Building on Katherine Schaap Williams’s (2009) reading of the play, this article uses a disability studies approach to consider Richard Loncraine’s 1995 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III. Loncraine’s adaptation allows modern-day viewers to experience a highly visual (and often intimate) exchange with Sir Ian McKellen as Richard Gloucester. Specifically, Gloucester’s verbal claims of a disability that renders him unsuitable as a leader and a lack of sexual prowess are juxtaposed alongside sexually violent visual actions and imagery—particularly in the form of phallic symbols. The juxtaposition of verbal passivity in opposition to visual aggression demonstrates how Richard showcases or hides his disability as he pursues the throne: the first half of the film features Richard masquerading ability, while the second half features him masquerading disability.
Sexuality, Violence, and the Body (Politic) in Richard III
Sulayman Al-Bassam's Richard III and Political Theatre
Richard III is one of Shakespeare’s best-known characters, a familiarity independent of the history plays, Henry VI and Richard III, in which he appears. This celebrity has less to do with Richard’s historical reputation, and more with the way in which great actors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries gave the role status and popular visibility, particularly perhaps via Laurence Olivier’s 1955 film version. Just as Hamlet is automatically identifi able by black suit and prop skull, Richard is immediately recognisable by his legendary deformity (mandatory hump, optional limp), and by the famous opening line of his initial soliloquy: ‘Now is the winter of our discontent’.
This issue of Screen Bodies features a Screen Shots section focusing on screening disability, including essays on new disability documentaries, vacillation and the dis/abled male body—especially as it plays out in Fred Zimmerman’s 1950 film The Men—and questions of masquerade and representations of Richard III on stage and screen. It also includes general essays on “undoing” gender through complicity and subversion, the rise in the importance of the haptic in Japanese society, culture, and filmmaking in the 1920s, and an investigation of uncertainty and the “generosity paradox” with regard to gender, sexuality, and ability in cyborg cinema.
Q1 Hamlet (1603) routinely sets prose speeches so that they appear to be blank verse. This article argues that such was an attempt to confer prestige upon the text, particularly in the wake of the saturation of Shakespeare books on the literary marketplace around 1600 – a phenomenon that saw his prose works achieve less favour than those in pentameter. The publishers of Q1 Merry Wives (1602) and Q1 Hamlet may have hedged their bets on these Shakespeare texts by amplifying their verse, long the gold standard of the Shakespearean brand. Like The True Tragedie of Richard III (published 1594) and The Famous Victories of Henry V (entered 1594), which presented their opening pages to readers as iambic pentameter, Q1 Hamlet seems to have beautified its dialogue for readers in the early modern book marketplace.