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From Summit to Tragedy: Sulayman Al-Bassam's Richard III and Political Theatre

Graham Holderness


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.1 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

fi lm version.2 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


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