Giving Voice to Kings: Richard III, and the Bible

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church 2014

The St. Andrew’s Shakespeare group read The Tragedy of King Richard III last Saturday night, with John Watson-Williams and me splitting the title role by acts. Laura Biche was kind enough to host our dinner and reading in Redwood City. The next morning in church, I was the Old Testament Lector at St. Andrew’s in Saratoga, reading the lesson from Second Kings 2:1-12. Even though these two texts are extremely different, I enjoy using my voice to bring a story to life – whether the charmingly evil Richard or the story of a great prophet.

The St. Andrew’s Shakespeare group meets every two months, taking turns hosting. (John and I are hosting Comedy of Errors in April.) Sometimes we become the St. Andrew’s Players to act out a lesson for the church congregation.

Richard III, Act I, scene ii

Richard III vies among Shakespeare’s characters with Iago as being the greatest villain who is most satisfied by his evil deeds.  Here is Richard (still the Duke of Gloucester) gloating over his seduction of the Lady Anne Neville:

Was ever woman in this humour woo’d?
Was ever woman in this humour won?
I’ll have her; but I will not keep her long.
What! I, that kill’d her husband and his father,
To take her in her heart’s extremest hate,
With curses in her mouth, tears in her eyes,
The bleeding witness of her hatred by;
Having God, her conscience, and these bars
against me,
And I nothing to back my suit at all,
But the plain devil and dissembling looks,
And yet to win her, all the world to nothing!
Ha!

2 Kings 2:1-12

Kings presents the biblical view of the history of ancient Israel and Judah after the death of King David, for a period of about 400 years, including cycles of stories about various prophets (c. 960 BCE – c. 560 BCE). Elijah was a prophet in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of Ahab (9th century BCE). Elisha was a disciple of Elijah and lead the prophets after Elijah was taken up into the whirlwind.

… they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

Images Copyright 2013-2014 by Katy Dickinson

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church Shakespeare group 2014 . St. Andrew's Episcopal Church Shakespeare group 2014

John Plocher - St. Andrew's Episcopal Church Shakespeare group 2014

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