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Although Edward IV reduces the role of the king in the dramatic action, it is hardly an expression of a popular tradition of radical thought. The only figures who speak of making property common are the discredited lower-class rebels; there is no direct critique of the monarch, even though he is irresponsible, uxorious, and lustful; and it is the city’s property-loving artisans and merchants whose values and way of life are most firmly applauded (Howard forthcoming). Where Shakespeare’s histories really do differ from a play such as Edward IV is that they never take London’s artisans and merchants as their overt focus of attention.

The amphitheaters, for instance, were open-air structures where performances were staged in daylight. Because women were highly visible in the playhouses, even though they were not actors, moralists repeatedly warned of the risks they incurred by exposing themselves to the dangers of such places. Yet women kept coming to the theaters, exercising the prerogatives of paying customers not only to judge the play before them, but also to participate in the exchange of gazes, words, and touches that was part of the playgoing experience (Howard 1994:73–92).

For one thing, of course, it is male-centered drama: the entire action focuses on the story of a powerful male protagonist, Richard III, who has captured the imagination of scholars and playgoers alike. 5 Second, although the women’s roles in Richard III are relatively extensive for a Shakespearean history, they are frequently disregarded in mainstream criticism and cut in theatrical performance. Margaret, the most powerful of the female characters in the play, often disappears entirely. As long ago as 1700, Colley Gibber eliminated Margaret from his revised text, a practice which continues to this day, most notably, perhaps in Laurence Olivier’s influential and widely acclaimed film (Dash 1981:197), but certainly not confined to it.

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