Richard II: A Fractured King


Watch this video.  It gives you a new respect for Patrick Stewart.

What I admire about Stewart’s way of reading Shakespeare is the way that he manages to fill the language with emotional intensity without butchering the rhythm.  Iambic pentameter is a natural English metre.  Shakespeare is nowhere near consistent metrically, but that is a great part of the dramatic poetry: if actors do not let the throb of the iambic pentameter work beneath the variations, everything is thrown in the air; the deviations from the metre are no longer felt; the art of the rhythm is turned over.

In this respect, I prefer the more old-fashioned Shakespearean acting.  Perhaps I have a more intellectual approach than most people.  I am  a reader who likes to feel a place for himself in relationship with the text.  I do not want an actor forcing an interpretation on me.

In the following excerpts from Richard II- all the same speech of John of Gaunt, “This sceptred isle…”-  you can choose which performance you like best:

0:00 – An Age of Kings, 1960, Edgar Wreford
2:01 – BBC Shakespeare, 1978, John Gielgud
3:58 – Shakespeare’s Globe, 2003, John McEnery
5:35 – The Hollow Crown, 2012, Patrick Stewart

The Globe performance is the worst for my money: unnecessarily “stompy” with some quite bizarre pronunciations of words that do that butchery on metre I find so offensive.  When you have a great writer, you don’t have to do that, do you?





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