Richard III – Loyaulté me lie # 12

Richard’s melancholy (1/2)

According to a text attributed to Aristotle – Men of Genius and Melancholy – melancholy was the sign of creative and illustrious people. Described as an affliction that diverts the individual away from the gods, leading him or her to excess, lust and anger as much as to short-lived pleasures, melancholy offers an interesting perspective with which to understand Richard III. The idea that neither humans nor gods can have an impact on a melancholic personality explains the king’s character a lot better than the simple assumption that he is spiteful. It also reveals a key aspect of his personality: he is extremely creative in imagining the path that will lead him to power.

Keeping in mind this idea of melancholy can solve a complex interpretative issue when we read the scene between Richard and Lady Anne. Indeed, then, he seduces her, against all odds. In such an extravagant situation, inspiring disgust, how can one perform with the subtlety and lightness that are usually the characteristics of seduction? We could read it all in the light of spinelessness, malice, manipulation, cynicism and terror. But how can we transform him from absolutely vile to attractive individual? It would mean assuming that Richard III – if he knows exactly what he is doing – cannot show empathy and cannot be affected by pity. The worst horrors, any joy, the smallest of sorrows, all emotions roll off him like water off a duck’s back. Isn’t it telling that what should be a source of immense joy – the fact that he finally accedes to the throne – provokes more darkness than positive emotions? Picturings Richard III as driven by melancholy gives the actor a playground of endless possibilities, where each of his lines can be built as a surprise for the audience. This also allows us to play with humour, something that is in tune with our decision of transforming Richard III into a troubling, monstrous yet amusing clown. 


Richard is greatly creative in his political design, which, still according to Aristotle, is the sign of a melancholic soul. The way Richard accedes to power is exemplary of this: using his intelligence and shrewdness, he anticipates the outcomes of the situations he finds himself in. This paints him as a genius in action, someone who is above everyone else. He charms, he kills, he manipulates, and he becomes likeable for the audience by confiding in them in one perfectly paced motion. His mind is as gracefully agile as his gait is chaotic. Perhaps the best evidence of Richard’s melancholy is his casualness, which will be at the core of the show – unbearable for those who meet him but highly pleasurable for those who watch him.




Un clown, alité, face à son propre reflet, face à un double féminin qui se métamorphose, lui renvoyant l’image de...