Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thank You Greenhill School and Hockaday School!! And.... EVERYONE is Invited to Celebrate Richard III this Spring 2014 at The Oakridge School's Richard III Paper Colloquium!!!

To Everyone Involved with the R3 Blog Project:
Thank you so much for your insights, ideas, and contributions to our collaborative engagement with Shakespeare’s classic History play. I know, here at The Oakridge School, we thought more critically, creatively, and divergently about the text because of the dialogue made possible by the contributions from The Greenhill School and The Hockaday School. So thank you for helping make our study more meaningful and simply more fun!

Jared Colley
The Oakridge School

And now…

An Official Invitation to All Schools:
We invite all students now to submit papers on Richard III for the 2014 Richard III Paper Colloquium to be hosted at The Oakridge School on March 21, 2014. Remember, all submissions must be submitted no later than January 10, 2014, and papers should be sent to Jared Colley, English Chair of The Oakridge School, at one the following email addresses: jcolley@theoakridgeschool.org or r3.conference@gmail.com. More detailed instructions for submission, as well as information on specific paper prompt suggestions, can be found here. (Again, prompts should be seen as suggestions and nothing more…)
Mr. Garza of Greenhill School at Dubliners 2013
Last year, we hosted a similar event on James Joyce’s collection, Dubliners. If you did not attend but would like to get a feel for last year’s ceremonies, watch the trailer for the colloquium here.
Also, please note that the call of papers announces an opportunity for theatre students to submit proposals for staging/directing/acting certain selected scenes from Shakespeare’s play. We plan on hosting at least one theatre professor from the local community to work with students in acting/directing workshops as well.

Landry Levine, Class of 2013, The Oakridge School,
presents at the 2013 Dubliners Paper Colloquium
Most likely the colloquium's activities will last most of the conventional school day, and in addition to having students present in multiple breakout sessions, we plan to have a special keynote speaker – most likely a local expert in Shakespearean and/or Ricardian studies.

Remember, papers are due January 10, 2014. There will be a committee of evaluators comprised of faculty and administrators from at least eight schools from the Houston and Metroplex areas, and all submissions will be read with names of schools and students blinded to ensure complete fairness. Students that are accepted to present will be notified sometime in mid-February 2014.

We look forward to reading your papers and we can’t wait to see you this spring at the 2014 Richard III Paper Colloquium.

Happy Writing!!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Responding to Oakridge's Post on Dreams

At Hockaday, we had a fun, in-depth discussion thanks to to Oakridge's post about Richard's dreams in Act V. We considered their questions:

"Is he haunted by his past in his dream in Act 5? Or is he plagued by fears about the future? Does Richard show signs of remorse and guilt? Or does he simply fear the possibility of defeat and loss of power?"

We felt that, yes, to some degree, he probably feels remorse and guilt when we examine his speech in Act 5 Scene 3. However, it is more like he's afraid of his conscience coming to haunt him. It almost seems as if he has a dual personality (Natalie made a good point that the speech reminded her of Gollum), so we never really got the sense that he did feel remorse, only that he nearly did and that he is struggling to reconcile his two identities. We found it interesting that he said that no one would pity him because even he doesn't pity himself. At this point, he seems almost resigned that "no creature loves [him]."

We tried to use this speech to contextualize one of the more famous lines: "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" We thought that this quote had one of two implications: either Richard is willing to trade his wealth and power for a simple horse (in which case he only wants to survive) or he already recognizes that he has lost and he is simply lamenting that he lost his entire kingdom for lack of a horse. We felt that it was the latter case because of how frazzled he was just before the battle and because he seemed almost resigned to his fate.

When examining the speech, it is interesting that he doesn't think he is worthy of pity. Yes, he committed many terrible deeds, but he probably could have found a way to blame others for shaping his identity through their treatment of his deformity. However, we never get the background story as to why he wants power, and Richard never blames anyone for his actions, only telling us that he is determined to be a villain. Does this mean that Richard takes responsibility for his actions? Could we see him as a tragic hero, or is he truly a villain?

- Emily Z.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Discussing Dreams with Greenhill - Oakridge Fifth Period Responds - Working Title: Inception part 2

Below is a video that Oakridge Fifth Period put together after discussing dreams in Shakespeare’s Richard III. We first want to thank The Greenhill School for directing our discussion on the matter with their previous video in the posting here.
So here’s what we put together, enjoy!

