Richard III (1592–1593)
1597 quarto of Richard III
- First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register by Andrew Wise on 20 October 1597 as "The tragedie of kinge Richard the Third w th the death of the duke of Clarence."
- First published: version of the play published in quarto in December 1597 as The tragedy of King Richard the third. Containing, his treacherous plots against his brother Clarence: the pittiefull murther of his innocent nephewes: his tyrannicall usurpation: with the whole course of his detested life, and most deserved death (printed by Valentine Simmes for Andrew Wise). This text was republished in 1598 (by Thomas Creede for Wise), 1603 (again by Creede for Wise), 1605 (by Creede for Matthew Lawe), 1612 (again by Creede for Lawe) and 1622 (by Thomas Purfoot for Lawe). The Folio text appears under the title The Tragedy of Richard the Third, with the Landing of Earle Richmond, and the Battell at Bosworth Field.
- Additional information (publication): because the 1597 quarto is of such good quality, without the obvious errors common to the 'original' bad quartos, as designated by Alfred W. Pollard (the 1597 Romeo and Juliet, the 1602 The Merry Wives of Windsor, the 1600 Henry V and the 1603 Hamlet), scholars are undecided as to the exact relationship between the quarto and the 1623 folio texts. If Q1 is a bad quarto, it is an uncommonly "good" bad quarto. It is thought that F1 was set from Q3 (the 1605 text), Q6 (the 1622 text) and the author's foul papers, and, as a result, Q1 and F1 differ from one another substantially. Most significantly, F1 contains roughly 230 lines not in Q1, Q1 contains roughly 40 lines not in F1, there are over 2000 textual differences, some scenes are arranged differently (including the order of the entry of the ghosts in 5.4), and Q1 has fewer characters than F1. There are two main theories: the quarto is a reported text, reconstructed from memory based on a performance of the play; the quarto is a performance text, a refined version of the longer folio text written by Shakespeare himself after the play had been staged. No real consensus has been reached on this issue.
- First recorded performance: the play was performed extensively in Shakespeare's lifetime, and evidence would seem to suggest it was one of his most popular plays; it is mentioned in Palladis Tamia in 1598 (as "Richard the 3."), and by the time of the First Folio in 1623, had been published in quarto six times, and referenced by multiple writers of the day. Regarding specific performances however, there is little solid evidence. In 1602, John Manningham mentions seeing Richard Burbage playing the role of Richard, probably at the Globe, where his performance so impressed a female member of the audience that she asked him to visit her later that night in the guise of Richard. The earliest definite performance was at St James's Palace on 16 or 17 November 1633 by the King's Men.
- Evidence: it is known that Richard III was definitely a sequel to True Tragedy, which was on stage by 23 June 1592, hence Richard III must have been written roughly around the same period. A common argument regarding Shakespeare's chronology at this point in his career is that Richard III is a significantly better play than any of the Henry VI plays, with a much tighter structure, a more mature manner and a greater degree of stylistic control. This dramatic improvement in his writing is attributed to his absorbing the lessons of Senecan tragedy when composing Titus, which he was then able to incorporate into Richard. Additionally, in his 2000 edition of the play for the Oxford Shakespeare, John Jowett argues that the play may originally have been written for Lord Strange's Men, but Shakespeare added some new material after it had passed to Pembroke's Men, a company which formed in mid-1592 and disbanded in September 1593. The patron of Strange's Men was Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby, a direct descent of Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, a major character in the play. However Shakespeare altered much of his source material (Sir Thomas More's History of King Richard III) regarding this character, presenting him as far more heroic and honourable than does More. For example, Shakespeare has Thomas lead a battalion against Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field, when it was in fact his brother William who led them. This suggests Shakespeare was writing with Ferdinando in mind, knowingly praising the ancestor of the company's patron. However, the play also takes the time to praise the ancestors of the patron of Pembroke's Men, Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. Prior to the Battle of Bosworth, a list of names of lords who have joined Richmond's cause is read aloud, two of whom are "Sir Walter Herbert, a renown'd soldier" (4.5.9) and "redoubted Pembroke" (4.5.11). This passage is completely extraneous to the rest of the plot, is almost always cut in performance and has been argued to be an addition to the original composition. Pembroke is later mentioned by Richmond, who asks for him to be sent to his tent to consult on the eve of battle (5.4.5-8), a request never mentioned again. Additionally, in Q1, Richmond is flanked by "three lords" in 5.2, but in F1, the lords are all named, one of whom is the previously mentioned Walter Herbert. Both the request for Pembroke, which is subsequently forgotten, and the change of the anonymous lord to a specific historical individual suggest addition after initial composition. Jowett argues that coupled with the narratively vital praise of Stanley's ancestor, the less integrated references to Herbert and Pembroke create something of a hypothetical internal chronology of composition in which Shakespeare initially writes the play for Strange's Men, but, perhaps due to the closing of the theatres in June 1592, the play passes to Pembroke's Men for a regional tour, at which point he adds the lines praising the ancestors of the new company in whose hands the play has now found itself.