30 days of Shakespeare: Day 5 – your favourite villain

It’s Shakespeare’s birthday! Or at least, the 400th anniversary of his death. What better day to celebrate his greatest villain, Richard III?

Part of the attraction of Hamlet is that we don’t really understand him, and he doesn’t understand himself. Part of the attraction of Richard III is that he understands himself perfectly well, and explains himself to us. He deceives and seduces the other characters one by one, and although he doesn’t deceive us the audience, he certainly seduces us. His mistake of leadership is quite different from his rival Henry VI and his brother Edward IV, both of whom prove in different ways too lightweight for the burdens of office. He is less subtle than his father, who held back in Ireland and let his rivals for power and his proxies eliminate each other. His mistake is that once he has achieved his originally quite limited agenda – to get rid of Henry, Edward, Clarence and the princes – and reached the throne, he just can’t stop killing people. His public and hypocritical piety contrasts nicely with Richmond’s more modest and circumspect approach. His gradual disintegration into a haunted wreck of a man is chilling. In the hands of a good actor, it’s just mesmerising.

If you want to boggle a little at screen treatments, have this trailer for the 1955 Olivier version:

But for me, nothing beats Ian McKellen, taking the story to the mid-twentieth century, the most recent period that two brothers contested (genteelly, in our timeline) the throne of England:

The 30 days:
Day #1: Your favourite play
Day #2: Your favourite character
Day #3: Your favourite hero
Day #4: Your favourite heroine
Day #5: Your favourite villain
Day #6: Your favourite villainess
Day #7: Your favourite clown
Day #8: Your favourite comedy
Day #9: Your favourite tragedy
Day #10: Your favourite history
Day #11: Your least favourite play
Day #12: Your favourite scene
Day #13: Your favourite romantic scene
Day #14: Your favourite fight scene
Day #15: The first play you read
Day #16: Your first play you saw
Day #17: Your favourite speech
Day #18: Your favourite dialogue
Day #19: Your favourite movie version of a play
Day #20: Your favourite movie adaptation of a play
Day #21: An overrated play
Day #22: An underrated play
Day #23: A role you’ve never played but would love to play
Day #24: An actor or actress you would love to see in a particular role
Day #25: Sooner or later, everyone has to choose: Hal or Falstaff?
Day #26: Your favourite couple
Day #27: Your favourite couplet
Day #28: Your favourite joke
Day #29: Your favourite sonnet
Day #30: Your favourite single line

One thought on “30 days of Shakespeare: Day 5 – your favourite villain

  1. Alas, I never got into poor Peter Davison as the Doctor. Part of it was the companions: I *really* didn’t like Tegan, Turlough was no prize though part of his story arc was interesting, Nyssa had stolen what made Adric work as a companion so that Adric just became the problem child (yes, I know, much of that was due to Waterhouse’s real-life issues in both his own life and interacting with the rest of the cast).

    That said, Adric’s EXIT was done beautifully, giving him one final moment to be the genius he used to be, and with the literally most heart-rending end-credits ever. I did, in fact, cry at the dead silence and the broken badge.

    “Black Orchid” was the worst. In fact, it has always been in strong competition for my “worst episode of Doctor Who Ever” list.

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