We wanted to end this post with a question regarding Richard. Is he haunted by his past in his dream in Act 5? Or is he plagued by fears about the future? Does Richard show signs of remorse and guilt? Or does he simply fear the possibility of defeat and loss of power?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Responding to Hockaday's Interpretation and Performance of Act 3 Scene 4 - Oakridge 7th Period Ponders the Scrivener's Words

This post started as a discussion inspired by Hockaday’s interpretation of scene 4 of Act 3. We watched their video on the same day we were discussing the Scrivener’s words in Act 3 scene 6. We first focused on Hockaday’s interpretation of Hastings, and we could not help but acknowledge the grossness of his character (lines 11-12 of the Scrivener scene). Could the Scrivener’s words apply to all characters of the play? We also focused on the character of Stanley (a.k.a. Derby) who also was featured in the Hockaday video. Following the Scrivener, he struck us as a character who - while not gross - might be characterized as less than bold (we went with the Folger edition's word choice here for line 13 of the Scrivener scene: Yet who so bold but says he sees it not?)
The discussion gave birth to the following reflection:

-Shanna L. reading Act 3 scene 6
In Act 3 Scene 6 of Shakespeare’s Richard III, a Scrivener says, “Who is so gross that cannot see this palpable device? Yet who so bold but says he sees it not?” The Scrivener is one of the few characters in the play to realize Richard III’s plan. This one short speech given by the Scrivener is so important that it could possibly change our view on the rest of the play. Going back to Act 1 scene 2 where Richard manipulated Lady Anne, our original thoughts were that Richard eventually “wooed” Lady Anne into marriage with only his words. However, the Scrivener’s comments make us think twice: maybe instead of wooing her, it was Lady Anne’s lack of courage to stand up to him.  Or perhaps she’s “gross” in the Shakespearean sense. Maybe Richard doesn’t have as much power as is presumed; maybe the people are scared of him and don’t know how to act or don’t know how to react, and Anne is one of our first examples of this.

-Paul DF
The Scrivener asks the reader to note the sequence of events, making clear it was just five hours ago that Hastings was an innocent man, free of charge. The Scrivener is basically asking who is so stupid that they can't see the games being played, or if they do see the games, who is so self-centered that they will lie or remain silent to protect themselves? I think this shows the essence to Richard’s power. He holds influence over people and gets away with schemes even if they see through his façade; most characters are too worried about themselves to do anything about it. The noblemen of the play – due to ego or grossness – fail to see Richard's true self, thus allowing his influence to remain dominant. Clarence and Hastings, however, thought Richard loved them and didn't listen to the warnings given to them. Hastings and Clarence in this instance could be characterized not as cowardly but as simply “gross.” Hastings, though, seems to best fit the category of “grossness” the best of all; he’s like the horror movie character that goes in the dark basement alone even with the obvious knowledge that the killer is on the loose.

-Angelique S.

With the video above, we wanted to emphasize this notion that Hastings may be the quintessential “gross” character, for he egregiously ignores several signs that might have been able to save his life: signs such as Stanley’s dream and his horse stumbling 3 times as he headed towards the tower. Through his naivety and joy from finding out that Rivers and others were executed, he also misses one key point: Rivers, Dorset, AND Hastings, himself, were all cursed by Margaret to die early deaths. However, Hastings ignores these signs, until the very end, just before his execution. Buckingham could be considered “gross” as well; although he collaborates with Richard III, he is unable to see that from even the slightest ‘betrayal’, Richard is ready to backstab Buckingham. This is later confirmed when Buckingham hesitates to kill the young princes, prompting Richard to refuse to give him the title of earl of Hereford.

-Jason N.
Ok, so what about characters that do see through Richard’s machinations but are “less than bold” to say so? Does this accurately describe Stanly of Derby for instance?
Stanley is a character that sees through Richard's plots and “dangerous inductions,” but does not challenge him because he fears what Richard could do to him. We can see in scene 2 of Act 3 that Stanley is aware that Richard is evil when he sends a messenger to Hastings to warn him after he had a nightmare involving Richard. Another instance where we see Stanley encouraging someone to run away and hide from Richard is in scene 1 of Act 4 when he is talking to Queen Elizabeth saying, "Take all the swift advantage of the hours / You shall have letters from me to my son / In your behalf, to meet you on the way / Be not ta'er tardy by unwise delay" (4.1.49-52). Again and again we observe Stanley worrying about what is to become of him when Richard ascends to power, but he never mentions anything about it in public. Some of us interpret Stanley as trying to go unnoticed by Richard in an attempt to save himself and at the same time not be on Richard's side. Therefore, Stanley is "less than bold" as we see him sneaking around and warning people about Richard while being discreet so not to raise suspicion from Richard.

Another character who proves “not so bold” is the Mayor, and this is seen best in his dealings with Richard and Buckingham on the matters of Hasting’s death and the supposed bastardy of Edward IV in scenes 5 and 7 of Act 3. Interestingly, the common people may be boldest of all as they “spake not a word” in scene 7, refusing to hail Richard as the new king. One thing is for sure, the commoner are anything but gross.

-Meagan, Lexi, and Chase
We wanted to end this post with a question: if the Scrivener’s dichotomy of grossness and cowardliness explains the reactions of most characters in the play, how do we explain the women such as Margaret and the Duchess of York who do see Richard’s evil AND do have the boldness to say so? Why does it fall on deaf ears?
Thanks Hockaday for inspiring this discussion by directing our attention to the behaviors of Hastings and Stanley of Derby!

