Richard Loncraine’s Rendition of William Shakespeare’s Richard III

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Richard Loncraine’s rendition of William Shakespeare’s Richard III is memorable in its appeal to modern viewers partly because it relocates the action of the play to a fantasized Nazi Germany-styled England of the 1940s, rather than keeping fifteenth-century England as the setting as Shakespeare originally intended. But while this approach undoubtedly allows the story of Richard III to be broadcasted to a more diverse audience, its total rejection of historical fact, along with the way in which Loncraine skips around the text, cuts scenes, and adds small but important details to the aesthetics of Shakespeare’s play may mislead the audience and thus distract them from the original piece. Therefore, it is for this reason that although the 1995 movie adaptation of Richard III is, for the most part, a very enjoyable rendition of the play, the various modernizations to which Loncraine subjects the script and setting lessen the potency of this famous story for not only those who have read Shakespeare’s Richard III, but also for the ones who have not.
It is no secret that our society is fascinated with war: many films which portray various facets of military venture, success and failure make it onto the big screen and are thus successful, both in the box office and with the audiences that view them; Loncraine’s version of Shakespeare’s play is no different—the setting mimics Nazi Germany both with its iconography, especially after Richard comes to power (see scene in which Richard gives a speech before a thunderous crowd), and with its clever use of the straight-laced look of Nazi soldiers’ uniforms. And while his approach clearly errs from the way in which more traditional directors of Shakespeare’s Richard III create the setting of t...

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...’s movie differ from Shakespeare’s Richard III in various ways; and while they all combine to make an aesthetically pleasing rendition of the play, they may mislead viewers who have not read Shakespeare’s text or watched a live performance of the play. For instance, if one were to be totally ignorant of the fact that the movie is based on a drama from the seventeenth century, he or she might mistake it for just another movie that features “Gandalf” and some flowering language. That being said, although Loncraine’s adaptation is a joy to watch, the modern elements that make it appealing to viewers who are not English majors or theater fanatics—elements such as its relocation in time, its lack of important scenes and especially its ending—ultimately leave viewers who are familiar with Shakespeare’s Richard III with a feeling that something was lost in its making.

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