- King Richard III (review)
- Australian and New Zealand Association of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Inc.)
- Volume 9, Number 2, December 1991
- p. pp. 174-176
- View Citation
174 Reviews Although the text emphasizes recent archaeological work and recent reappraisals, the photographs do not respond. There is litde evidence that the collaborators in fact collaborated at all. For example, an interesting excursus by Piatt on Eynsford, an inegularly enclosed, untypical watch-tower of the 1080s, is not matched by any illustration, presumably because it is not very 'architectural' any more. The early section of the book, which assumes that the Middle Ages began in 1066, has a bracing and innovative text putting the Norman castle into a good perspective, stressing its antecedents on the continent, its long period of development in England and Wales and aggressively attributing the distinction of early Norman buildings solely to their size. The photographer does not match any of these contentions, although visual evidence is obviously desirable. The reliance on an architectural rather than an historical eye for the illustrations denies the book a single ground-plan, a single drawing, even a single aerial photograph. M r Kersting seems to be earth-bound. As a result there is a rather conventional selection of illustrations: at least 300 of the photographs are of well-known buildings taken from angles which do not seem specially revelatory. A fair number would do well in standard glossy guidebooks and none seems to stress the social content and context of these vastly expensive structures. Piatt's text, on the other hand, is a good, up-to-date discussion of standard themes in upper-crust medieval England. It is striking how England dominates Britain. In 375 photographs only 20 Scottish buildings are featured and Ireland and Wales are similarly submerged by Anglocentricity. The text is similarly Anglocentric and is fairly conservative. The thought that the poor had architecture also seems foreign to both the authors. Nowhere is there any discussion of peasant housing or ordinary town housing, despite the amount of data available both above and below ground. Where are the industries and industrial buildings of medieval Britain? There is not even a single water-mill mentioned or shown. Where are the women of the Middle Ages? They might be shown to have had an architectural influence also. Where in fact is ninety per cent of the population? Tony Kersting's view of architecture is sexist, elitist and antithetical to social history. Colin Piatt's text is less sexist, less elitist and pays lip-service to society. The real social history of medieval buildings remains to be written and to be photographed. R. Ian Jack Department of History University of Sydney Richmond, Hugh M., King Richard III (Shakespeare in performance), Manchester and N e w York, Manchester University Press, 1989; cloth; pp. Reviews 175 viii, 158; 8 illustrations; R.R.P. AUS$91.00 [distributed in Australia by Cambridge University Press]. This small volume is one of a series which institutionalizes 'stage-centred' Shakespeare criticism. The series does not aim to give a complete theatrical history of each play but to discuss 'a small number of productions ... mostly modem and including film andtelevisionversions' (dust cover). The problems of this kind of criticism have been discussed recently. Richmond's reconstruction of Burbage's performance, for example, beautifully argued from what documentation there is, still has a hint of prelapsarianism, not to say circularity. Burbage played the part brilliantly, as Richmond perceives the play. Since even your and m y descriptions of performances w e see together on the same night will differ toto orbe, it isrightthat the series should concentrate ontelevisionproductions where w e can check the evidence on video. And there is the fundamental question, raised by Charles L a m b and revived by Berger and others, of whether performances in the theatre of one's mind are not truer than those subject to directors and actors, who may not always be the best readers or critics. Richmond has his own reading of the play before he begins the story and evaluates productions in the light of it. Richard III is not a deeply controversial play. It is the history play that most unequivocallyfitsthe Tudor Myth. It is immune against even Dollimore and Sinfield's Political Shakespeare, which castigates such pro-establishmentarianism. In the first two chapters Richmond...