            -Oakridge Seventh Period

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Deformity and Social Pressures

                This past Friday, we in Literature and Philosophy discussed how deformity and monstrosity play a part in Richard III. We approached this discussion through the lens of several other works we’ve read over the past week, including pieces such as WEB Dubois’ “The Souls of Black Folks” and Linda Charnes’ “On Reading the Monstrous Body in Richard III,” as well as the general ideology of Aristotle.
                We took the idea of deformity as a sign of immorality and extrapolated it further into what its impact might have been on Richard’s life before the play begins.
                Even within the short time span of the first three acts of Richard III, Richard is called devilish and hellish many times. Furthermore, he is frequently insulted for his deformity. Considering his society’s views on the meaning of deformity, perhaps both insults were telling Richard the same thing: you are evil.
                Now contemplate what Richard’s life must have been like before the play begins. It is unlikely that those around him started their taunts and insults only within the action that we see. Rather, it is far more likely that Richard has been dealing with these insults, with these declarations of his ill character, for his entire life. Moreover, due to society’s influence, it is likely that he believes in the superstition the rest of his society holds: that deformity signifies inherent evil. As he has lived with deformity his entire life, he may have internalized the belief that he is inherently evil and has no choice but to prove a villain.
                To complicate the matter a bit, we looked at Richard’s character from the perspective of WEB Dubois’ “The Souls of Black Folks.” In this work, Dubois speaks of a dual-consciousness within blacks, a double image of themselves. One comes from what society thinks they are, the other comes from who they believe they are. He also goes on to describe the conflict between the two consciousnesses—how it can cause a great deal of strife within the mind of afflicted.
                It is hard to argue that Richard displays a dual-consciousness within the play itself. He seems confident in his actions, never hesitating to murder even his own brother. However, we discussed the idea that all that we see of Richard’s dual-consciousness is within his opening monologue. That all the conflict that occurs within Richard, the entire battle between what society expects and what he believes himself to be, takes place before the play begins. We speculated that perhaps Richard’s opening monologue is his capitulation to society’s expectations: he cannot prove a lover, as he believes himself to be, so he will prove a villain, as society desires.
              Despite this capitulation, however, we believe that a part of Richard’s self-generated consciousness is displayed through his incredible eloquence in his rhetoric. The deformed were evil and monstrous within Richard’s society—they were certainly not well spoken or charismatic. These traits were far more likely to be attributed to handsome, romantic characters like Romeo. As such, we consider Richard’s rhetoric to be something that he cherishes within himself, something that he cultivated as a part of his own identity, and something that remains despite his concession to society’s whims.

To read more on deformity, see "Deformity as Clarification" and "Deformity and Feminization"

By: Jessica C., Hockaday School 

Deformity as Clarification

                This past Friday, we in Literature and Philosophy discussed how deformity and monstrosity play a part in Richard III. We approached this discussion through the lens of several other works we’ve read over the past week, including pieces such as WEB Dubois’ “The Souls of Black Folks” and Linda Charnes’ “On Reading the Monstrous Body in Richard III,” as well as the general ideology of Aristotle.
We next considered another view on deformity during Shakespeare’s time, as well as his society’s view on villainy. In “On Reading the Monstrous Body in Richard III,Linda Charnes states that during this time, outward deformity was considered a sign of inward moral deformity. Any sort of deformity signified vileness and malignance in the heart and soul of a person.
We set aside that definition for a moment to consider the society’s view on villainy. In our society, we can immediately see the Richard is villainous, evil. Killing on any scale is, in general, not socially acceptable at all. We consider it a flagrant sign of immorality. However, during Shakespeare’s time, this may not have the case. Shakespeare lived in an era where men dueled to the death for their honor, where executions were public entertainment, where the Black Plague raged. For those who were watching Shakespeare’s plays, death was simply a part of life. Killing may not have had the same moral significance for them as it does for us.
Furthermore, there is a great deal of killing that goes on in the play, many of which originates from different characters. How, then, could the audience know who was the most evil. The villain. 
In light of both perspectives on Shakespearean life, we discussed that perhaps Richard’s deformity was not solely metaphorical. Perhaps it was meant to clarify to the audience that Richard is, in fact, the villain. While scheming to kill might not have alerted the audience to Richard’s malignant nature, his deformity certainly would have.

To read more on deformity, see "Deformity and Feminization" and "Deformity and Social Pressures"

By: Jessica C., Hockaday School 

Deformity and Feminization

This past Friday, we in Literature and Philosophy discussed how deformity and monstrosity play a part in Richard III. We approached this discussion through the lens of several other works we’ve read over the past week, including pieces such as WEB Dubois’ “The Souls of Black Folks” and Linda Charnes’ “On Reading the Monstrous Body in Richard III,” as well as the general ideology of Aristotle.
                We first considered the fact that, during the time of Shakespeare and Richard III, deformity was thought to be very feminine. In fact, women were the epitome of deformity, as the ideal person was not just white, not just free, but also, and primarily, a man. Furthermore, women’s deformed bodies reflected their inherently deformed souls. According to Aristotle, women were, by their very nature, unable to reach the higher Truth and reason that was so valued.
Because women represented the epitome of deformity, we considered the idea that any other deformed person was thereby associated with femininity, feminized by their deformity. We took this idea from something that we commonly see in our society: when someone appears to be weak or acting ‘cowardly,’ we tend to taunt him for acting “girly” or “like a girl.”

