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Richard III as a Romantic Icon

Textual, Cultural and Theatrical Appropriations


Nicoletta Caputo

This book adopts a multi-perspective approach to the historical and dramatic figure of Richard III during the «long» Romantic period, taking into consideration his controversial reputation among historians of the time; his changing place within the critical literature; nineteenth-century adaptations of Shakespeareʼs play; and above all the contrasting stage interpretations of Richard as dramatis persona, in the performances of such iconic players as David Garrick, George Frederick Cooke and Edmund Kean. The overall picture that emerges is that of the object of almost inexhaustible fascination among the Romantics. The author illustrates, based on abundant documentary evidence, the surprising degree to which Richard is found at the centre of the literary, theatrical, ideological and ethical debates over a period of several decades. Richardʼs iconic centrality in turn sheds light on Romantic culture at large, and in particular on its understanding of Shakespeare, grounded above all in character analysis, often of a moral and political nature, that tended to hypostasize Shakespeare’s villainous king, extrapolating him from his dramaturgic context.

(Keir Elam, University of Bologna)