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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: August ::
Re: Richard's Hump and *Pericles*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0648.  Monday, 1 August 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Chris Ivic <
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        Date:   Monday, 1 Aug 1994 13:13:32 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0646 Qs: Richard's Hump
 
(2)     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Monday, 01 Aug 1994 16:14:23 -0300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0646  Qs: Richard's Hump
 
(3)     From:   A. G. Bennett <
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        Date:   Monday, 1 Aug 1994 15:25 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0646  Qs: Richard's Hump
 
(4)     From:   William Kemp <
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        Date:   Monday, 01 Aug 1994 15:51:16 EDT
        Subj:   Re: Richard's Hump
 
(5)     From:   Christine Mack Gordon <
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        Date:   Monday, 01 Aug 1994 17:26:04 -0500
        Subj:   Richard III
 
(6)     From:   Tom Loughlin <
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        Date:   Monday, 1 Aug 1994 21:33:46 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0646 Qs: Richard's Hump; Pericles
 
(7)     From:   Steve Urkowitz <SURCC@CUNYVM.BITNET>
        Date:   Tuesday, 02 Aug 94 06:37:34 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0646  Qs: Richard's Hump
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Ivic <
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Date:           Monday, 1 Aug 1994 13:13:32 -0400
Subject: 5.0646 Qs: Richard's Hump
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0646 Qs: Richard's Hump
 
For an excellent discussion of Richard's hump see M. Garber's essay "Descanting
on Deformity: Richard III and the Shape of History," in _The Historical
Renaissance_ (eds. H. Dubrow and R. Strier).  Garber reads Richard's physical
and psychological "deformity" as an articulation of the disfiguring inherent in
the writing of history.  For references to the "historical" Richard see her
endnotes.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Monday, 01 Aug 1994 16:14:23 -0300
Subject: 5.0646  Qs: Richard's Hump
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0646  Qs: Richard's Hump
 
In reply to Jim Serchak, I would have to say that Richard's physical deformity
leads to his psychological deformity.  His rejection by his family (even his
nephew has learned to laugh at him) and by his courtly society, whose demands
for beauty are as great as those with which North American women are bombarded,
he rejects both familial and romantic love.  It is because he is unable to play
a lover, that he determines to play a villain.
 
Of course, Shakespeare was probably also appealing to a lower sensibility, that
was prejudiced against the (even mildly) disabled, and would make a more direct
connection between (for instance) his teeth growing in his head at birth, and
his devouring of his family.
 
Good luck with your production!
        Sean Lawrence
        
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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           A. G. Bennett <
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Date:           Monday, 1 Aug 1994 15:25 EDT
Subject: 5.0646  Qs: Richard's Hump
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0646  Qs: Richard's Hump
 
Just a quick note re: Richard's hump-- some interesting sources to look at
might be the contemporary-ish portraits of Richard (in the National Portrait
Gallery, I think, but many are reprinted in works and exhibition catalogues),
which seem to hint at a slightly scoliotic shape. Josephine Tey does some
interesting things with this in her detective novel/exoneration of Richard _The
Daughter of Time_.
 
Also, I've recently finished reading Antony Sher's book _Year of the King_, in
which he describes the events leading up to his performance of Richard for the
RSC in 1984 (I think). Not only is the book wonderfully amusing and an
interesting look into the backstage world of life in the RSC, but Sher seems to
have pondered similar kinds of issues that you mention in your post.
 
Just my tuppence'orth-- break a leg!
 
Alex Bennett
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(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Kemp <
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Date:           Monday, 01 Aug 1994 15:51:16 EDT
Subject:        Re: Richard's Hump
 
Actors and directors weighing the physical and psychological dimensions of
Richard's deformities should study the relevant scenes in Neil Simon's THE
GOODBYE GIRL carefully.
 
Shakespeare's Richard is both physically and psychologically deformed, his
physical abnormalities expressing his moral ones. As far as we know, the
historical Richard was physically normal. Saccio's SHAKESPEARE'S ENGLISH KINGS
is a good, quick introduction to differences between Shakespeare's histories
and "true" history.
 