And we found that this idea carries over to Richard III as well. We see Richard’s deformity and weakness prominently in the play through his mangled hand. Due to his hand, Richard cannot do many things that men are traditionally meant to do in his society. It is likely that he cannot fight adequately and, as Richard admits, he cannot prove a lover either. Because of this weakness, Richard is, in a sense, feminized. He is simply not as masculine as his brothers and the other members of the court. And from the perspective of his opening monologue, when he says that because he cannot prove a lover he will prove a villain, this deficit and feminization of Richard may very well have been the driving force behind his descent into villainy.

To read more on deformity, see "Deformity as Clarification" and "Deformity and Social Pressures"

By: Jessica C., Hockaday School

Friday, October 4, 2013

Horror conventions and dreams in/from Richard III

Fellow learners and lovers of Shakespeare, Recently, Greenhill's AP lit class filmed two impromptu conversations--one on horror movie conventions echoed in Richard III and another on dreams in Richard III. Talk back please!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Act 3 Scene 4 Interpretation

Our interpretation of the scene focused on emphasizing two crucial aspects of the play: Gloucester’s constant facade masking his sinister nature and Hastings’ naivety. As Gloucester enters the scene, we purposefully depicted him as overly cheerful, blatantly contrasting with his subversive nature during his subsequent conversation with Buckingham. Even though Richard is only making a grandiose pretense of pleasantness, we portrayed Hastings as truly falling for Gloucester’s facade because he says: “with no man here [Richard] is offended; / For, were he, he had shown it in his looks,” (3.4.58-59). This interpretation aligns with our earlier understanding of the play, for it shows a continuation in Gloucester’s ability to manipulate people in order to achieve his goal and his lack of empathy for anyone who gets in his way.

In terms of Buckingham, we attempted to portray his subtle, seditious nature which we first see in Act 2 when he suggests to Richard that they not stay behind but rather go themselves to get the prince so that they may better influence and control him, “part[ing] the Queen’s proud kindred from the Prince,” (2.3.155). Here, in Act 3, Scene 4, we interpreted Buckingham to be attempting to fortify his own facade when he tells the rest of the company gathered around to discuss the coronation that he knows only Richard’s face and not his heart (lines 11-13). We interpreted this as an attempt to distance himself from Richard even though in reality he knows exactly what Richard’s intentions are, and is even facilitating and supporting his goals.

By: Shreya A. & Natalie N., Hockaday School

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Was Ever A Choice So Hard To Make!? A New Appreciation for Greenhill Directors...

Thank you Greenhill for guiding and inspiring our conversation last Friday and Monday! In our attempt to respond to your posting, we came full circle in our conclusions: we both have a new appreciation for the kind of sacred respect that is practiced by literary communities when engaging Shakespeare’s texts (all lines seem to matter!!) and have gained a new admiration for the efforts made by directors like that at Greenhill because cutting lines is tough.

On the first cut: We used a different edition, but if we understood the cut correctly, Greenhill suggested eliminating the lines when Derby/Stanley converses with Queen Elizabeth before Richard makes his entrance in scene 3. Both Sumer and Cole seemed to resist making such a cut:

Sumer: While the dialogue between Queen Elizabeth and Derby is short, cutting it would hinder both literary analysts and theatre spectators. I worry that, without those lines, we lose full view of how Elizabeth is perceived by other characters other than Richard. In the short exchange between the Queen and the men of her court, Elizabeth forgives Derby, almost before greeting him, for the hate his wife bears for her. This demonstrates that, while not as cunning as Richard, Queen Elizabeth does have her wits about her. In return, Derby apologizes to his Grace for his wife's words and even goes as far as to imply that her dislike stems from some kind of deficiency. Those eight or so lines demonstrate that not only Richard carries a low opinion of the “common-born” Queen, but it also shows her ability to influence and intimidate others, shown in Derby's immediate condemnation of his wife. The original first cuts by Greenhill do make sense and move the action along, but the cut also closes the scope on an already narrowly-viewed character such as Queen Elizabeth.

Cole: On first thought, cutting Elizabeth's lines with Derby seems like one of the best ways to make the appropriate cuts for shortening the length and focusing our attention on the primary action. After some analysis, I think the lines show that Elizabeth’s position could be weaker than we realized. Also, Elizabeth’s and Derby’s words show that there are divided alliances even after the War of the Roses.   Also some of Elizabeth's persuasive personality is shown in these lines.  She is able to confront Derby very quickly, making him share his thoughts about his wife.   Like Greenhill, these are the cuts I would make, but upon in depth analysis I worry if it would take away from Elizabeth’s character.

