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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What was the first production like?

It is believed that "Richard III" was first written and performed in 1591 following his Henry VI trilogy. The first performance was most likely performed by a mix of the Admiral’s Men and Lord Strange’s Men, possibly for “Essex, Southampton and the growing opposition, Catholic and radical Protestant, that gathered in Essex House to nurse grievances and plot enemies’ downfall” The play became very popular and was performed by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men at the Globe in the 1600s, and even as late as 1633 at court. Richard Burbage, Shakespeare’s leading actor, was performing the role of Richard after the Globe opened in 1599. Like the other early history plays, Richard III was designed to be performed for large audiences in open-air theatres, packing hundreds of Elizabethans hungry for entertainment in to see the show. The first quarto appeared in 1597, printed from a manuscript that was believed to have been written from memory by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and Shakespeare.


Asquith, Clare. Shadowplay: Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare. NY: Public Affairs. 2005.

Hattaway, Michael. Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s History Plays. Cambridge University Press. 2002. p.103

Shakespeare in Quarto. The British Library. 10/25/09. <>.

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