- Richard III
Kevin Moriarty’s Richard III provided a wealth of material for those interested in thinking through how directors rescript Shakespeare’s plays for modern audiences. Alan Dessen defines “rescripting” to denote “the changes made by a director in the received text in response to a perceived problem or to achieve some agenda” (Rescripting Shakespeare 3). He lists many forms of rescripting, including: cutting the text, combining or eliminating characters, and adding or subtracting text to create a directorial “concept.” Moriarty used all of these methods to create a Richard III that advanced a number of agendas: to make the text accessible to the audience, to alter Richard’s character by eliminating his congenital deformities, and to draw parallels between Shakespeare’s play and contemporary American politics.
The program for Richard III included notes from Trinity Rep’s artistic director, Curt Columbus, in which he assured viewers that the play is “one of the most popular and most often performed of Shakespeare’s plays.” Yet despite this assertion, Moriarty made the play more user-friendly by drastically cutting the text, eliminating characters, and providing historical background. Dessen’s work shows that Richard III is particularly vulnerable to cuts, as the second-longest play in the Shakespearean canon after Hamlet, and Moriarty cut enough to get the production down to two hours and forty minutes. Cuts included the Citizens in 2.3, the Scrivener in 3.6, Queen Margaret (and hence much of 1.3 and 4.4), Sir Thomas Vaughan, and Clarence’s children. Some characters were combined: Ratcliffe took the place of the murderers in 1.4 and of Tyrrell in 4.2 and 4.3. Brackenbury’s role was taken in 1.4 by the Duchess of York, visiting her son in the Tower. Such cuts and consolidations are not unusual; Dessen notes many productions of Richard III that have made the same or comparable choices. In this production, cutting the two murderers’ debate over slaying Clarence, and Tyrrell’s speech contemplating his killing of the princes, emphasized the brutality of Richard’s regime, and consolidated Ratcliffe as a menacing figure who did not pause to consider the implications of his many murders. Further, cutting the powerful figure of Margaret strikingly highlighted the impotence of the play’s women, although Moriarty balanced this by enhancing Queen Elizabeth’s role near the end of the production. Elizabeth appeared as a staunch supporter [End Page 73] of Richmond throughout the final scenes, visually contradicting Richard’s summation of her as a “relenting fool, and shallow, changing woman.”
Along with the cuts, Moriarty also added text from 3 Henry VI into Richard’s opening soliloquy:
Why I can smile, and murder whiles I smile, And cry ‘Content!’ to that which grieves my heart, And wet my cheeks with artificial tears, And frame my face to all occasions.(3.2.182–185)
This is a common addition; Richard Loncraine’s 1995 film version incorporates these lines, and Dessen records “a long line of actors and directors” who have made a similar choice (80). Yet Moriarty’s use of text from 3 Henry VI went much further. His production began, not with Richard’s soliloquy, but with substantial background material from the earlier play, using snippets of text to convey the battle between the Lancasters and the Yorks, the murder of Prince Edward (5.5), the capture of Henry VI (including a...