Anuj, however, agreed with the suggested cuts: In the first cut suggested by Greenhill, the behavior of the wife of the Earl of Derby was brought up by Queen Elizabeth as being rather scathing and arrogant. Queen Elizabeth's mention of Lord Stanley's wife's behavior shows that the Queen has the ability to verbally put someone on the defensive in a conversation, but these short lines under consideration do not present any main ideas for the scene, instead showing peripheral subjects that would not be missed in a reading or performance. With the need to cut lines from the scene in mind, I agree that the ejection of this short discourse would not harm the mechanics of the scene and would therefore be an appropriate cut.
On the second cut: We had a great discussion about Margaret’s role in the play, and we considered the effect of cutting some of her more repetitive asides. Here’s what we realized:

Nick agreed: Queen Margaret had many asides and they all seemed to have the same effect, making this appear to be a great cut. These asides do emphasize, however, Margaret's resentment and bitterness to the other families while making her look a little crazy. They show her character. The Director of Drama here at Oakridge suggested that Margaret should be treated as a character "on the side," and following the script, Margaret does enter unnoticed by anyone (stage directions state, "Enter Old Margaret, [apart from others.]"). So I do think cutting some of her lines could help move the scene forward without taking much away.

Cade had some doubts: On first read, cutting some of Margaret's lines seemed like a very logical and easy decision, but the more I considered it, the more I saw her repeated lines as necessary for her portrayal to the audience. I think we are to see her as one who is crazy and able to see the future, and her asides add to her appearance making her over-dramatic and even annoying. As a reader, her lines and asides did seem irritating or obnoxious perhaps, but maybe this is exactly how Shakespeare wanted us to feel about this character. Although it is very easy to declare all Shakespeare’s lines as relevant, it is much more difficult to actually cut them and I believe the Greenhill students did an excellent job at this.

Ana presented a suggestion: I think Margaret is an interesting, foreshadowing character. I feel like she shows us what Queen Elizabeth might end up being like if her husband dies. In class someone described Margaret as a "grieving, melodramatic widow" whose feelings of bitterness and acrimoniousness tread the line of sanity. But I don’t think this character needs a spotlight for her at center stage, and as a director, I would suggest that other characters talk over her, thereby ignoring her warnings and drowning her voice out. That might be another option, just having characters actively ignore her by talking over her many asides and warnings.

As stated before, we came full circle in this discussion – appreciating both the literary reverence for all of Shakespeare’s words as well as the creative vision and courage demonstrated by directors who work to bring such words to life on the stage for our enrichment. Thanks again Greenhill for stimulating such great discussion here at Oakridge!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Responding to Hockaday and the Question of Moral Integrity in Act One

This is a response to the posting linked here.

Here at The Oakridge School, first period English class had a rich discussion on the concept of moral integrity thanks to the post by Ashley Grey from The Hockaday School. Our discussion focused on two statements from her piece, namely that “[Anne] ruins her moral integrity by accepting [Richard’s] ring” and that “[Elizabeth] slightly compromises her moral integrity in her verbal spar with Richard and Margaret.” We discussed these ideas at length yesterday (thank you Ashley Grey!!), and here’s some ideas we came up with:
We had mixed reactions about Anne. Some of us agreed that Anne loses her moral integrity by accepting Richard’s ring while others urged us to consider whether she had a real choice at that moment in time. Some in first period suggested that the moment she’s presented with an actual choice is when Richard offers his sword. Richard tells her in that exchange, “Take up the sword again, or take up me” (1.2.210), and we interpreted this to mean that if she does not marry him, her only option is to kill him then and there – meaning that when she’s faced with the request to take the ring there is no real option not to do it.  We thought that integrity as a concept entails choice, and with that in mind we wondered whether her choice not to kill Richard (she does say, “I will not be thy executioner”) is where she compromises her moral integrity. Here’s what we wrote:

Tierney: I believe that Anne may indeed be a very moral woman that was just confused by Richard's words in a time when it’s hard to think clearly. Richard, being the mastermind that he is, tried to “woo” her during a time of mourning. This is also what causes her unwillingness to kill Richard in scene 2. Although killing Richard could’ve been a very helpful deed to all characters in the play, her mourning state of mind actually makes possible her higher moral stance to choose not to act out violently.

Shelby: Yes, I don't think Anne betrayed her moral position when she chose not to kill Richard. Even after Richard killed both her husband and father-in-law, she didn't want to kill him herself. What I like about Anne is that she keeps up with Richard in his attempts at verbal conquest and when he then tests her willingness to confront him with physical power, she refuses to do it. Perhaps Anne, after seeing what happens when other people are killed, wished to break the cycle of the logic of violence and vengeance which was destroying the Yorks and Lancasters. Could she have accepted the ring for this reason? Was it for peace? Although killing Richard might have saved many people down the line Anne had no way of knowing this and she upheld her moral principles as best she could. In my opinion, because she chooses not to act violently, she has no real choice when offered the ring, and her integrity remains unblemished.
Some of us disagreed with Tierney’s and Shelby’s interpretation here.

