here and there. But the problem with quotes is that they do not come with a context. So if, somehow, I read the original text I can come up with innovative uses of the same literary piece….
        I am learning french these days. And it is going on quite well. I can speak a bit of that now, but writing french remains a problem.
        Project shakespeare will follow Project French 🙂

  8. I just read that they now have a good idea what he looked like. Dear Richard was much more handsome than we first thought….

    If only the bones could talk…

    “Now is the winter of our discontent
    Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
    And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
    In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”
    ― William Shakespeare, Richard III

    • We’ll learn a lot more about him as time goes on, I’m sure. He’s becoming much more human and less of a character in history or literature now which is quite interesting in itself. I’ll be curious to see what they think he looked like!

  9. The most fascinating part to me was that the person who found the site was a play-write doing a play on him, and when she walked across the carpark she had such chills and shivers up her spine, and went so cold that she became convinced she was standing over his grave – and she was!
    He’s going to be buried in Leicester Cathedral – the nearest church – which apparently is standard archeological practice…
    I once lived near Stratford, and one of the most memorable performances I saw was Olivier in Coriolanus, with Dame Edith Evans and a young Vanessa Redgrave – electrifying!!!
    Lear – oh dear!!!!

    • I kept thinking about all those people who had parked their cars and walked on the car park these past years. I hadn’t heard about the playwrite working with the archeologists, how fascinating!

      Olivier, Evans and Redgrave – what a wonderful performance that must have been!

  10. Richard III was also important for those who love books. The Toronto Star reports (Feb 5, 2013) that “his brief reign saw liberal reforms, including the introduction of the right to bail and the lifting of restrictions on books and printing presses.”

    • It’s certainly an odd place to find him! There used to be a church there; he was buried in the church near the altar- that’s why he was under the parking lot.

      I think people don’t read a lot of plays in general – or at least less than they read novels and short stories and poetry. It would be good to study more plays in school as children to get used to reading plays perhaps.

  11. Macbeth was great, King Lear was another fine one also. I don’t go for different voices, I am to mired in all the imagery and patterns Shakespeare uses. It is endlessly fascinating how people choose to read and take things in in different ways.

    Our problem is that we have had so many kings that we were bound to mislay a few of them, we never lost them they just got left under the car park. it could happen to anyone.

    • “Our problem is that we have had so many kings that we were bound to mislay a few of them, we never lost them they just got left under the car park. It could happen to anyone” I love that so much I quoted you to two other people today! Your wit always makes me laugh so much 🙂

  12. Spread it around, that’ll give me a few weeks to carefully craft something else, I hope we re-find another king as I can use it again. Then I can claim the old ones are the best. except maybe King John, not that I want to be drawn into that argument again.

    • It’s interesting to know someone does the same. I rarely read a passage of a play aloud (only if the text is particularly beautiful) as it slows me down and, to tell you the truth, I get a bit self-conscious!

  13. With so much historical information available, it is amazing that no one could keep better track of where this old church, and assumed burial ground, was located, and eventually allowing a parking lot to cover it.

    With regards to the reading of a play, I would agree that it is all about the voice. Envisioning and hearing each character in a play, brings the story to life.

    Loved your post. Well done.

    • I was thinking this as well. How did that church disappear in the first place? It’s something I need to read more about as I’m quite curious!

      Thanks for the kind words 🙂

  14. your welcome post remembered me about Shakespeare. Comecei a reler Shakespeare. Em meu primeiro livro escrevo o diálogo imaginado entre Shakespeare e Cervantes. Eram contemporâneos em sua época. And still are so deepest in contemporary literature. Thanks for share…so kind and important remind. Literature is an endless and daily labor…for better living…so needed fiction. I appreciate so much your important work, Letizia.

    • A discussion between Shakespeare and Cervantes – how wonderful! You’re right, they are still so much a part of today’s literature and affect how we read every novel.

