Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Richard III (and Peter Sellers too)

The above clip is from the 1965 TV special "The Music of Lennon&McCartney" -- and yes, your eyes did not deceive you: it is indeed a dramatic reading of "Hard Days Night" by the now-legendary comedian Peter Sellers in full parody of Sir Laurence Olivier's turn as Richard III. I laugh when he says "alright" every single time, in spite of myself.

Youtube naturally has a variety of Richard III (and Peter Sellers) -themed clips:
By now it must be obvious what I've been reading lately... I finished my first reading of the play only Yesterday and now have nothing but good things to say about it. I love the spread of the body count; that the most important people (ie Richard's two brothers) are the first to go, and early too, in the first few acts. And I like Richard -- a pure villain, with little to nothing of the sympathetic about him. And the other characters are all fine by me -- a bunch of murderous, power-grubbing inbreds. Their bickering amongst themselves comes to the effect of: "Fiend! You did kill my brother!" "Yeah, well, you killed my father and my cousin!" Seeing all this, in history and in this play, one may be driven to think that there was not an innocent one among them -- though the two "Boys in the Tower" are obvious exceptions.

In a sense, all the characters share in the role of villain -- and no doubt tear down the reputation of those who ruled England just before the Tudors, that glorious dynasty that still ruled in Shakespeare's day, some one hundred years after the events of this play, in the form of Queen Elizabeth.

I liked the "ghost pageant" at the end, wherein the lost souls of all the slain men -- with the soul of two boys and a woman in their mix -- glide across the stage, then a still-sleeping battlefield, cursing Richard. tossing and turning in his tent, and blessing his competitor, Richmond (Henry VII), blissfully asleep in his. Though the ghosts have only as yet drifted across my imagination, still I can imagine this scene as one of the best, most dramatic climaxes in all of Shakespeare.

Peter Sellers thinks so too.

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