Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Does William Shakespeare Have A Low Opinion of King Richard III?

With the recent archeological discovery of King Richard III’s skeletal remains in a Leicester car park, should we reevaluate Shakespeare’s impression of King Richard III? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Even though he was killed in battle back in 1485, the recent archeological discovery and confirmation of King Richard III’s skeletal remains that were found buried under a Leicester car park became one of the major news stories of February 4, 2013. This could well be the catalyst to reassess everyone’s Stratfordian view of the life and reign of King Richard III. And could it also revise Shakespeare’s view of the much maligned historical monarch? 

For over 400 years, the reputation of King Richard III – according to the great bard William Shakespeare – has been a subject of acrimonious debate by historians. As the king of England during the closing years of the Wars of the Roses, even the most neutral and non-Stratfordianly partisan historical research has not been able to solve the question of Richard III’s guilt or innocence of the murder of the princes – i.e. Edward V and Richard, sons of Edward IV – but has established that the character and other crimes of Richard III as shown in the play represent an exuberant dramatizing of Tudor distortions and fabrications. 

Contrary to Shakespeare, Richard III was not so much as a “hunch-backed toad” with a withered arm and crippled leg, but an attractive, though rather frail, prince who was the leading general of the kingdom and next to his brother Edward IV, was the most successful warrior in Europe. Rather than stepping himself in crime and plots during Edward IV’s reign he was, in fact, a loyal and indefatigable supporter of his brother’s government. 

The true historically accurate King Richard III could well be a stark contrast in comparison to the early chronicle play by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s Richard III is closer to the example of Marlowe in many respects, than any other of the great bard’s plays. It carries on the story of the Wars of the Roses from the point where Shakespeare had dropped it in the last act of 3 King Henry VI. 

On the recently found skeletal remains of King Richard III, it shows a rather malformed skeletal spine of a hunchbacked person – one of the aspects that Shakespeare didn’t dissemble about Richard III. Even though the nearly 600-year-old skeletal remains can only tell us so much using current analytical techniques, many of us will still be left asking – was the real life King Richard III way more fascinating than the great bard William Shakespeare portrayed him to be? 

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