Monday, March 9, 2015

The DVD of Our Discontent

So Saturday the wife left me to go over her friend’s house, leaving me alone in the big mansion.  We put the little ones to sleep a little after eight, then, after giving her a passive aggressive guilt trip, I settled down to do what I really wanted to do:

Watch the early-80s BBC production of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Richard III, on DVD.

Four years ago I went through a mini-Shakespeare phase where I found the perfect way to learn and enjoy the Bard: read the play, then re-read it while watching the BBC DVDs of it, most of which can be found at your local library.  I did a half-dozen plays this way, until I was forced to stop, having just started a new job that demanded a bit extra of my attention.

On a whim last week, looking for something fresh and poetic, I thumbed through an omnibus of Shakespeareana from the Great Books I have in the basement.  I landed on Richard III.  The next day I saw a battered paperback copy of that play for sale at a library so I took it for a sign from ye gods, purchased it, and immediately began reading it.

Which brings us to the BBC production of the play.  Suffice it to say, it is loooooooooooooooong.  I read that it is Shakespeare’s second- and third-longest play (depending on the source, I guess).  The DVD is 228 minutes long, which is almost Ben-Hur-ian in duration.  Following along in the paperback, I managed only the first act, a little over an hour invested, with a short cupcake break somewhere in the middle.

Like all the plays, it’s good.  Real good.  (“Good” – how’s that for an adjective, eh Shakespeare?)  Made those lines jump off the page, brought out new tensions I had not seen alone in the sentences of iambic pentameter.  Took a while for the actor who played Richard to meet my approval, as my brain image of the character was more fiendish, grotesque, and moustache-twisting.  But after fifteen minutes, this actor, Ron Cook, has now been firmly established to me as the evil, scheming, usurping would-be leader of England. 

Now – to seek out three more hours in which to finish it!

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