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"Richard may lie to all the other characters but within his solo speeches he always tells the truth."
November 5, 2009 7:32 AM   Subscribe

"So, 'now'--ooh, what a wonderful first word, right in the beginning of the play. 'Now.' Not in the past. Not a history play. Now." Ian McKellen breaks down Richard III.

McKellen's web site has an annotated screenplay of his 1995 movie, and a brief essay on playing Richard III. To Prove a Villain on the historical king.
posted by kirkaracha (46 comments total) 94 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awe. Some.
Thanks so much for this. I love McKellen, I love R3.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:44 AM on November 5, 2009


This is really great....

More please.
posted by Pendragon at 7:46 AM on November 5, 2009


Oooh! Now do X-Men!
posted by brain_drain at 7:49 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh my goodness...this is exactly what the internet was made for: a private audience with a Shakespearean actor explaining Shakespeare to you. Shit. Why wasn't I born in 2000? You lucky, lucky computer babies.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:51 AM on November 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


If you wish to listen to the the play in its entirety, for the next two days it is available on BBC radio 7 with Ian Holm as Richard and Tom Wilkinson as the Duke of Buckingham. It is on my MP3 player but I haven't listened to it yet.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:00 AM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


YEAH!!!
posted by nosila at 8:00 AM on November 5, 2009


Nice! But secretly hoped that McKellen was going to do his own version of subservient chicken.
posted by jaimev at 8:00 AM on November 5, 2009


Sir Ian just keeps getting cooler. I had no idea he was going to be in the new Prisoner.
posted by HumanComplex at 8:08 AM on November 5, 2009


Ian Mckellan's scene on Extras is brilliant, largely because it's Ian Mckellan doing it.
posted by fatbird at 8:10 AM on November 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


I always think of Richard III courting Lady Anne during that scene in The Two Towers when Grima Wormtongue puts the moves on Eowyn. I suspect it's the closest that Brad Dourif has ever come to being able to perform Shakespeare.

Who knows what you have spoken
to the darkness, alone
in the bitter watches of the night
when all your life seems to shrink
the walls of your bower
closing in about you
a hutch to trammel
some wild thing in?
So fair, yet so cold
like a morning of pale Spring
still clinging to Winter's chill

posted by Joe Beese at 8:12 AM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


this is fantastic. thanks!

now i want to watch his 'richard III' and 'looking for richard' again, as a double feature.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:23 AM on November 5, 2009


Lord, but this is brilliant.
posted by grabbingsand at 8:46 AM on November 5, 2009


"How did I know what to say? The words were written down for me in a script. How did I know where to stand? People told me."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:52 AM on November 5, 2009


Your flash toy needs a "Play All" button badly.
posted by Decimask at 8:54 AM on November 5, 2009


Outstanding.

I spent three years earning a Masters of Fine Arts in theater and never received training and instruction like that.
posted by cptnrandy at 8:55 AM on November 5, 2009


And if you love this, you'd do well to treat yourself to Playing Shakespeare, a BBC-produced series from 1979-1984 led by John Barton and featuring the RSC. Not only do you get a younger Ian McKellen, but also Patrick Stewart, David Suchet, Ben Kingsley, Judi Dench and on and on in brilliance.

YouTube has a few clips, like this one. (Sir Ian is at 3:36, looking dashing as hell.)
posted by grabbingsand at 9:00 AM on November 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


I would much rather watch this straight through, without all the clicking. Nonetheless, brilliant.
posted by Alterscape at 9:02 AM on November 5, 2009


Rimmer: "Now..." That's all I can remember.
Lister: Where's that from, then?
Rimmer: Richard III, you moron. The speech that he does at the beginning. "Now..." something something something. It's brilliant writing. It really is. Unforgettable.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:10 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, thank you for this!
posted by vibrotronica at 9:13 AM on November 5, 2009


When I grow up I want to be half as cool as Sir Ian here.
posted by The Whelk at 9:28 AM on November 5, 2009


In 1984 I saw his one-man show: "Ian McKellen Acting Shakespeare." It was an an engaging and enchanting evening.
posted by ericb at 9:28 AM on November 5, 2009


I still prefer the opening monologue from Little Richard III:

NOW is the winter of our DIScontent
Made GLORIOUS summer by this son of YORK...OOOOOOO!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:37 AM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is there anything that Ian McKellen can't do well?
posted by blucevalo at 9:49 AM on November 5, 2009


