- Shakespeare's history play about Richard's ruthlesscampaign to seize the throne, his bloody rule, and his death in battleat the hand of Richmond (Henry VII). It was written between 1592 - 93and first performed in 1593. Although the historical accuracy of Shakespeare'sportrait has been attacked, there is no doubt that the deformed andmalevolent Richard offers one of the great bravura roles in the English-speakingtheater. The part is the longest in the Shakespearean canon (1164lines) after Hamlet. Garrick made his London debut in 1741as Richard; Edwin booth (see Booth family) playedhim at 18; and the part established John Barrymore as thegreatest US actor of his day. The most memorable performance of recent timesis usually thought to have been that of Anthony Sher, who was firstseen in the role in 1984 at Stratford.
The most celebrated Richard of the 20th century, however,was Olivier, whose 1944 performance with the Old Vic, depictingthe king as an evil joker, has been called "one of the legendarynights of theater history". Critic Kenneth Tynan calledit "energetic evil in all its wicked richness". Oliviermade a film version in 1955.
Richard's most famous line is his last: "A horse! Ahorse! My kingdom for a horse!". One night when the Irish tragedianBarry Sullivan spoke the line, a voice in the pit yelled out, "Andwouldn't a jackass do as well for you?" Shot back Sullivan:"Sure, come around to the stage door at once!"
There is a story that when Richard Burbage played the role, afemale admirer invited him to come to her house under cover of darkness, wherehe should identify himself as 'Richard the Third'. Shakespeare, overhearingthis, went ahead to the woman's dwelling and gained admittance. He was beingentertained when a message came from Burbage saying that Richard the Third hadarrived. The Bard sent a message back that William the Conqueror came beforeRichard the Third. see also Off with his head! - So much forBuckingham.