A Shakesperian Performance expert, Dr Nicole Fayard, has claimed that Shakespeare’s infamously villainous King Richard III has become a canvas for countries across the world to paint their political turmoil.
English Literature students should consider how history and politics can be used in literature and how they are often perceived as fact.
The academic claims that although Shakespeare’s legendary status usually means that portrayals of Richard III in the UK are loyal to Shakespeare’s writing, performances of the play in other countries have been altered and rewritten to follow ‘local needs’.
Examples include Italian performances inspired by the Dictator Mussolini’s fascist party, productions in Kuwait by Saddam Hussein and in the Eastern Bloc by the communist era. Dr Fayard claims that disguising foreign villains under a distant English play is a way to put a point across in a ‘safer’ way, avoiding the censorship enforced by many totalitarian regimes.
Students interested in drama and theatre can think about how performance can be used to portray the same play with a different political stance.
Dr Fayard claims that the popularity of this play across the world is due to the attraction of the well-structured plot line and the flamboyancy of the main character. English students should read the original play and think about the play’s structure and the presentation of the king.
History students should look more into the facts of Richard III’s life, and consider whether he deserves the villainous reputation attributed to him by Shakespeare. Thomas More’s book, A History of King Richard III, can be compared to Shakespeare’s play as a source that claims to be a more factual account, but still has evidence of literary flair and dramatization that could be seen to take away from historical accuracy.
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