Brilliant!
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:12 AM on November 5, 2009


You've made me remember why I love Shakespeare. Thank you.
posted by thebergfather at 10:19 AM on November 5, 2009


My favorite conversation from the DC pre-inauguration meetup:

Look! It's Ian McKellen!
Who?
Ian McKellen.
(blank stare)
SIR Ian McKellen?
(blank stare)
GANDALF!
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:38 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


mckellan's site is kind of hilarious. Especially when your volume is turned up, and after a slight delay you hear him bellow from nowhere "ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL"
posted by Think_Long at 10:39 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fantastic. Coincidentally, I just made my husband watch Richard III over the weekend.

Can we just film everything Ian McKellan ever says and let him have his own cable channel?
posted by threeturtles at 10:59 AM on November 5, 2009


Now is the winter of our discotheque
Made Donna Summer etc.

?
posted by juv3nal at 11:44 AM on November 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yeah, that's like nourishment. Thanks.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:48 AM on November 5, 2009


I spent three years earning a Masters of Fine Arts in theater and never received training and instruction like that.

Never got my MFA, but I likewise never got anything like that when earning my BA in Theatre.

by far my favorite Shakespeare play.
posted by rhythim at 12:03 PM on November 5, 2009


I was hoping he would do more to emphasize the correct phrasing of the opening lines--that it's "Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer..." with "now" modifying "made glorious," instead of "Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer..." It always bugs me when people just quote the first part and stop, e.g. saying "Now is the winter of our discontent" to describe what a bad day they're having or something.

But yeah, Ian McKellen rocks and is a great, great actor.
posted by albrecht at 12:11 PM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just want to say yes, thanks for this brilliant post, signing myself as yet another Shakespeare and McKellen groupie.
posted by bearwife at 12:46 PM on November 5, 2009


Is the 'now' really modifying 'made glorious'? I thought the 'winter of our discontent made glorious summer' was a singular object, and the now does service to the entire phrase. (forgive my lack of grammatical terminology, I know not what I speaketh)
posted by Think_Long at 12:52 PM on November 5, 2009


McKellen also introduces clips from Laurence Olivier's classic 1955 movie and Conrad Nelson as Richard with a northern accent.

Peter Sellers on the Muppet Show: "I recite the soliloquy from Shakespeare's Richard III whilst--and at the same time--playing tuned chickens." [1:15] Also, Peter Sellers as Laurence Olivier reciting "A Hard Day's Night" on The Music of Lennon & McCartney.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:06 PM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thirty years ago when a high school kid had to read Richard III and didn't want to, there was Cliff's Notes. Now there's this (and youtube videos, etc.)

On the one hand McKellen's site has made Richard III accessible to many who wouldn't even try to access it, but on the other hand it makes Richard III permanently linked to McKellan. Even though Cliff's Notes spelled it out for you, as a text (not a video or audio) you still had to do some interpretation, you still had to figure out how different lines related to that explanation.

This is more subtle, more seductive, because it's Gandalf and because he interprets it line by line.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing, I'm not even sure I know what it means, just wondering how this changes Shakespeare for the masses.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 2:24 PM on November 5, 2009


HA!

"To the lascivious pleasing of a lllewt."

He's even got some muuusic playing. Ever made sex to music?


I just...I love him...so much.
posted by nosila at 2:45 PM on November 5, 2009


I am with you, TheLastPsychiatrist. I wish it were true that everyone who entered this site did so having already formed their own relationship with the text. Obviously, that is not the case.

I would be willing to bet, though, that folks who have not read or seen Richard III before this will be more likely to read it or see it afterward, and the folks who use Cliff's Notes (or, now, Ian McKellen) to get by would never have had a real relationship with the text anyway.

tl;dr - Two thumbs up and good for the universe.
posted by nosila at 2:48 PM on November 5, 2009


Is the 'now' really modifying 'made glorious'? I thought the 'winter of our discontent made glorious summer' was a singular object, and the now does service to the entire phrase. (forgive my lack of grammatical terminology, I know not what I speaketh)

A modern writer might say the phrase thusly:

Now, this sun of York has made the winter of our discontent into a glorious summer.

