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Richard III (1983)

The Tragedy of Richard III (original title)
Richard of Gloucester uses murder and manipulation to claim England's throne.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Peter Benson ...
Antony Brown ...
Sir Richard Ratcliffe (as Anthony Brown)
...
...
Anne Carroll ...
Paul Chapman ...
...
Rowena Cooper ...
Arthur Cox ...
Lord Grey / Lord Mayor of London
...
David Daker ...
Brian Deacon ...
Henry, Earl of Richmond / Second Citizen / First Messenger
Jeremy Dimmick ...
Tenniel Evans ...
Derek Farr ...
Sir Robert Brakenbury / Earl of Surrey
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Storyline

Richard Duke of Gloucester, youngest brother of King Edward IV, will stop at nothing to get the crown. He first convinces the ailing King that the Duke of Clarence, his elder brother, is a threat to the lives of Edward's two young sons. Edward has him imprisoned in the Tower of London; killers in Richard's pay then drown Clarence in a barrel of wine. When news of Clarence's death reaches the King, the subsequent grief and remorse bring about his death. Richard is made Lord Protector, with power to rule England while his nephew (now King Edward V) is still a minor. Before the young king's coronation he has his two nephews conveyed to the Tower, ostensibly for their safekeeping. Richard's accomplice, the Duke of Buckingham, then declares the two boys illegitimate and offers Richard the crown, which after a show of reticence he accepts. After Richard's coronation, he and Buckingham have a falling-out over whether or not to assassinate the two children. Written by Peter Brynmor Roberts

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23 January 1983 (UK)  »

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Richard III  »

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Trivia

Somewhat controversially, the episode ended with Margaret sitting atop a pyramid of corpses (played by all of the major actors who had appeared throughout the tetralogy) cradling Richard's dead body and laughing manically, an image Edward Burns refers to as "a blasphemous pietà." Jane Howell herself referred to it as a "reverse pietà," and defended it by arguing that the tetralogy is bigger than Richard III, so to end by simply showing Richard's death and Richmond's coronation is to diminish the roles that have gone before; the vast amount of death that has preceded the end of Richard III cannot be ignored. See more »

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User Reviews

 
That Scheming Son Of York
21 January 2011 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

That period known in the 15th century as the War Of The Roses ended with the reign of Richard III who has come down to us through a well written play and a host of great actors playing one of the great Machiavellian villains of all time. Was Richard really as bad as all that. He was no saint, but he was living in a time when one of the few saints around was Henry VI of Lancaster and he paid as dearly for sainthood as Richard did for villainy.

If you can get over the fact that Ron Cook who plays Richard III bears an uncanny resemblance to Dudley Moore, you will enjoy this BBC production of The Tragedy Of Richard III. Richard III in his time was called 'Crookback' because he was supposedly a hunchback though it never affected him on the battlefield, even his enemies conceded he was quite the man at arms. That was a bit of Tudor propaganda as spun by the court favorite William Shakespeare.

The two roles that really make this production are that of Rowena Cooper as Elizabeth Woodville, the commoner who married Edward IV and bore him the two sons who were killed in the Tower in 1483. She spent a lot of time making sure her generous and indulgent husband took care of his many in-laws. She transforms remarkably as the Queen enjoying privileges to the distraught mother whose sons were taken and murdered, probably on Richard's wishes if not unwritten orders.

One thing that should be clear. This incident with the murder of the child king Edward V and his brother Richard plays more shocking for today's audience than back at the Globe Theater in Shakespeare's day. People had an abundance of kids because the majority of them died before reaching their majority. And child monarchs mean regencies and regencies always mean court politics on steroids and dynastic challenges. People in those time need only look in Scotland to the north which had a series of child monarchs which weakened the realm so totally that it's only remedy was union with England which happened not long after people saw the first production of this play. And the three parts of Henry VI that led up to the events here began with an infant king and the struggles for power which turned into the War Of The Roses.

The other female role that stands out is Margaret Of Anjou, late the Queen consort of Henry VI who singlehandedly for her husband and son kept the Lancastrian claims going. She was and is a controversial figure in English history still. Julia Foster played her in all the stages of her life in the three parts of Henry VI and in Richard III. Ironically enough this role was eliminated in Laurence Olivier's acclaimed big screen film of this play. But seeing it now that kind of diminishes Olivier's work somewhat. Foster is a bitter figure of passion, grief, and revenge in equal parts as she curses all the new Yorkist royalty and nobility and most especially Richard of Gloucester.

For Richard it was a case of what went around really did come around for him.


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