From the staging of disability to the influence of Machiavelli, explore Shakespeare’s history plays.

Richard III and the staging of disability

Richard III and the staging of disability

Article by:
Katherine Schaap Williams

In the Elizabethan period, disability was often viewed as a sign of moral impairment. Katherine Schaap Williams considers how Shakespeare's portrayal of Richard III relates to both modern and medieval ideas of disability, as well as how the play's performance history complicates our understanding of Richard's body. She thereby reveals a richer and more complex reading of Richard as more than just a monstrous or moral example.

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Richard III and the will to power

Richard III and the will to power

Article by:
Malcolm Hebron

Malcolm Hebron explains how Shakespeare drew on earlier depictions of Richard III and other ruthless rulers in order to create his own power-hungry king, and how Richard III has influenced later depictions of megalomania.

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Richard III and Machiavelli

Richard III and Machiavelli

Article by:
Michael Donkor

Machiavelli's The Prince was a much-discussed text in Renaissance England. Michael Donkor considers how, in Richard III, Shakespeare engages with Machiavelli's ideas about what constitutes appropriate behaviour in a ruler.

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Further themes


From cross dressing in Twelfth Night to magical storms in The Tempest; from deception in Much Ado to doubling in Midsummer Night’s Dream, discover the beauty and complexity of Shakespeare’s comedies.


From Hamlet’s melancholy to Juliet’s eloquence; and from Lear’s madness to Othello’s misunderstanding, discover the richness of Shakespeare’s tragedies.


From the staging of disability to the influence of Machiavelli, explore Shakespeare’s history plays.

Shakespeare’s life and world

From the open air Globe to the candlelit Blackfriars; from countryside to city; and from noblemen to strangers, discover the world that shaped Shakespeare’s work and that influenced his legacy.

Gender, sexuality, courtship and marriage

From courtship rituals to cross-dressing, examine the ways in which Shakespeare explored identity and gender roles

Elizabethan England

Exploration and trade, crime and punishment, clothing and social structure: explore key aspects of Elizabethan life, culture and society.

Ethnicity and identity

From Othello and Shylock to depictions of the ‘New World’ and anti-immigration riots, explore Shakespeare’s fascination with ethnic identity

Power and politics

A murdered king, a homeless ruler, an exiled Duke with magical powers: discover Shakespeare’s fascination with power and powerlessness

Global Shakespeare

Discover how Shakespeare’s work was influenced by other cultures, and how it’s been interpreted in nations across the world for 400 years.

Interpretations of ‘Madness’

From Lear’s breakdown to Ophelia’s malady, examine the ways in which Shakespeare depicts ideas of ‘madness’

Deception, drama and misunderstanding

Investigate the ways in which Shakespeare explores miscommunication, dishonesty, trickery and the nature of theatre

Language, word play and text

Prose and verse, word play, neologisms and rhetoric: discover Shakespeare’s innovative and experimental use of language.

Magic, illusion and the supernatural

Mischievous fairies, monstrous apparitions and scheming witches: examine the ways in which Shakespeare played with the magical and supernatural

View our Shakespeare-inspired range

Shakespeare in Ten Acts

Shakespeare in Ten Acts (paperback)

Ten leading experts take a fresh look at Shakespeare


Shakespeare Desk

Shakespeare Desk Diary 2017

Pictures and quotations to celebrate the life and works of 'the bard'


Shakespeare Star Wars

William Shakespeare's Star Wars

George Lucas's Star Wars retold in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon