Elizabeth E. Tavares (Pacific University) The character of Richard III is tricky to manage for contemporary audiences. His villainy is as rich and delicious as that of Milton’s Satan—and therein lies the trap. […]
Elizabeth E. Tavares
As assistant professor of Medieval and Renaissance literatures at Pacific University, I teach early modern English literature, with an emphasis on Shakespeare and drama, as well as a range of composition and genre courses. My research interests include the popular playing companies, Shakespeare in performance, and the theatre's history in the early modern period.
The second episode of the new Shakespearean miniseries, The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses, makes clear that the producers concretely thought about what the television serial medium can offer these plays beyond production values. While the first episode employed the editing technique of cross-cutting to underscore the ways in which a king might be slingshot between factions (thus rendering his decisions always in terms of a lesser evil), the second episode, “2 Henry VI,” uses point-of-view (POV) framing to suggest the consequences of a government dictated by personal motivations rather than that of the commonwealth.
The second season of the award-winning series, The Hollow Crown, opens with a dramatic birds-eye view of the English Channel and the Cliffs of Dover as we follow a soldier’s furious ride through red and white eglantine. Dover happens to be the closest point between England and France. The roses and geography are visual aids alongside Dame Judi Dench’s voice-over: Henry V has taken France and married its princess, securing England’s legacy legally and militarily. Dench isn’t a cast member in this production, but her inclusion reinforces the sense that there are certain actors who (to film and television audiences) verify what Andrew Higson calls English heritage cinema. The three-part series focusing on William Shakespeare’s War of the Roses tetralogy capitalizes on such casting strategies as well as crosscut sequences to emphasize the threat of a managed monarch to the commonwealth.