Richard III: Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism

Front Cover
W.W. Norton & Company, 2009 - Drama - 423 pages
This Norton Critical Edition of Richard III is based on the First Quarto (1597) edition of the play with interpolations from the First Folio (1623). The play is accompanied by a preface, explanatory annotations, A Note on the Text, a list of Textual Variants, and eighteen illustrations of seminal scenes from major dramatic productions and film versions of the play.

“Contexts” provides readers with the sources and analogues that informed Shakespeare's composition of Richard III. These include excerpts from Robert Fabyan's New Chronicles of England and France, Thomas More's The History of King Richard III, Edward Hall's The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York, A Mirror for Magistrates, and The True Tragedy of Richard III. A selection from Colley Cibber's eighteenth-century adaptation records the compromised form in which Richard III held the stage for approximately two hundred years before twentieth-century editors brought it back into recognizable shape. A representative selection of commentary on stage and film reproductions of Richard III is also provided, ranging from reviews of nineteenth-century productions by William Hazlitt and George Bernard Shaw, a survey of stage performances by Scott Colley, and in-depth analyses of twentieth-century film adaptations by Saskia Kossak, Barbara Hodgdon, and Peter S. Donaldson.

“Criticism” collects eight major pieces of scholarship, including early accounts of the play's major themes by William Richardson and Edward Dowden, modern critical assessments by Wilbur Sanders, Elihu Pearlman, Linda Charnes, Katherine Maus, and Ian Moulton, and an essay by Harry Berger Jr. especially commissioned for this volume.

A Selected Bibliography is also included.

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About the author (2009)

William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616 Although there are many myths and mysteries surrounding William Shakespeare, a great deal is actually known about his life. He was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, son of John Shakespeare, a prosperous merchant and local politician and Mary Arden, who had the wealth to send their oldest son to Stratford Grammar School. At 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, the 27-year-old daughter of a local farmer, and they had their first daughter six months later. He probably developed an interest in theatre by watching plays performed by traveling players in Stratford while still in his youth. Some time before 1592, he left his family to take up residence in London, where he began acting and writing plays and poetry. By 1594 Shakespeare had become a member and part owner of an acting company called The Lord Chamberlain's Men, where he soon became the company's principal playwright. His plays enjoyed great popularity and high critical acclaim in the newly built Globe Theatre. It was through his popularity that the troupe gained the attention of the new king, James I, who appointed them the King's Players in 1603. Before retiring to Stratford in 1613, after the Globe burned down, he wrote more than three dozen plays (that we are sure of) and more than 150 sonnets. He was celebrated by Ben Jonson, one of the leading playwrights of the day, as a writer who would be "not for an age, but for all time," a prediction that has proved to be true. Today, Shakespeare towers over all other English writers and has few rivals in any language. His genius and creativity continue to astound scholars, and his plays continue to delight audiences. Many have served as the basis for operas, ballets, musical compositions, and films. While Jonson and other writers labored over their plays, Shakespeare seems to have had the ability to turn out work of exceptionally high caliber at an amazing speed. At the height of his career, he wrote an average of two plays a year as well as dozens of poems, songs, and possibly even verses for tombstones and heraldic shields, all while he continued to act in the plays performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men. This staggering output is even more impressive when one considers its variety. Except for the English history plays, he never wrote the same kind of play twice. He seems to have had a good deal of fun in trying his hand at every kind of play. Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, all published on 1609, most of which were dedicated to his patron Henry Wriothsley, The Earl of Southhampton. He also wrote 13 comedies, 13 histories, 6 tragedies, and 4 tragecomedies. He died at Stratford-upon-Avon April 23, 1616, and was buried two days later on the grounds of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. His cause of death was unknown, but it is surmised that he knew he was dying.

Thomas Cartelli is professor of English and Film Studies at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of Repositioning Shakespeare: National Formations, Postcolonial Appropriations; Marlowe, Shakespeare, and the Economy of Theatrical Experience, and coauthor of New Wave Shakespeare on Screen. His essays appear in The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe; Shakespeare the Movie II; and A Blackwell Companion to Shakespeare, among others.

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