  15. Wow! What a way to start the post – With skeletons! 😛
    And wow (Again)! Were the remains of King Richard the Third really found under a parking lot? Amazing!
    Lastly, I really like your idea on how to make a play (Or even a novel) a readable affair. I remember reading Tintin and Sherlock Holmes by assigning different voices to them and acting out the scene in my head! Thanks for helping me relive those past memories! 😀
    Amazing post! 🙂

    • The photos of the King’s skeleton and skull amazed me so much, I just had to include them in my post – so glad you found them fascinating too!

      That’s great that you read Tintin and Sherlock Holmes aloud as a child- so interactive!

  16. Yanno, a King’s remains should never be found under a grocery store parking lot. I’m sorry, but they should have extricated those remains and buried them some place more proper sounding. Like . . . ANYWHERE other than a parking lot.
    Shakespeare never could have worked under these journalistic conditions, tell ya what.

    • I know, a parking lot sounds so crazy (I’m still unsure why the original church- where the parking lot now exists- was destroyed). At least the king will be moved to Leicester Cathedral for more royal safekeeping now.

      • What’s with these journalists not lying his way to Leicester Cathedral? Ugh. Rest easy, King Richard. And forgive us our modern day pens, who know precious little of sweet fiction, even when it begs for some ‘o that.

  17. Not about this great post. How are you fairing in the Winter weather that is upon you now? You know I typed your name into Twitter search trying to remember your screen name and was amazed at the Letizias I saw. I do like your name. Have you ever been to Asturias? I’ve found another place to put in my bucket– and there is a princess there with your name. How cool is that!

    Hope you are enjoying the snow rather than having to fight it!

    • Thanks for the concern, Dannie – that’s so sweet! We’re well equipped for the snow so it’s not a problem! As long as we don’t lose power, I love snow in fact. Letizia is a typical name in Europe and South America, sometimes spelled Leticia.

      Thanks again for reaching out – you’re a darling 🙂

  18. Yeah, I remember seeing this in the news – pretty amazing. I love how you bring the post around to plays and then take a look at how the reader can partake in this genre. What always amazes me is that there is my experience of reading the play, and then everything seems to turn on it’s head when the play is read out loud with actors (I went to drama school) and you realise that your interpretation is only one side of things.

    • I know I’ve often noticed a difference between my experience of reading a play and then seeing the play performed so it’s so interesting to hear the experience from an actor’s point of view. Having studied drama must have influenced your own writing so much; you have such an engaging style, I wonder if it comes, in part, from that experience!

      • Ha – you haven’t read my recent blog. I only think because that was a pretty intense experience I had when I was trying to make it as an actress, which was one of the factors that led to me stopping and becoming a writer. I think the way it helps is that as an actor you know that being afraid of your feelings is never going to help – so I embrace them and use them. Thanks for the kind words about my style 😉

        • I’m about to catch up on my blog reading right after reply to comments, so can’t wait to read your latest post! I know that as a reader, I always admire writing that is honest like yours as it embraces vulnerability and in doing so the characters are humanized. Plus, I know that must be hard to do, so I admire writers all the more for doing that!

    • I agree, the skeleton is fascinating to look at. The curvature of the spine, the wound to the head, and just simply the beauty of a skeleton in itself.

      Thanks for the kind words 🙂

  19. Pingback: Sometimes Colored Outside the Lines | a physical perspective

  20. My first introduction to Shakespeare came during 9th grade English class: Romeo & Juliet. My teacher was horrible; a bitchy shrew who turned me off of English for years. I think she probably inadvertently turned me off of Shakespeare, too. I’ve never fully regained interest in his work. But luckily I did have some college professors who renewed my love of literature and I ended up with a degree in English Lit.

    • What a shame your first experience with Shakespeare was so bad (sounds like the class should have read The Taming of the Shrew!). I think that early introduction is a big influence in how one approaches Shakespeare later in life (I find the same is true for poetry). At least, that bad teacher didn’t ruin your love for literature in general – so wonderful that you got your literature degree 🙂

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