We have to clear the plate of a question that is today no longer debated. Shakespeare proposes here the vision of Richard III promoted by the Tudors, that is to say those who vanquished and destroyed him, in order to stabilize and justify their taking over te throne of England. Richard III was not the physical monster they described.
This being said this play is a real thriller. Richard has to eliminate everyone on his path to climb (really climb) to the throne. I would say that sounds plain normal but he declares himself to be evil and to enjoy killing, particularly innocent people. And when he has finally finished the elimination of those who have a blood claim to the throne, except Richmond who has fled to Brittany, he starts killing those who have helped him in his ascent, which is politically absurd and plain suicidal. Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, comes back with an army and defeats Richard III at Bosworth in 1485 and thus becomes Henry VII known as the first Tudor king, though he is a Lancaster, which means the House of Lancaster in the end wins but they change the dynastic reference, probably to ensure the past be the past, which might explain why Richard III after proper examination was buried in a small church with no indication on his grave, which explains why in modern times when the church was pull down to open some space for a parking lot no archaeological search was started and Richard III remained under the parking lot for a long time before new excavations to build some new structure finally discovered him, or at least his remains.
The victor is always right and history hates the past and disguises it to the colors of the present, which means the color of the past changes from one present to the next [...]
This production is superb in many ways, once again by the physical acting of pain, sorrow and death, particularly with body language, facial language and tonal language. A triplet of queens is essential: Margaret the old widow of Henry the Sixth; Lady Anne, widow to Edward Prince of Wales, son of Henry the Sixth, later married to the Duke of Gloster who later became Richard the Third; and Elizabeth, queen to Edward the Fourth and then his widow. Of these three queens Lady Anne is the most discreet though fundamental because of her marrying Gloster, the future Richard the Third and the killer of both her husband and her father in law, but another triplet is composed with the Duchess of York, mother to King Edward the Fourth, Clarence and Gloster, the latter to become Richard the Third. The oldest of them, Margaret is a real warmonger against Richard the Third and this production makes her triumphant at the very end, after the concluding words from Henry the Seventh, sitting, laughing hysterically, at the top of a pile of half denuded dead bodies, and holding the corpse of Richard the Third. The full and final step of this purification cycle typical of Shakespeare: she takes, or rather is granted, the victory she is provided with by history or fate [...]
But to show how strong Shakespeare's music can be, I will make a final remark on the famous ghost scene. In his last night living on earth before the battle of Bosworth he has a dream that brings up EIGHT apparitions of ghosts, eleven ghosts all together [...]
EIGHT is the symbol of the Second Coming, and here we have eleven second comings. The Second Coming is the triggering event of the Apocalypse in the Book of Revelation.
ELEVEN is the number of apostles after the elimination of Judas, the eleven apostles who retire away from the Crucifixion (except John) and who deny Jesus, like Peter, and who hide away from the crucifixion and post crucifixion scene out of fear. These eleven apostles announce the resurrection too, even if in a negative way, the way they announce the end of Richard III but they also appear to Richmond and they announce the resurrection of the English monarchy with Henry the Seventh, known as Richmond in this play.
Finally NINE is necessary to complete the prophecy, the prediction, by identifying the beast, in this case Richard the Third. And sure enough the ghosts are going to curse Richard III with a simple formula: "despair and die." And in that ghost scene this mantra is repeated NINE times.
We must understand that in Elizabethan times, after the Reformation and in the ascending phase of chapels and Puritanism, such biblical references (in this case the Passion of Jesus and the Book of Revelation) were unavoidable elements that everyone understood and appreciated. What's more it is very effective in the "propaganda" (rather self-justification) of the Tudors: the killing of the crucifixion is prophesied, the Second Coming is announced and the Beast is identified. We are in the midst of medieval numerical symbolism. This makes me say NINE is the numerical symbol of this king, and as I have already said in my review of Henry the Sixth, Part Three: 1 + 8 = 9; 4 + 5 = 9; 1 + 4 + 8 + 5 = 18 = 9 x 2. The beast is killed on the diabolical date that is also the resurrection date of Bosworth, the final battle. After this last battle the prophecy of the New Messianic Jerusalem becomes possible [...]
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU