Now is the Winter: Students asked to put their own spin on soliloquy in Richard III

Posted by er134 at Nov 21, 2013 09:52 AM |
Competition run by the University of Leicester’s School of English will see Richard’s ‘voice’ becoming many voices in multimedia interpretation

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 21 November 2013

A competition run by the University of Leicester’s School of English will see students from secondary schools across Leicester put their own modern spin on the famous opening soliloquy of Shakespeare’s Richard III.

The ‘Now is the Winter’ competition will run in February and March 2014, with a deadline of 28 March 2014 for entries. Up to three entries may be submitted from each school.

Taking in 18 schools in Leicester and 63 in Leicestershire, it will culminate in the showing of a montage of the entries at various locations in Leicester: a sound and image compilation, in which individual lines are taken from different recordings to create a collective, local set of interpretations of this famous speech.

The prize for the best entry will be a bespoke workshop at the winning school by a professional drama troupe, the 1623 Theatre, and a trophy.

The School of English will also run podcasts and masterclasses to educate students about English literature and encourage them to pursue study at university.

This will include an interpretation masterclass, run in February 2014, which will see students work alongside professional actors, and tutors and students from the School of English in analysing the soliloquy and acting it out. The 1623 Theatre Company will be joining the University to lead this workshop.

The project was the idea of Dr Mary Ann Lund, Lecturer, of the School of English at the University. She said: “This project is open to students from 11 to 18, so for some, it will be their first brush with Shakespeare.

“I hope it will show them that his plays are designed as performance pieces, and indeed that Shakespeare was very skilful at capturing his audience's attention from the opening moments of a play. I hope that working with the speech will suggest some ways in which political language comes about, and help students to analyse the workings of rhetoric.”

Dr Sarah Knight, Senior Lecturer in the School of English, has also been involved in developing the competition and has worked together with Dr Lund on the ‘Search for Richard’ project. Dr Knight added: “Concentrating on that first soliloquy will not only help them understand an early modern form of the English language, but should also get them thinking about how drama works.

“This will in turn help them in their school and college work, as well as preparing those who are thinking of maybe doing literature or drama at university to work more closely with performance texts.”

The students will be interpreting the monologue in which Richard, at this point the Duke of Gloucester, sets out his plans to “prove a villain” and seize the throne. He also curses his condition, lamenting that his appearance makes dogs bark at him, and complains of the boredom that comes with peace.

Dr Lund described the excitement she felt in anticipating students’ responses: “The idea of hearing Richard's voice becoming many voices - female and male, from all over the county, and from many different backgrounds – is very exciting.

“I can't wait to hear what everyone will produce. I hope people will find it engaging, but I don't have expectations of what they will produce; I hope students will take up the challenge of trying new and creative things with the speech, rather than thinking about how Shakespeare 'should' be read - there's no such thing!”

Students reciting the speech will follow in the footsteps of such famous thespians as David Garrick, Laurence Olivier and Ian McKellen, who played Richard as a fascist dictator in the 1995 film adaptation of the play. Kevin Spacey recently took on the role in an Old Vic production directed by Sam Mendes.

Dr Knight commented: “I think the story raises complicated, challenging questions, which have proved keenly intriguing for over half a millennium now: why are the accounts of Richard III so divergent? Why did Elizabethan dramatists like Shakespeare want to write about him over a century after his death, when there are plenty of late medieval kings who are completely overlooked?

“The story contains many elements which have been central to gripping drama from Greek tragedy onwards: violent death, warring families, deceit, and seduction.”

Determined to prove the villain? The final deadline for entries is the 28 March 2014.


Notes to editors

For further information, to join the mailing list, and to receive a teacher’s pack, see our website ( and contact:


Charlotte Barratt, Richard III Outreach Officer,

Dr Sarah Knight, Senior Lecturer in Renaissance Literature, School of English (

Dr Mary Ann Lund, Lecturer in Renaissance Literature, School of English (

About the 1623 Theatre Company

Formed in 2005, the 1623 Theatre Company are a roving troupe who specialize in performing Shakespeare’s plays in unconventional spaces, and count award-winning playwright Mark Ravenhill and Shakespeare expert Professor Carol Rutter as patrons.

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