Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Original Tricky Dick

The radio show This American Life had a show about Origin Stories this week, and they began with the myth of the garage as the founding place for all software giants. No matter how bogus, the myths survive because they make better stories.

Ever try to explain the big bang to a five-year-old? Four of five sentences into it you realize how appealing it is to just say, “And on the sixth day, …”

Or, if you’re a former music major like me, how much do you love the movie Amadeus even though you know it’s a load of bullpuckey?

All this is a lead-in to tell you I read Shakespeare’s Richard III (1592).

For some odd cosmic reason I had picked up Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time (1951). It was calling to me off a library shelf and I answered the call. It’s great fun.* A detective is laid up and gets interested in a picture of Richard III, deciding that the man looks nothing at all like a murderer. From that point on he interviews everyone who comes in his room as a hostile witness. What surfaces is what we already know but often forget: all history is written by the victors, or at the very least with an agenda.

That aside, Shakespeare’s Richard III is well worth while. But not really for the story. It’s almost like Shakespeare knew the story is a leaky vessel and plugged it with and exquistely evil character, presenting Richard’s ominous pre-revealings of the events about to unfold.

The fun in the text is not at all in “what’s going to happen?” but in “how is he going to do this?”

I’m guessing it’s the kind of play you watch not for the drama, but for the acting.

*So much fun that I read Tey's The Singing Sands soon after. If you're going to read Tey, stick with Daughter of Time.


Briony said...

I absolutely love Richard III (it was one of the plays I did my thesis on) but I am yet to see it live.

There is an amazing film adaptation set in the 1940s with Ian McKellen as a fascist Richard. If you get the chance, check it out!

Linda said...

I love Tey. I think that was one of several pen names she had. I've read all her stuff (long time ago) and happy to find a new convert. Peace, Linda