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Deformity in Richard III

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Richard III and Deformity  

Some scholars insist that Richard was neither crippled nor humpbacked,


and they are passionately dedicated to proving that Shakespeare's


portrait of the inhuman monster is based on Tudor propaganda used to


bolster Henry VII's weak claim to the throne


               The only "proof" we have of Richard III's deformity is that which


is provided by Sir Thomas More in "The History of King Richard the


Third".  It is here that modern readers digest the adjectives which


forever plague Richard "Little of stature, ill-featured of limbs,


crooked-backed, his left shoulder much higher than his right".  This


description may seem horrible, but it is only compounded when it is


placed next to the deformity of his character.  Regardless of whether


Richard was truly the demon he was portrayed to be, the role of Richard


III as established by William Shakespeare is one of the more


challenging roles for the Shakespearean actor. Because this week's


annotations were to be focused on the actor's perspective of


Shakespeare, I chose to focus my posting on the same topic.


               First of all, Richard III is on stage longer than any other Bard


character. Usually, the time on stage is not a bed of roses either.


The actor must limp, wear a hump, or at least hunch over for the


duration of the play.  This may doom an actor to chiropractic


sessions for the rest of their life!


               Certain actors have defined the role of Richard.  Antony Sher


researched the affects of scoliosis on the body, and any other


back deformity he could.  When it was time for him to begin acting the


role and he saw the make-up crews version of his hump he stated,




"With my heart in my mouth, I hurry over to see my back.  It's


much softer than I imagined, lying on the floor like a big pink


blancmange, a slice of blubber, a side of Elephant Man.  I can hardly


get my clothes off fast enough to hoist it onto my back."


               Psychologically, Richard must choose between portraying the


seductive character, of the deformed wretch of a man using love as


an excuse.


               Basically, the role of Richard is one which captivates and


infuriates actors.  To deform, or not to deform, to seduce or


not to seduce. . . these are the questions which keep the role


of Richard III alive for actors today.


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"Deformity in Richard III." 09 Oct 2015

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