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The Tragedy of King Richard III: The Oxford Shakespeare The Tragedy of King Richard III (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – June 15, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, on England s Avon River. When he was eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway. The couple had three children an older daughter Susanna and twins, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet, Shakespeare s only son, died in childhood. The bulk of Shakespeare s working life was spent in the theater world of London, where he established himself professionally by the early 1590s. He enjoyed success not only as a playwright and poet, but also as an actor and shareholder in an acting company. Although some think that sometime between 1610 and 1613 Shakespeare retired from the theater and returned home to Stratford, where he died in 1616, others believe that he may have continued to work in London until close to his death.

Review

`This is far and away the finest critical edition of the play available' Eric Rasmussen, Shakespeare Survey
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199535884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199535880
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.9 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J C E Hitchcock on May 1, 2015
Format: Paperback
The Oxford Shakespeare, as its name might suggest, seems to have been prepared with the student or scholar in mind. (The RSC Shakespeare, again as its name might suggest, seems to be aimed more at the actor or theatrical director, and the Penguin Shakespeare at the general reader). This Oxford edition of “Richard III” features a very lengthy introduction by John Jowett, almost the length of a short novel in itself, and very copious explanatory and textual notes.

“Richard III” opens where “Henry VI Part 3” left off; the dead body of the murdered Henry is brought onto the stage at the beginning of the play. It is often regarded as forming a tetralogy with the three “Henry VI” plays, but whereas those plays are among Shakespeare’s least known and least performed works, “Richard III” has long been a favourite on the stage. The title role, the longest in Shakespeare apart from Hamlet, is regarded as one of the greatest challenges for a Shakespearean actor. Lines from the play, notably the opening “Now is the winter of our discontent” and “My kingdom for a horse!” have passed into proverbial use.

The play which has most in common with “Richard III“ is “Macbeth”. Both plays are based, albeit loosely, on British history, and both deal with the rise and fall of a usurping tyrant who dies in battle at the end of the play. “Macbeth”, however, is normally classified as a tragedy and “Richard III” as a history play, even though it was originally published under the title “The Most Tragicall History of King Richard III”. The reason, I think, is the difference between the ways in which the two protagonists are presented.
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Format: Paperback
To the theater-going public RICHARD III seems to be one of Shakespeare's most famous plays. That no doubt is due to the fact that Richard III is one of Shakespeare's greatest roles. The Machiavellian crookback king dominates the play, and playing him is one of the most prized roles for serious thespians. (Among those who have tackled it are Kenneth Branagh, David Garrick, Ian McKellen, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Sher, and Kevin Spacey.) But for me, reading the play on paper was not a thoroughgoing pleasure. RICHARD III is far too chaotic.

I have been reading Shakespeare's plays in approximate order of their composition. RICHARD III traditionally comes after the three "Henry VI" plays, which cover English history from about 1422 to 1471, the period of the Wars of the Roses. A lot happens in the Henry VI plays, and as I am not very knowledgeable about medieval English history, keeping up with all the players, intrigues, and mayhem was challenging. But somehow I managed to keep my head above water. RICHARD III would have totally swamped me had I not come across a book just before reading it (John Julius Norwich's "Shakespeare's Kings") that provided in accessible fashion the "actual" history of Shakespeare's English histories. Reading Norwich's account of the years 1471 to 1485 -- the years in which Richard Gloucester first schemes against his brother Edward IV and then assumes the throne as Richard III, shunting aside Edward's sons and his own nephews -- gave me enough background to follow the twists and turns of Shakespeare's play. But since Shakespeare gallops through much of that history, omits some important events and fabricates others, and often rearranges or compresses chronology, reading RICHARD III was still a head-spinning experience.
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Format: Paperback
The strengths of this edition are in areas scholarly. In both the introductory essay and the notes Jowett provides clear and helpful digests of Shakespeare's use of his source material, in several places valuably indicating Shakespeare's inventiveness, as he collapsed or expanded time, aged some characters, and revived others from the dead, in line with his conception of an overall design. "Shakespeare's dramatization of the chronicles introduces major episodes early in the play that are almost entirely fictional, a massive prologue sequence written in an imaginative, poetic, and classically informed style". And again, "despite his debt to the chronicles for historical information, Shakespeare's account of events after the murder of the young princes is organized around two fictional encounters: first Richard's confrontation with the two queens and his mother in IV. iv, and then the ghosts' appearance to Richard and Richmond on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth" (p. 22). In his notes Jowett helpfully points out how "Shakespeare reshapes events to seed Richard's downfall in the moment his reign begins", inventing the interview with Buckingham in IV. ii (p. 285). Where some recent editors would like to abandon the whole concept of a play having an author, Jowett recreates Shakespeare's controlling intelligence behind this expansive version of history.

As for the play itself, it resolutely avoids demonstrations of physical violence; only Richard dies on-stage, while the rest (Clarence, the two princes, Hastings, Brackenbury, Grey, Vaughan, Rivers, Anne, Buckingham, and King Edward) all meet their ends off-stage.
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