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How to Get a Poem out of Richard III

August 23, 2013

TFT’s Shakespeare Festival continues with Richard III, and the deadline for , September 8, is fast approaching. So if you want to join the fun and get a chance to win the tempting first prize of £150 you’d better get a wriggle on, choose a theme and write your poem! The following may help:


I kicked off this campaign by declaring that the purpose of poetry is “to bring more love into the world”. Love? Richard III? Well certainly, we all love tales of murder, mayhem and ruthless ambition don’t we? And in the very opening moments of the play (the famous soliloquy, delivered very effectively in Titchfield’s production by Ricky Oakley, a tall fair haired young man, with a maniacal laugh, discreet but noticeable hump and crutches) does not Richard, still only the Duke of York, give the game away?


“…since I cannot prove a lover…

I am determined to prove a villain.”


Yes, all those murders, all that villainy because the poor young Dick couldn’t imagine being loved. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be inspired into poetry by that predicament! Don’t pretend you haven’t experienced such feelings yourself; we all have!

The choice is yours – use dirty tricks to get the gal like the lying sneaking Proteus in “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”, imitate this play’s loathsome archetypal baddie and descend into an orgy of dishonesty and murder – performed, preferably, by nasty underlings who should have known you would betray them next – or take a cool step back and make the full awfulness of it all bearable by turning it into pithy, piquant verse, a dazzling sonnet, stirring ballad, or simple, powerful words and imagery that could only be called a poem.

Contemplating such a Shakespearian character, as well as helping you discover what depths your own character contains, might help you find the theme for what, for all we know, could be the poem that scoops the grand prize – £150 – and the glory not even King Richard could dream of, to be crowned the first winner of the Titchfield Shakespeare Festival Poetry Contest!

Others in the cast of characters might seem more sympathetic, and my mind turns, naturally to thoughts of the ladies.

Be honest girls, which of you has not like the Lady Anne opened up a world of pain for herself by suffering the approach of some loathsome male and addressing him, and herself, with the naïve, irresistible thought:

“I would I knew thy heart” ?

Quick, protect yourself from the fascinating spell such monsters cast and bid for the prize with your own magical spell of poetry!


Of course the history, the politics, the hauntings, the battles, Richard’s cynical wit and his victims’ individual plights all have the potential to form the basis of your poem. Or just lighten up and write something funny. Your wit, talent. original point of view and individual voice may produce effects and themes hitherto untouched here or anywhere. The choice is yours, but get composing, the deadline is only two weeks away!


[Next week, for those that like to leave things to the last minute, as many poets do, why not take a last chance with As You Like It?]









From → Critic

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