Richard gives Anne the choice to take his life
David: No, I think Anne's decision not to kill Richard does betray her moral integrity. Yes, killing someone is wrong, and her refusal to kill could be read as moral. The death of Richard, however, proves to be necessary and it would have prevented much pain and grief that will come in the later Acts. Also, her reason for not killing Richard might be deeper. The Hockaday posting rightly claims that she is not an unintelligent person. One can see that in the way she keeps up with Richard’s verbal discourse. Perhaps she does see that Richard is a way to reach power. She might be thinking that keeping Richard alive saves her from falling from her social position, and helps her gain power. Therefore, I agree that this proves all the more the case when Anne accepts Richard's ring. She might have been flustered and in a state of mouring, but maybe she is just looking for a way to gain power and influence.

Caleb: The fact that Anne chose not to kill Richard, at first glance, shows that she is indeed moral. Not killing someone when you know that they murdered your father-in-law and husband shows restraint and moral integrity. Or does it? Anne could have been aware of the fact that she was out of power, and if she married Richard, she'd be back in the loop. This would mean that Anne was indeed lacking in morality. Little does Anne know that no matter what the cause of her actions, she still fell into the palm of Richard's hand. She doesn't seem aware that Richard plans on killing her. If she had killed Richard when he had given her the chance, she would've prevented a lot of grief and trouble for everyone, but her mind was either too focused on getting back into power or too fixed – impractically speaking – on being morally righteous as a nonviolent Christian.

We spent a lot of time in class also discussing the statement made about Elizabeth in scene 3 of Act 1, and we didn’t disagree with the idea that Elizabeth’s verbal alliances with Richard against Margaret “slightly compromise her moral integrity.” Our discussion, however, quickly shifted to Margaret and the verbal power she wields in her curses against Richard and Elizabeth.
Kourtnei: There is no doubt that Queen Margaret is bitter and angry. This is a result of not only Richard III killing her husband and son, but also because in killing them, Richard removed her from power. As Hockaday points out, Queen Margaret does not even slightly attempt to hide her dislike for Richard verbally speaking. She announces that she despises him. One would think that her obvious dislike for Richard would be her main outlet of aggression and bitterness, but rather than this being the case, Queen Margaret instead targets everyone, instead of just Richard. In doing this, she turns people against her, almost forcing them to side with Richard. Does this destroy her moral cause of trying to oppose Richard’s agenda? Instead, Margaret’s words end up turning everyone against HER rather than Richard.

The point made by Kourtnei got us thinking about the moral position of Margaret in Act 1, and we immediately made note (as many critics have) that she functions much like a “moral chorus” does in Greek tragedies. Her position remains steadfast and consistent expressing constant disapproval of the feuding factions of post-Lancastrian England. And then Elizabeth (a student from 1st period)reminded us of the irony of our reading:

Richard conflicts with Queen Margaret
Elizabeth:  A posting by Greenhill reminded us that there are three Henry VI plays that come before Richard III. When you consider her role in the tetralogy, it becomes clear that Queen Margaret is known as a ruthless and manipulative woman that will do anything to seize power. She will also do anything to get back at Richard for killing her son. And Richard did perform this act, but we also must think about Margaret's actions in the Henry VI plays. Margaret killed Richard's father after humiliating him on the battlefield. She’s proven that she’ll do anything for power. This prompts us to ask about the source of her bitterness: is it Richard’s villainy, her loss of family, or is it the loss of power? She wants so badly to be in power but she no longer has a path to the throne.  Like Richard, she does not like being in the shadow of other’s glory, and like Richard, she has murdered other people’s loved ones. This makes Margaret and Richard's arguments more valid, meaningful, and complex because we know the reasons why they have so much hatred for each other. This also makes her role as moral chorus ironic as she has no moral grounds for condemning the other characters.

We were fascinated by this question of moral integrity, and we thank Ashley Grey of The Hockaday School for directing our conversation this way. As we reflected on the conversation, we noticed that we were most motivated to find evidence for defending the integrity of Anne, but some of us remain staunch defenders of Ms. Grey’s assessment that such integrity gets ruined when she takes the ring…

Thank you Hockaday School!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Female Morality and Verbal Power in Act 1 of "Richard III"

