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“Was ever woman in this humour wooed?” Age of Kings, Episode 14, Reviewed.

November 20, 2020
An Age of Kings: 'bad is the world' | SCREEN PLAYS

We are in Paul Daneman’s hands now. He will take us home. For now we’re into Richard III, a play to be covered in the course of two episodes.

There is no greater victory won by Richard than his victory over the grieving Lady Anne. His wooing of Anne is Richard’s Agincourt – an impossible battle fought against impossible odds. He even puts his life on the line as he fights it, perhaps more dramatically than Henry V does.

Wooing Lady Anne (Jill Dixon) represents the supreme rhetorical challenge. Richard is ugly, generally reviled, and is understood to have murdered both her husband and her father in law, yet Richard talks her into a receptive frame of mind even while the bodies of his victims are still in the room. When she goes, Richard falls about in a state of honest self applause.

We love Richard for his quickness and his frankness – for his lack of hypocrisy – at least when he’s talking to us. You have to admire Paul Baneman under the circumstances. He was taking on this television role just a few years after Olivier had developed perhaps the most famous and definitive representations of any Shakespearean character, ever (discuss). Olivier’s version was soon committed to film and posterity. All impersonations of Richard III are impersonations of Olivier playing Richard III. Note Peter Sellers impersonating Lawrence Olivier playing Richard III singing “Hard Day’s Night”. Look up Peter Cook in the very first episode of Blackadder.

Daneman’s Richard does not employ Olivier’s arch cadencings. Daneman is far more conversational, and smiles a great deal more. He resembles Henry V in that he continually protests that he’s not a courtier despite being a consummate courtier. Of course, Henry V is a far more successfully Machiavellian ruler than Richard – a Cesare Borgia cut off before his time. Richard, on the other hand, knows how to win power without thinking ahead how to preserve it.

As Edward IV dies, Julian Glover’s prematurely exhausted monarch develops a kind of pathetic naivety as he begs his warring factions to reconcile. Perhaps the only dramatically weak moment in the entire episode occurs with the collective lurch forward in response to the announcement that Clarence is dead.

The only thing that can really bring the factions together, of course, is the opportunity to taunt Margaret of Anjou (Mary Morris), somehow still alive and tottering about – the prophetess whom nothing can harm because everything has already harmed her. Kill her if you like – you’d be doing her a favour. Which is why nobody does.

Patrick Garland as Clarence (incidentally) wins the prize for the best extreme close up acting in this episode as he describes his hideous dream of drowning and damnation. It has always been difficult to imagine this Clarence as older than his brother Gloucester incidentally. He seems little more than a child himself, and perhaps the effectiveness of the scene is weakened by the sense that he doesn’t look as though he could have lived long enough to have committed all the crimes that are ascribed to him.

The two boys managed to perform the roles of little Edward and little Richard without my wanting to smother them myself – a rare achievement. Their own uncle Richard smiles indulgently at them as they go to bed and the closing titles scroll before snuffing out a candle.

I think we get the point.

I have some thoughts about other episodes in this series.

Episode One

Episode Two

Episode Three

Episode Four

Episode Five

Episode Six

Episode Seven

Episode Eight

Episode Nine

Episode Ten:

Episode Eleven:

Episode Twelve:

Episode Thirteen:

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