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Drew Cortese: My Favorite Richard III Line

Drew Cortese as King Richard. Photo by Teresa Wood.
Drew Cortese as King Richard. Photo by Teresa Wood.

When I’m not orchestrating the deaths of my friends and relatives on the Folger’s stage in our current production of Richard III, I teach at Avenues: The World School, in New York City. This past Monday, I returned to school to update my 8th graders on how the play’s been progressing, as they prepare to journey down to DC in March to check it out. Avenues was able to build a portion of the 8th grade curriculum around Richard III, and I’ve tried to take advantage of this opportunity to give my students an insider’s-take on how an actor navigates the creative waters from the audition process through closing night.  They are a cool group of kids, and they always pepper me with some great questions, but one of my colleagues surprised me with this one the other day: what’s my favorite line in the show, what’s the context that it’s spoken in, and how do I connect to this line personally?So here it is, from Act 5.4:

Slave, I have set my life upon a cast/And I will stand the hazard of the die.”

Drew Cortese as King Richard in RICHARD III. Photo by Teresa Wood.
Drew Cortese as King Richard in RICHARD III. Photo by Teresa Wood.

My favorite line no longer exists in our production, having fallen victim to the cutting process necessary to shape the story we ultimately arrived at telling. But it’s a remarkable moment for King Richard. Trapped by fate, and staring down a relentless adversary, Richard’s just uttered the first of two “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse” lines (we may have cut one of those, too). Catesby misinterprets this as a desire to retreat, and offers to help him to a horse to flee when Richard spits out this magnificent line to let him know that he’s still got skin in the game. Richard’s a gambler who knows how to take calculated risks, but he also recognizes that chance always plays a part in determining the outcome. No matter what, he’s prepared to play the game until the very end.

I love that because I live that, as does anyone that chooses a life in the arts. When this show is over, I have no idea where or when I’ll act again. But like Richard, I’m not looking for a horse to carry me off the field of battle because the situation is daunting – I’m all in.

I’ll leave you with this video shot before our first student matinee.

Click here to watch Drew’s video.

*RICHARD III plays at the Folger Theatre through Sunday, March 16. For tickets, contact our box office at 202.544.7077 or click here to purchase online.


  • Can’t wait to see Richard III March 9th with friends. My favorite professor of all time is Michele Osherow, who made me Shakespeare’s #1 fan a few years ago. She also got me acting again, as we had to perform a scene or monologue (I did Hermione’s first trial scene from Winter’s Tale–gorgeous) in class. Loved every second of it. Now it’s my audition monologue, though I’ve taken on the “struggling writer” title, as well.

    We watched Ian McKellan’s Richard III for that class–I wanted to shake him. “Can’t you see? The ruler dies every time (because of you) and that will include you? Why on earth do you crave it so?” Of course, it’s deeper than a craving. I hope Folger takes on Measure for Measure in the future. Such a hopeless story (as we repeat it), yet it became one of my two, no, three favorite plays of the Bard’s.

    What a wonderful job you have in NYC, too. Lucky man.

    • So glad you were brought back into the fold after taking a class with Michele. She’s amazing and was such a great soundin board for us throughout the rehearsal process. I actually end my warm-ups with a line from Measure for Measure, one of Lucio’s:

      Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.

      Words to live by!

      See you at the show on the 9th,


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