Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Winter of discontent as we await the truth


In the New Year we’ll learn if bones from a city car park really are those of Richard III. Michael Hickling reports on the future for the last King of the House of York.

History is written by the victors, or most memorably in this case by one of the inheritors of the victors’ story, William Shakespeare.

He created the Richard III we know, with a hump and a limp and a shrivelled arm, a character who gleefully confides to the theatre audience that he’s so ugly dogs bark at him. He’s a child murderer, a sexual predator, a psychopath crippled in mind and body. It’s a magnificent creation. But Shakespeare had no first-hand knowledge of the man he wrote about. 

His play Richard III was published just over a century after the naked body of this last Plantagenet monarch, newly-slain in battle at nearby Market Bosworth, was displayed at Leicester in the summer of 1485. To create his monstrous character, the playwright drew on unreliable sources which put a spin on scarce facts to suit the outlook of the victor of Bosworth, Henry Tudor and his successors.

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