Tag Archives: The Hollow Crown

My Thoughts on: The Hollow Crown ‘Richard III’ (2016)

I’ve said before that Richard III is my favorite Shakespearean play and I’ve done my best to see each major film adaptation of it (thus far I’ve seen three: this one, Olivier’s 1955 version and Ian McKellen’s 1995 version). When I heard that The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses would feature Benedict Cumberbatch as the last Plantagenet king, I knew I could not afford to miss this performance. And let me tell you, Cumberbatch plays the role so well that I feel it is at least equal to Olivier’s performance (and that is saying something!)

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Comparing it to the 1955 version, it’s clear right away that there are some major differences. In the earlier version, the role of Queen Margaret (Henry VI’s widow) is eliminated entirely, but in this version she’s one of the major characters and it completely changes the tone of the play, especially in a pivotal scene when Margaret curses Richard, Buckingham, Queen Elizabeth and the queen’s relatives. Sophie Okonedo is brilliant as the aging Margaret, who has by now lost her husband, her status and her only son. And while she sounds like a raving madwoman (and Richard tries to play her off as such), it’s made clear that everyone believes her words, even if they don’t say so.

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Speaking of Richard, from the moment Cumberbatch appears on the screen, you cannot look away from him. This version of Richard III does something new, in that for the first time we see Richard shirtless, exposing his twisted hump for all to see. Cumberbatch turns in a masterful performance as the ultimate deceiver, putting on a kind face for most of the court, and only revealing his true self to the audience. Margaret is the only one to see Richard for what he truly is, and by the time the others realize the danger, it’s too late.

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Going back to differences in versions, this iteration of Richard III cuts out several soliloquies that I’ve come to enjoy in other versions. Most notably, Clarence’s speech about drowning (right before his murder) is all but eliminated, which is a shame as hearing Clarence describe the feeling of drowning right before he is murdered BY drowning only increases the horror of the situation.

The other scene I must highlight comes towards the end of the play, right before Richard rides into battle against Henry Tudor (the future Henry VII). Richard is drawn into a nightmare where he is brought face to face with the ghosts of everyone he has killed to get to the throne: his nephews, Henry VI, his wife Anne, Buckingham; all of these ghosts mock Richard and bid him “despair and die.” It’s a chilling scene and one that almost brings Richard to his senses, but the villain is unrepentant to the last.

I highly recommend The Hollow Crown: Richard III to anyone who hasn’t seen a Shakespeare play on film before and is curious about starting. It’s a wonderful performance from the entire cast and you will love it. If you have seen this version of Richard III, let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

See also:

My Thoughts on: The Hollow Crown ‘Richard II’ (2012)

My thoughts on: Richard III (1955)

Film/TV Reviews

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My Thoughts on: The Hollow Crown ‘Richard II’ (2012)

There are many film adaptations of Shakespeare that I enjoy, but my favorite would have to be The Hollow Crown, a BBC production of Shakespeare’s second tetralogy of history plays. The story begins with the reign and downfall of Richard II (grandson of Edward III) and concludes with the reign of Henry V as he attempts to conquer France. The series features an all-star cast and is a must see for fans of Shakespeare’s history plays.

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Richard II stars Ben Whishaw (the new Q in the James Bond films) as the titular king in the last few years of his reign. Richard, in my opinion, believes that he is a good king, but his actions are so ruled by his whims that it eventually drives the kingdom into rebellion against him. This rebellion is led by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke (Rory Kinnear), the future Henry IV, who is incensed that, after his father John of Gaunt (Patrick Stewart) died, King Richard ransacked his estate to pay for a war in Ireland. Henry returns from exile ostensibly to claim his birthright as Duke of Lancaster, but it quickly turns into an outright war for the throne of England itself. Stewart’s role as John of Gaunt (a younger son of Edward III) is well-played but ends rather quickly. It’s a shame, because it’s a pleasure to see Patrick Stewart performing Shakespeare.

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The contrast between Whishaw’s Richard and Kinnear’s Henry could not be more striking. Richard is presented as preening, elegant, almost effeminate. For most of the play he wears immaculate white robes, and on the one occasion that he does wear armor, it’s gold-plated (not exactly practical for fighting). Henry, by contrast, is burly and muscular, not afraid to get dirty if the job requires it. It is emphasized that Henry does not want to hurt Richard (who is his cousin after all), but is only doing what he believes is best for the kingdom. In the course of a monologue, Richard finally concedes the crown to his cousin and Henry is crowned Henry IV of England.

There are several liberties taken with the depiction of certain characters, most notably with Richard’s queen. Presented here as a grown woman, in truth she was only 10 years old at the time of Richard’s death (they got married when she was 7). There is also an appearance by David Bradley (Walder Frey in Game of Thrones) in the small role of a gardener.

In conclusion, Richard II is a good start to The Hollow Crown, one that I highly recommend. If you’ve seen Richard II, what did you think about it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

See also:

See also:

Film/TV Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