12 Nov 2008

Carmelo Bene's Richard III, Introductory Material

by Corry Shores
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Carmelo Bene's Richard III,
Introductory Material

Dramatis Personae

Le Duc de Gloucester, later, Richard III
La Duchesse D'York, mother of Richard, Clarence, and the present king, Edward IV
Marguerite, the previous queen and widow of the late Henri VI
Elisabeth, queen and wife of Edouard IV
Lady Anne Warwick, chambermaid (whom Richard calls Buckingham)
Madame Shore, initially mistress of Edouard IV, then of Hastings.

Opens with a funeral scene.

Gloucester wears black.

Lady Anne Warwick is transfixed by the tragic events, crying near the coffin of Henri VI. Madam Shore sleeps, reserved and yet relaxed in the large bed, which is white like the throne. A skull rests on a table. Coffins and mirrors are everywhere. In the drawers are Henri's bandages and other accessories for his deformities. The clock tics. On the carpet are fresh and withered flowers, so many one might stumble over them. Everything is covered in red and white roses evoking the York and Lancaster families. From time to time a chambermaid offers comfort for those awake, namely to Anne and Richard, who tips the chambermaid and insists on calling her Buckingham, because he is rambles from drinking until dawn. Elizabeth is always most ambitious, and Marguerite curses. Richard's mother, the Duchesse d'York, is not at all happy with her son. The music is gloomy, with mournful timpanis and bells rung gratuitously at irrational intervals.

The first part is entirely discussion between Richard and the women, that is, between the "idiocy" of the unique (the impossibility of the different, etc.) and the obscene of the feminine that we find in such tales, which we now call the obscene excesses of desire.

In the second part, these women abandon Richard (when he needs it least). We reach the stage of boring alcoholism, the strange disease of the dawn when one, heedless and void, seeks a horse to return home and disappear.

Also in the second part, he no longer remains the Duke of Gloucester: he is abandoned by the obscene, and left to manage his own forced and necessary fetishism for the dresses of abandonedwomen, left to punch women's locked closets, left to play with absence. But without the women we are left to his intolerable presence as an actor. If there is applause in the room, then the author failed.

General note on the feminine:
Each time we hear voices of newborns off-stage, the women on stage are tempted to leave, making them really anxious mothers. Richard must then amuse these misbehaving children by showcasing his deformities, if he wants to have others to play with.

Bene, Carmelo. Richard III. in Superpositions. Transl. Jean-Paul Manganaro and Danielle Dubroca. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1979.

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