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Richard III

As Richard III opens, Richard is Duke of Gloucester and his brother, Edward IV, is king. Richard is eager to clear his way to the crown. He manipulates Edward into imprisoning their brother, Clarence, and then has Clarence murdered in the Tower. Meanwhile, Richard succeeds in marrying Lady Anne, even though he killed her father-in-law, Henry VI, and her husband.

When the ailing King Edward dies, Prince Edward, the older of his two young sons, is next in line for the throne. Richard houses the Prince and his younger brother in the Tower. Richard then stages events that yield him the crown.

After Richard’s coronation, he has the boys secretly killed. He also disposes of Anne, his wife, in order to court his niece, Elizabeth of York. Rebellious nobles rally to Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond. When their armies meet, Richard is defeated and killed. Richmond becomes Henry VII. His marriage to Elizabeth of York ends the Wars of the Roses and starts the Tudor dynasty. 

Early printed texts

The textual history of Richard III is convoluted: the version of the play printed first (and reprinted many times) is probably a text that was written later than the second version of the play printed, but the source for both versions are not clear. The play was first printed in 1597 as a quarto (Q1). That text served as the basis for all subsequent quartos: 1598 (Q2), 1602 (Q3), 1605 (Q4), 1612 (Q5), 1622 (Q6), 1629 (Q7), and 1634 (Q8). A different version of the play was printed in the 1623 First Folio (F1) and reprinted in later folios. The differences between the two versions are both large and small: F has about 200 lines that aren't in Q, sometimes individual lines but also including a passage of nearly 50 lines; Q, in turn, has about 40 lines that are not in F, including a passage of about 20 lines. (For a more detailed account, read the introduction in the Folger edition of the play.)

Although earlier editors preferred Q to F, in the 20th century, editors began to use F as their base text, although sometimes incorporating aspects of the Q version into their edition. The Folger edition follows F, on the basis that it has fewer errors and fewer gaps, although it does draw also on Q in some passages, particularly 3.1.1–169 and 5.3.52 though the end. In the part of the play that the editors have based on F, pointed brackets are used to indicate readings taken from Q; in the sections where the text is based on Q, square brackets are used to indicate readings taken from F. As with all Folger editions, readings that do not come from any of the early printed texts are indicated with half-brackets.

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First Quarto (1597)

 

Item Title: 
[King Richard III] The tragedy of King Richard the third.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22314
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1597

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Item Title: 
[King Richard III] The tragedie of King Richard the third.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22317 copy 1
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1605

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Item Title: 
[King Richard III] The tragedie of King Richard the third.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22318 copy 1
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1612

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Item Title: 
[King Richard III] The tragedie of King Richard the third.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22319
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1622

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Item Title: 
Works. 1623] Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies : published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22273 Fo.1 no.68
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1623

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Item Title: 
[King Richard III] The tragedie of King Richard the third.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22320 copy 1
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1629

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Item Title: 
Mr. VVilliam Shakespeares comedies, histories, and tragedies. : Published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22274 Fo.2 no.07
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1632

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Item Title: 
[King Richard III] The tragedie of King Richard the third.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22321 copy 1
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1634

Picturing Richard III

As part of an NEH-funded project, the Folger digitized thousands of 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century images representing Shakespeare’s plays. Some of these images show actors in character, while others show the plays as if they were real-life events—telling the difference isn't always easy. A selection of images related to Richard III is shown below, with links to our digital image collection.

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Charles Kean as Richard III (mid 19th century)

Item Title: 
Mr. C. Kean as Richard 3rd [graphic]
Item Call Number: 
ART 242665s
Item Date: 
[between 1835 and 1863]

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David Garrick as Richard III (1811)

Item Title: 
Richard the Third ... representing Garrick in the character of Richard the III in the memorable Battle of Bosworth Field [graphic] / Hayman & Boultbee pinxt. ; W. Bromley sculpt.
Item Call Number: 
ART File G241 no.110
Item Creator: 
Bromley, William, 1769-1842, printmaker.
Item Date: 
Chester [England] : Published by John Boultbee, 1811.

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Richard Mansfield as Richard III (late 19th century)

Item Title: 
Mr. Richard Mansfield as King Richard III [in Shakespeare's King Richard III] [graphic] / Stereoscopic Coy.
Item Creator: 
London Stereoscopic Company, photographer.
Item Date: 
London [England : s.n., 1889 or 1890]

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Julia Arthur as Anne (late 19th or early 20th century)

Item Title: 
Lady Anne [in Richard III by Shakespeare] (Julia Arthur) [graphic] / photo J. & L. Caswall Smith.
Item Call Number: 
ART File A788 no.6 PHOTO (size M)
Item Creator: 
Caswall Smith, Lizzie, 1870-1958, photographer.
Item Date: 
London : Virtue & Co., [late 19th century to early 20th century]

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Genevieve Ward as Queen Margaret (1920)

Item Title: 
Margaret of Anjou (Genevieve Ward) [in Shakespeare's Richard III] [graphic] / photo, J. & L. Caswall Smith.
Item Call Number: 
ART File W258.5 no.13 PHOTO (size M)
Item Date: 
London [England] : Virtue & Co., [1920 or 1921?]

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Charles Kemble as Richmond (19th century)

Item Title: 
Mr. C. Kemble as Richmond in Richard the 3rd [by Shakespeare] [graphic].
Item Call Number: 
ART File K31 no.9 (size XS)
Item Creator: 
[London] : Published by A. Park, no. 47 Leonard St., [19th century]

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Richard Mansfield and Beatrice Cameron as Richard and Anne (1890)

Item Title: 
Richard Mansfield [and] Beatrice Cameron [as Richard III and Lady Anne in Shakespeare's King Richard III] [graphic] / copyrighted by Gebbie & Co.
Item Call Number: 
ART File M287.6 no.9 PHOTO (size M)
Item Creator: 
Gebbie and Company, printmaker.
Item Date: 
[Philadelphia : s.n.], c1890.

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Richard visited by the ghosts (Act 5, scene 3; 1794)

Item Title: 
Richard IIId., act 5 scene 3, in the tent, Richard asleep, ghosts of persons he had murdered [graphic] / painted by J. Opie, R.A. ; engraved by W. Sharp.
Item Call Number: 
ART File S528K8 no.80
Item Creator: 
Sharp, William, 1749-1824, printmaker.
Item Date: 
London : Publish'd by Mr. Woodmason, Leadenhall Street, Augt. 1, 1794.

More images of Richard III can be seen in our digital image collection. (Because of how they were cataloged, some images from other plays might appear in the image searches linked here, so always check the sidebar to see if the image is described as part of a larger group.)