Toronto Metropolitan University
Malone_Toby_P_200911_PhD_thesis.pdf (130.26 MB)

'Hast Thou Been Tampering?' Adaptive Dramaturgy and Richard III

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posted on 2023-02-22, 16:59 authored by Toby MaloneToby Malone

Shakespeare’s Richard III is the most often performed history play within the western dramatic canon, yet at the end of the seventeenth century it was considered virtually unplayable. The extensive textual alteration undertaken by comedian Colley Cibber in 1700 revived interest in the rarely performed play, and actor David Garrick’s adoption of Cibber’s text in 1744 ensured the work’s popular survival. Regular performance and textual revision throughout the eighteenth century positioned Cibber’s adaptation as one of the most well-known works on the London stages, and by the time Henry Irving permanently restored Shakespeare’s text to the popular repertoire in 1877, Cibber’s adaptation had served as a conduit to restoring Richard III from its “virtually unplayable” position to its lost Elizabethan fame. The adaptive development of Richard III from unplayable to indispensable can be tracked dramaturgically, from Shakespeare’s Quarto (1597) and Folio (1623) to Cibber’s version, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century performative adaptations, and twentieth century film realisations. Through parallel-text analysis of the prompt-scripts of some of the most notorious, iconic, and effective adaptations of the play, this study examines in a practical sense the dramaturgical drive present throughout the play’s varied life-span: often changing, but nevertheless a constant product. The negative stigma attached to adaptation – characterised in Cibber’s words as “tampering” – is examined throughout the performative history of Richard III. Chapter one considers theoretical perspectives on adaptation studies, and adopts Gérard Genette’s evocative “transtextuality” discourse to quantify conclusions to emerge from parallel comparison of texts. Chapter two analyses Cibber’s process of “re-visioning” Shakespeare’s play; Chapter three examines the impact of performative adaptation on six different stage editions of Richard III. Chapter four addresses the transitional process of developing a stage-bound text on film through the screenplay format, and Chapter five demonstrates the use of cinematic visualisation on the text. Finally, Chapter six tracks the impact of adaptation on the survival and perpetuation of texts over successive generations and throughout varied cultures and contexts. Through analysis of fourteen different performance editions, prompt-books, film texts, and unpublished manuscripts, this dissertation considers the validity of “tampering” on the adaptive process.




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