For me, this play will forever be associated with Neil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl
and Richard Dreyfuss’ exaggerated effeminate portrayal of Richard III in that off-off-Broadway production of Shakespeare’s play.
But now having finally read Shakespeare’s play, I think I know where Dickens got his inspiration for his character, Uriah Heep in the book David Copperfield
. Richard reminds me so much of Heep, with his outward acts of modesty and humble nature displaying no interest in furthering his current position: “I thank God for my humility”—no one at first really suspecting him to be the little rat he truly is.
It’s true that no one really likes Richard; he’s barely tolerated yet his gift is his quick thinking wit, which somehow manages to charm his listeners. Consider Anne, who’s initially completely disgusted by him: “Never hung poison on a fouler toad. Out of my sight! thou dost infect mine eyes.” Yet upon our next meeting, she’s already married to him—a decision that proves to be her downfall.
This play would have truly disgusted me had there not been those little comedic elements embedded within the play. These moments are more subtle than in Henry IV, Part I, but they’re just enough to somehow lighten the mood, and in effect make Richard not as gross and menacing as he could have been portrayed. It keeps your interest, wondering what new scheme could he possibly cook up next and how he’ll justify this next move. It’s great.