Lady Anne is grieving over her father-in-law’s body when the man who killed him — and, earlier, slew her husband — has the nerve to stop the funeral procession.
“Either heaven with lightning strike the murderer dead, or earth, gape open wide and eat him quick,” she says, clearly wanting Richard of Gloucester to be punished.
To her mind, this intruder with blood scarcely washed from his hands, is “unfit for any place but hell.”
“Yes, one place else,” he replies silkily, “if you will hear me name it.”
“Some dungeon,” she suggests.
“Your bedchamber,” he responds.
Welcome to a King’s College production of William Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” where newcomers to the historic tragedy may well be shocked by just how darkly villainous, conniving, murderous — and, occasionally, silver-tongued — the title character can be.
“As Shakespeare wrote it, he’s detestable,” said actor Sean McKeown, whose preparation for the starring role includes twisting his body into an awkward position to replicate the “rudely stamped … deformed, unfinished” appearance the playwright described for the character.
The historic Richard likely had scoliosis, a condition that causes a curved spine, history professor Brian Pavlac explained.
And, in real life, he may not have been quite as evil as Shakespeare painted him.
Pavlac wrote for the college production an opening scene in which a passerby in present-day England encounters workers at an excavation site where Richard III’s remains have been found.
One of the workers describes Richard as having a “bloody, murdering heart, the bastard!” The other points out that history is written by the victors.
Perhaps the real-life Richard wasn’t responsible for so many deaths, including two young relatives who were only 9 and 12 years old. Perhaps he didn’t have a habit of killing men and then seeking to marry a surviving daughter, sister or widow for political gain.
“He’s just such a sweet-talker,” Betty Montgomery, who plays Lady Anne, said during a recent rehearsal break. “My character will physically go home with him.”
First Lady Anne spits at Richard and slaps him. But by the time he is kneeling in front of her, imploring her to stab him if she will not accept him as a suitor, you can see she’s starting to melt.
Members of the audience almost might think he’s sincere — until they hear him gloating.
“My woman’s heart grossly grew captive to his honey words,” Lady Anne will later lament.
Despite the seduction of Lady Anne, it is the women of the play rather than the men who more readily see through Richard’s deceit,Jennifer McClinton-Temple pointed out.
McClinton-Temple is an English professor who, along with Pavlac from the history department and Sheileen Corbett from the theater department, have joined the students in the cast. Guest performers include McIntyre and Jameson Godwin, grandsons of the late J. Gerald Godwin, former chair of King’s theatre department, who will play the young princes.
The performance is free, director Dave Reynolds said, but people should call for reservations.