I will stop now. Maybe.
posted by nosila at 2:51 PM on November 5, 2009


*claps with glee*

Best o' the web, thank you for posting this, kirkaracha. Loving it. Passed it on, friends loving it.

tag:avuncular
posted by sidereal at 4:11 PM on November 5, 2009


Many years ago, I took an undergrad class, "Shakespeare in Film," or some such title. It was six weeks and we read and watched Othello, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, and Richard III. The sum of the class, I believe, was to compare/contrast the film version with the original script (as well as envisioning how to create our own versions of certain scenes). Amazon saved the day for a girl living in a small town by delivering VHS tapes of Oliver Parker's Othello, Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado, and, of course, Ian McKellen's Richard III.

I had already studied the first two in high school, so I only have vague recollections of my reactions to them. Much Ado was a delightful treat, and furthered my interest in the now ubiquitous Branagh.

And then there was Richard. Ah, Richard...

Admittedly, this class came on the heels of another class -- "Yorkshire Through The Ages" or something similar (I took a few classes on the history of York/Yorkshire -- they rather muddle together in memory). Naturally, in this class, we studied the "War of the Roses" and Richard III --including a debate of Shakespeare's interpretation of Richard III and other conspiracy theories. Our professor, I believe, wore a White Boar badge as well (but I'm not sure what his true thoughts may have been, as we were a stone's throw from York, and it may have been an historian thing -- he was fond of wearing badges appropriate to that day's lesson). At any rate, I was likely more inclined to defend the Duke of York than I would have been prior to taking this class.

Even so, plodding through McKellen's version of Richard III was... well... I suppose I'm in the minority in saying I wished I could have chucked it out the window had I not been forced to compare-contrast line-by-line. (In the end, I do believe that I happily gave the film away as soon as I finished the class.) I had great expectations for it -- a slew of incredible acting talents; a fascinating time period for "modernization;" and, well, it's Shakespeare, for cryin' out loud.

Oh man, did I hate that film. I wish I could remember exactly why. I have a vague recollection of ranting about an apparent reliance of "shock and awe" to get the point across, instead of the words themselves (which, I suppose, goes with the territory in film, but I was a 19-year-old high-horse Humanities major clinging to the classics).

But maybe I should rent it and try again.

I will say I really enjoyed the snippit from Conrad Nelson. His accent not only made me a little homesick, but hints at the idea that Richard wouldn't be taken as seriously in the battle for the throne due to the Yorkshire accent (not "posh" and "kingly"). Or maybe I'm just making that up.

I also enjoyed the homepage and clicking around, learning more about that production of Richard III.

Clogging the Battle of Bosworth? Awesome.
posted by paisley sheep at 4:31 PM on November 5, 2009


TheLastPsychiatrist: but Shakespeare was meant to be seen, not read. And we have many Richards to see.
posted by prefpara at 4:49 PM on November 5, 2009


One of the very best websites ever!!!!!!!!! Let's hope many more geniuses of their various crafts will use it as models and we can have private audiences with other actors, musicians, writers, singers, etc...
posted by njbradburn at 5:30 PM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Exactly what I was thinking this afternoon, njbradburn. Wouldn't it be great to have the great Operas explained with history, musical theory and so forth? Also, I adore Sister Wendy and I would love to see more of that type of thing-- tours of the world's great museums with knowledgeable guides.

I am hopeful that these teaching websites will become the heirloom jewels of the internet. As the years pass, the humor sites, blogs, political forums will come and go, but the classical repositories of knowledge will endure.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:15 PM on November 5, 2009


So if you don't click a choice right away, he breathes visibly and jiggles his book, then he scolds you. Then he blinks a lot. Then he scolds you in slightly different words. Then you wait a very, very long time and he doesn't scold you again. Bother.

OK, time to actually hear what he has to say about Shakespeare. But I would have liked a little more buildup, thanks.
posted by maudlin at 8:23 AM on November 6, 2009


I would be willing to bet, though, that folks who have not read or seen Richard III before this will be more likely to read it or see it afterward, and the folks who use Cliff's Notes (or, now, Ian McKellen) to get by would never have had a real relationship with the text anyway.


I wonder if critics in Shakespeare's day used to say the same thing, except changing the mckellan's name with whatever actor was most famous at the time.

Really, I don't think having a relationship with the text is a necessary precursor nor better than a relationship with an actor's interpretation of it.
posted by Think_Long at 1:48 PM on November 6, 2009


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