The remains of Richard Duke of York, briefly King Richard III of England, have been found at the bottom of a car park (the last place anyone would think to look). Yorkist historians across the world will be partying like it’s 1483. The press conference televised on BBC this morning made it quite clear the historians involved in the quest to identify Richard’s remains are thoroughly pleased with themselves–as they should be. Thirty-nine minutes worth of evidence, explanations and visual aids preceded the final announcement that yes, indeed, it’s Richard. Big hugs and high-fives all around!
Fans of the last Wars of the Roses Plantagenet King want very much to take this opportunity to clear Richard’s reputation so thoroughly slandered by William Shakespeare. How exactly they plan to use a skeleton to do this is a bit beyond me. Perhaps he hid a rolled up scroll in his femur saying words to to the effect of: “I never done those boys. It were Henry I swear. Just ask him, he filmed it on his mobile.”
I have to admit, much as I adore the Bard he does have a lot to answer for with his creative interpretation of history. But with the Lancastrian family finally sticking their red rose up the crown, securing their victory through a Clan York marriage no less to usher in the Tudor dynasty… What’s a poor playwright to do? And anyway…how much damage did Shakespeare actually do?
I see Shakespeare’s Richard as more of an anti-hero, long before any other dramatists has a concept of what an anti-hero was. The Bard gives Richard some of the best and bloody longest speeches in the Shakespearean cannon. By the time he gets done with his pre-Bosworth soliloquy you’re almost cheering for the wordy bastard to die in some creatively nasty and blissfully silent fashion. But there is also dramatic affection for this flawed king. After all, he is the title character and has the most stage time. He may be an evil hunchback, but, in a masterfully crafted and macabre scene of poetic seduction, he manages to pull the rather fit Anne–despite the fact he killed her first husband. I ask you: how many men would kill for that kind of street cred?
No doubt the Pro-Richard of York supporters will be milking this unearthing of their slandered hero’s bones for some time to come. I predict very interesting interpretations of Shakespeare’s play on the horizon. Perhaps the RSC should secure Brad Pitt for the role. Trust me…no one will be looking at his hunched back!