At Hockaday, we were given the assignment of telling whether or not the female characters within Richard III have verbal power and how that affects the discourse of morality throughout the play.
 I believe the three female characters introduced within Act 1 of the play all display some form of verbal power, Elizabeth’s being more tamed. This verbal power highly depends on their place in society as the two females, Margaret and Lady Anee, who are lower down in the socio-political pyramid are brash in speaking to Richard, while Elizabeth, who is queen, is more mannerly and non-accusing in speaking to him, but all, to some extent, "see" his villainy. Margaret and Anne, Lancasters, are on the opposing side of the Yorks, so they more freely express how they feel when speaking to or about them. They are angry: because Margaret lost her husband and son, and Anne lost her husband-to-be, their disdain for the Yorks, especially Richard, is natural.  Elizabeth, on the other hand, married to Edward, is a part of the House of York, even though she was once married to a Lancastrian knight who was killed at the hands of the Yorks. Her position, straddling both families but not firmly a York, is unique, and although we can infer Edward IV's family did not like her nor she them, the way she speaks to Richard indicates that she is careful in all that she says. She always says, for example, what amounts to "you do not favor me," never declaring her hatred toward him, as do both Margaret and Anne. She has verbal power as she expresses how she feels to Richard, but she is politically cautious, never making herself sound hateful.
 Throughout Act 1, the experience of the women affects their ability their moral integrity within their speech. Elizabeth and Margaret are more able to uphold their moral stance within their speech, even though Elizabeth is more passive in her regards, while Anne quickly tarnishes her moral integrity. We can assume that Margaret, when she was queen, had the chance to be formal and proper. She can now truly express her feelings for, as an older woman bereft of power, she has little to lose; Elizabeth, on the other hand,  must be careful in all she says for her security and perhaps her husband's life depends upon her discretion.   She is experienced in regards to Richard, as he has threatened her, putting his sword to her chest, and she has seen her son's blood on Richard's sword. She does not trust him and she knows the evil he is capable of. Elizabeth also knows how to get her feelings across without being controversial. She is also experienced in regards to Richard as, from the way she speaks, we can be inferred that he has neither been welcoming nor cordial to her. Although she does not trust him, she slightly compromises her moral integrity in her verbal spar with Richard and Margaret. Elizabeth and Anne both switched from or thought about switching from the house of Lancaster to the house of York in order to experience social mobility. This is a huge comment on the faithfulness of a woman to her moral stance when it comes to position on the socio-political pyramid. They were both young and could recreate themselves within society and they also lacked life experience as they had neither been queen before nor had they switch houses on a count of their own judgement. Anne has not had experiences with Richard that would make her distrust him. She only has second hand information and though he does admit to killing her husband, it can be inferred that she might slightly believe in Richard's attempts to woo her. Also I believe she is intelligent enough to see that he is an evil person and with the knowledge of Clarence being in the tower and Edward being sick, she infers that he plans to sabotage them and claim the crown. This is beneficial to her because it means that she has a clear path to the thrown. Regardless of that he is still a part of the Yorkian nobility and can provide her with protection from poverty and low social status. She ruins her moral integrity by accepting his ring and saying he teaches her how to flatter him. This could be brought into the large question of 'Did Old English society promote losing one's moral integrity to gain social mobility?' As a woman's social status depended on the man she was associated with and often, one house would rise while another falls, how would the widows and women integrate into these new societies into which they were forced by conquest? They would have to adapt, either learning to live the life of the poor or persuading men of the ruling house's nobility to begin relations with them, which is a compromise of themselves and their moral integrity.  Thus from act 1, it can be inferred that experience and role in society have a great effect on the female characters’ verbal power and the moral integrity displayed in their speech. 
-Ashley Grey

Friday, September 20, 2013

What's my motivation?

We at Greenhill spent a day paring down one scene (link). Two of our students--Allie and Molly--noted that, in addition to cutting lines, a director and actor would also have to add a lot to the script. Most notably stage directions and character explanations--how to deliver a particular line, what gesture to make and when. Allie and Molly decided to add stage direction to three places in Act 1, Scene 2. Let us know in the comments what you think about these choices, and what you think about the consequences of this stage direction.

Stage Direction #1 (Starting at line 107) [Richard is trying to persuade and seduce Anne; physically, being closer to her makes more sense for properly executing this task. Richard should come off as an oily, slimy character who slinks his way throughout the play - this is just another more subdued way of doing so. Each step signifies him getting closer and closer to his ultimate goal which is, even if for a short while, Anne.]

Anne: Oh, he was gentle mild and virtuous.

[With every sentence, Richard takes a small step towards Anne who is kneeling on the ground with her dead husband.]

Richard: The better for the king of heaven that hath him.

Anne: He is in heaven where thou shalt never come.

Richard: Let him thank me, that holp him to send thither,/ for he was fitter for that place than earth.

Anne: And thou unfit for any place but hell.

Richard: Yes, one place else, if you will hear me name it.

Anne: Some dungeon.

Richard: (In a low voice, seemingly seductively yet unnatural) Your bedchamber.

Stage Direction #2 (Starting at line 126) (Note: in this scene, Richard’s character should overact in an attempt to beguile Anne. However, this should not be confused with the actor overdoing the part of Richard, but rather Richard should overdo the emotions he is pretending to feel. Throughout the scene, Richard should try to maintain a sickening sense of unctuousness in everything he does. In contrast, Anne, being cruelly duped, must show a scale of emotion so that her entrance is completely different in tone than her exit.)

Richard: Your beauty was the cause of that effect:

Suddenly, Richard kneels and is eye-level with Anne. He grabs her hand gently and tries to kiss it; she violently pushes him away. Her face is wild with anger, but there is fear in her eyes. Richard’s charade is unaffected. His actions seem methodical, almost rehearsed in smoothness and control.

Richard: (a sly smile) Your beauty, that did haunt me in my sleep….

Stage Direction #3 (Richard’s soliloquy from 156-175)

Richard, realizing that his original plan is not working effectively, begins to cry softly as he delivers this soliloquy. His head is hung low and he speaks in a dramatically shaky voice, occasionally peeking up to see Anne’s reaction. Like a child in a temper tantrum, Richard’s actions are driven almost entirely according to the reaction he receives.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Was ever script of this length staged?