The attraction of the play, of course, is that Richard is a charming and
audacious monster. The best production I've seen (with Stacy Keach at the
Folger) encouraged the audience's ambivalence about Richard. The less
interesting (and less enjoyable) productions metaphorized Richard into a
power-hungry fascist or victim of prejudice and ostracism.
 
Bill Kemp

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(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Mack Gordon <
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Date:           Monday, 01 Aug 1994 17:26:04 -0500
Subject:        Richard III
 
I've only seen two Richards--Olivier's film and Ian McKellen on tour several
summers ago. Olivier is dramatic, compelling, and definitely humped; McKellen
was much more subtle--the left side of his body appeared to be slightly
paralyzed, and he couldn't use his left hand at all, but there was no
conspicuous "deformity." What he did with his body language was nothing short
of amazing--clearly here was someone who had come to terms with his physical
problem and went on to "glory" nonetheless. The psychological subtlety
reflected the physical manifestation: a very powerful performance.
 
Chris Gordon, University of Minnesota
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Loughlin <
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Date:           Monday, 1 Aug 1994 21:33:46 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0646 Qs: Richard's Hump; Pericles
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0646 Qs: Richard's Hump; Pericles
 
To Jim,
 
I don't know why anyone would argue that R3's deformities are anything but
physical..  He's called a "poisonous bunch-backed toad" by at least one other
character, either in R3 or 3H6, and in his first soliloquy in R3 describes
himself as "deformed, unfinished,...scarce half made up."  I can't recall a
single performance by anyone who has not played the role with some sort of
physical deformity, either a withered arm or a hunchback or both.  I'm sure the
more literary types will cite the historic references, as WS usually followed
Holinshed closely.  I'm very curious to know why anyone thinks the deformities
are not physical but psychological.  WS was not a writer of psychological
realism; when he wanted you to know something he wrote it flat out.
 
To Tim Pinnow,
 
Two years ago (1992) in one of the summer issues of American Theatre, there was
a good article about *Pericles* in several productions around the country.  For
some reason *Pericles* was very popular that summer.  I knew of at least four
different productions, including the one we did that summer at the Wisconsin
Shakespeare Festival.
 
(7)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Urkowitz <SURCC@CUNYVM.BITNET>
Date:           Tuesday, 02 Aug 94 06:37:34 EDT
Subject: 5.0646  Qs: Richard's Hump
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0646  Qs: Richard's Hump
 
Jim Serchak raises the question about Richard's deformity as either
psychological or physical (sorry for the simplification here).  You might have
a lot of fun and also get some valuable tools for rehearsing the play be
looking back at the earliest printed texts, Q1 and F, not just of RICHARD III
but especially 3 HENRY VI.  At the end of 3.2, there's the wonderful soliloquy
for Richard where he outlines his reasons for seeking the crown.  Following
earlier traditions, Olivier jobbed it into the opening of his RICHARD III
movie.  In the Q text, Richard gives psychologically valid explanations for his
ferocity, but they are laid out in elegantly rational discourse, like a recipe
for a freshman composition.  In the Folio version, the same argument or plot
for the speech happens, but here it reads like a script for a horror movie.
Psychological rationalities erupt as nightmarish projections of self-hatred and
mutilation.  Wheeee!
 
Throughout 3 HENRY VI references by Richard to his own troubled inner life
appear only in the later text.  Whoever was responsible for the changes, they
show that some very thoughtful folks were looking at the same issues in the
1590s that you are concerned with in the 1990s.  Now we just have to find ways
to encourage today's readers, actors, and directors to lay their hands on those
early texts.
 
By the way, at least some of the debate about CHARACTER smoking through the
SHAKSPER net might be illuminated or at least annotated by looking at how the
alternative scripts of early plays by Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton, etc.,
shape and reshape the words and actions for players.  A critter in motion tells
more about its goals and organizing principles than that same critter stopped
in time, even if that time were a very propitiously chosen moment.
 
Into the heat of the day,   Steve Urkowitz 
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