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Richard III It’s unlikely Richard the Third of England (1452—1485) was quite the reptilian sociopath William Shakespeare portrayed in his play. Most of that stuff about him emanated from Sir Thomas More and the Tudors who had gigantic axes to grind.

Someone certainly dispatched the two princes in the Tower, but historians finger other suspects in addition to Richard such as Henry VII. Shakespeare knew his business. Ambivalent, wishy-washy title characters wouldn’t have filled his galleries.

Below you’ll find the first few minutes of Richard the Third rewritten without the letter O. Among other things this forces some alteration of proper names. Gloucester reverts to its Roman-era designation of Glevum; York to Eburacum. George, Duke of Clarence, becomes Gyuri and Antony Woodville becomes Antal Treeville (Gyuri and Antal being the conveniently O-less Hungarian equivalents of George and Antony). Some lines remain unchanged, while at the opposite extreme others needed to mutate beyond mere O-lessness in order to preserve the overall meaning of the surrounding dialog.



Currently is the winter under which we languished,
Made majestic summer by this Eburacum sun;
And all the cumulus that blanketed the gables
In the deepest sea-trenches buried.
Presently are the scalps we wear encircled by laurel wreaths;
The arms we did bear, hung up as triumphal relics;
Stern alarums we gave, merry meetings they are presently,
As are the dreadful marches we launched, delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath preened his wrinkled façade;
And presently, rather than ride barbed steeds
Intending fearful adversaries’ spirits a fright,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
Attended by a lute’s prurient pleasing.
But I, having never been hale and hearty,
Never, either, fit facially in hand-glass-quality beauty;
I, that am rudely stampt, and wish that rapture’s majesty
Might strut within a tarty ambling nymph’s sight;
I, lacking in this fair symmetry,
My features cheated by dissembling nature,
Misshapen, unfinisht, did augment prematurely
Earth’s breathing human tally scarce half made up,
And that, sufficiently lamely and unstylish
That mutts bark at me as I halt by them —
Why, I, in this weak piping peaceful era,
Lack a delightful pastime,
Save spying my umbra in the sun,
And descanting after my ugliness.
And hence, since I’ll never qualify as a sweetheart,
Unsuited thus in entertaining these fair celebrated days,
I’ve determined that I’ll declare myself a villain,
And hate these days’ idle pleasures.
Schemes have I laid, activities menacing,
By drunken presentiments, libels and dreams,
Setting my sibling Clarence and the King
In deadly hate, each at each’s jugulars.
And, if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and underhanded,
This day might Clarence tightly be mew’d up,
Regarding a presentiment, which says that G
Descended after Edward the murderer shall be.
Dive, daydreams, may they be buried under my spirit.
Here Clarence enters.

Male sibling, greetings! What means this armed guard
That squires thy Grace?


His majesty, tendering my physical safety,
Hath assigned me this sentry,
That I may reluctantly enter the Citadel.


Under what cause?


Because my name is Gyuri.


Alack, my man, that fault is strictly external;
He might as well have seized thy baptismal elders.
Ah, belike his majesty hath certain intent
That thy Grace shall be new-christen’d in the Citadel.
But what’s the matter, Clarence? May I learn?


Yea, Richard, when I  learn; since understand
As yet I haven’t myself; but, as I can learn,
He hearkens after presentiments and dreams;
And whence the alphabet primer plucks the letter G
And says a wizard tells him that by G
His issue disinherited might be;
And since my name, Gyuri, begins with G,
He surmises thus that I am he.
These, as I learn, and such-like trifles as these,
Have justified, in his highness’s mind, my jailing.

Why, this it is, when men are ruled by ladies —
’Tisn’t the King that wishes thee a Citadel internment;
My Lady Grey his wife, Clarence, ’tis she
That tempters his preference in this extremity.
Wasn’t it she, and that fine ecclesiastical man
Antal Treeville, her sibling there,
That made him grant Sir Hastings a Citadel passage,
Where at this present day still he languishes?
We aren’t safe, Clarence; we aren’t safe.


By heaven, I think all live in peril
But the queen’s kindred, and night-walking heralds
That trudge betwixt the King and Mistress Seaside.
Hadn’t ye heard what humble entreaties,
Intending his deliverance, he made in her presence?


Humbly beseeching her deity
Earned my master chamberlain his liberty.
This is my hunch; I think it might serve us best,
If we will remain in prestige with the King,
Serve as her men, and wear her livery.
The envying haggard relict and herself,
Since that the sibling we share dubb’d them as peeresses,
Are mighty scandle-tattlers in this realm.


My Gentlemen, I beseech indulgence;
His majesty hath straitly given in charge
That neither man shall strike up a chat,
Especially tête-à-tête,
In any vein imaginable.


Well taken; Sir Rupert, we yield licence,
That anything we say, all men present may share.
Treachery we never speak, man; we say the King
Is wise and chaste; and his estimable Queen
Well struck in years, fair and high-minded;
We say that Seaside’s wife hath a pretty tarsal unit,
A cherry lip, a likable eye, a passing pleasing speech;
And that the Queen’s kindred are made gentle-beings.
True, sir? Can his excellency deny all this?


With this, my kind man, I am a disinterested party.


Disinterested in Mistress Seaside! I tell thee, friend,
He that pursue naught with her, excepting a singularity,
Were best pursuing it secretly, unattended.


What singularity?

Et cetera, et cetera...

There have been four motion pictures based directly on Shakespeare's Richard III along with others focusing on certain parts of the story.

The absolute barnburner among all of these is 1955's Richard III starring Laurence Olivier (who also produced and directed), Ralph Richardson, Claire Bloom, Cedric Hardwicke, and John Gielgud. Sir William Walton, who collaborated with Olivier on three other films, wrote the score for Richard III which like many of his others is so towering it's more often than not savored entirely on its own.

Sir Cedric has always been one of my favorites. He shows up in approximately eighty films, and I particularly enjoyed him in Richard III as well as in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and The Ten Commandments. He also appeared on TV in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode Wet Saturday as a patriarch sanitizing a murder scene and on the original Twilight Zone as the tyrannical Uncle Simon who builds Robby the Robot so he can continue browbeating his niece in proxy from beyond the grave.

Interestingly, young soon-to-be-murdered Edward V was played in Richard III by Paul Huson who went on to establish himself as an authority on the occult and to write a number of books on it.

Vincent Price starred as King Richard in Roger Corman's 1962 Tower of London in which he gleefully smothers his nephews played by Eugene Martin (who like Paul Huson above still busies himself in film if not necessarily witchcraft) and Donald Losby (later a familiar face in many TV shows of the 60s and 70s).

© Peter Blinn

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