Too often, students and instructors approach a Shakespeare play as they do a house of worship—quietly, reverently, hoping not to upset too much. Directors and actors, however, approach a Shakespeare play as a working document, a plan that demands editing, a narrative that they must animate. Working on this script is especially daunting. BBC television’s 1983 Richard III (link) runs three hours and forty-nine minutes; staging the entire play…well, it seems almost unfair to the audience. And to the actors. Kevin Spacey, who recently starred in a world tour as Richard, noted in a recent interview (link) that Shakespeare’s Richard III is particularly difficult...too durned long, demanding too much of the lead actor.

So yesterday at Greenhill, we approached Richard III with an eye toward actually staging the drama rather than merely studying it, actually figuring out what was essential for an actor and an audience rather than merely taking the text as handed down.

The assignment for the day was to cut fifty lines from Act 1, Scene 3. Why those lines? Entire lines? Half-lines? Would any characters not survive the cuts? Here are a couple of the cuts we made, and what we understand as the consequences—good and bad—of making such tough but necessary choices.

First, many of us at Greenhill wanted to cut more quickly to the Richard and Margaret conflict, so we whittled down the opening forty lines to a quicker explication of Elizabeth's anxiety. We cut from lines 17 through lines 32 [Cambridge School edition throughout].

Rivers: Is it concluded he [Richard] shall be Protector [of the princes in the event of Edward's death]?

Elizabeth: It is determined, not concluded yet, / But so it must be if the king miscarry. [Enter Buckingham and Derby] What likelihood of his his majesty's amendment, lords?

With that cut, Elizabeth's concern over the king's health focuses our understanding of her character. Of course, we lose the palace intrigue of slander, which would mean further adjustments later. We made another cut about sixty lines later.

We noticed that Margaret had many many asides, all directed toward the same kind of effect, so we talked about paring down some of them. Cut 106-111, 113-118, and 124-140.

Elizabeth: My lord of Gloucester [Richard, obvs], I have too long borne / Your blunt upbraidings and your bitter scoffs. / By heaven, I will acquaint his majesty / Of those gross taunts that oft I have endured.

Richard: What? Threat you me with telling of the king? / Ere you were queen, ay, or your husband king, / I was a pack-horse in his great affairs, / A weeder-out of his proud adversaries, / A liberal rewarder of his friends. / To royalise his blood I spent mine own.

Margaret: [Aside] Hie theee to hell for shame, and leave this world, / Thou cacodemon. There thy kindgom is.

Now this cut demands more of a defense and explanation than the first. Again, we as a class an audience rigorous adapters of the script wanted to preserve the power of Margaret's asides without, y'know, banging the same key on the dramatic piano over and over again. So this cut does away with a couple of her asides. By means of this cut, Margaret's aside is political--in order to royalise Edward's blood, Richard sheds Margaret's husband's blood.

Remember, Margaret's husband has made an appearance in Richard III: The usurped Henry VI's still-bleeding corpse is carried onstage in Act 1, Scene 2. Keep in mind that in the previous history play, 3 Henry VI, after her son (another Edward) is killed, Margaret exclaims "Oh, kill me too!" to which Richard responds, "Marry, and shall!" When his brother the now-king Edward IV holds him back, Richard complains, "Why should she live, to fill the world with words?" (link). Instead of killing Margaret, Richard exits the stage and, in the next scene (3H6, Act 5, Scene 6), kills Henry VI. We thought that Margaret's go-to-hell aside was similar in tone, focus, and imagery to the ones we cut, we thought it was consistent with the enmity between the two characters, and thus, we thought it worked well as a response to Richard's line about royalising the Plantagenet line.

During class yesterday, we even played with a mid-sentence edit: Look at Richard at line 112, "What? Threat you [Elizabeth] me with telling of the king?" Now consider it in our pared-down version.

Richard: What? Threat you [pause] me? with telling of the king?

What do you think of these cuts?

Are there others that we missed that you would suggest?

Please let us know!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Shifting Focus: Reading Shakespeare's Richard III with Hockaday and Greenhill

At this point, we are shifting the focus of the blog towards reading and discussing William Shakespeare's Richard III, and we are opening up the digital space for cross-campus collaboration. Specifically, Oakridge welcomes both Hockaday and Greenhill students to collaborate and share their thoughts, words, images, reactions, etc., as we read this text together.

Thanks to Dr. Moreland of The Hockaday School for providing the following web videos - each of which presents a clip of an actor working through Richard's opening soliloquy. The first is from Laurence Olivier's famous 1955 version:

The next clip is a more modern adaptation - both in terms of its release (1995) and its narrative setting - and it stars Ian McKellen:

Lastly, we have Al Pacino working with the scene in the documentary, Looking for Richard (1996) - take a look:

I encourage students to watch these clips after reading the opening soliloquy by the Duke of Gloucester. Feel free to discuss and react to the different versions via the comment mechanism below this post.

Perhaps think about the following: What do the actors bring to each clip? How do they engage audience? Consider the role of the camera in the staging of the scene. Most importantly, enjoy them!