Richard III. Reload.

richardIII

Nothing beats a stage performance of a Shakespeare play if the cast is first-rate and the direction insightful. ,will play Richard III in the forthcoming second installment of BBC series The Hollow Crown, based on Shakespeare’s Wars of the Roses plays.

The complex, interesting and dangerous man was Plantagenet king Richard III. Plenty of challenge for the actor who plays him.  Cumberbatch, who flexed his histrionic muscle as Shakespearean  Hamlet in the National Theatre production, has a rival for the best Richard III. Martin Freeman took on his first Shakespearean role in the production at London’s Trafalgar Studios that run from July to the end of September, 2014.
richardIII-1

In Shakespeare’s play, Richard III is an ugly hunchback with a withered arm. He is a despicable despot and a veritable sonofabitch — just like in the chronicles of the Tudors. The rivals for the throne, Tudors had every reason to malign King Richard.
richardIII-2

Thomas More described Richard’s appearance and character in a very negative way as well. However, when Richard died, Thomas was only 8 years old, thus it was hardly a first-hand recollection. Shakespeare’s play portrays Richard III as a ruthless murderer of his young nephews, Edward V of England and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, in the fight for the throne. However, there is no direct historical evidence to prove it.   Historians say that the fate of the Princes in the Tower remains an unsolved mystery to this day. Thus the involvement of Richard III in the boys’ demise is just a persistent rumor started with the aim of Tudors to discredit the last Plantagenet King.
richardIII-3Interesting that the early portraits of Richard III do not depict him as being badly disfigured by a hump on his back.  X-rays of the canvas show that the uneven height of his shoulders was added later than the portraits were actually painted. All the later portraits were based upon the altered original.

The entire life story of the last of the Plantagenets might have been  (and, undoubtedly, has been)”adjusted” to suit victorious Tudors.  In the journals of the Major of York, there is an entry where he mourns  Richard’s death and writes that the king ruled justly and graciously. richardIII-4Not so long ago, archaeologists announced that they found the tomb of Richard III in Lester. The skeleton was discovered in the autumn of 2012 under the parking lot, located on the site of the former Franciscan monastery. It is known that many years after the death of King Richard III, Henry VII ordered to install a tombstone over the Richard’s unmarked grave, which cost him ten pounds and one shilling. In the 16th century, the church was destroyed and the traces of Richard’s grave has been lost. richardIII-5DNA analysis revealed that the remains found in Lester, indeed, what left of the last Plantagenet.  Richard wasn’t a hunchback after all. He suffered from scoliosis (a sideways curvature) of the spine.  He might have experienced excruciating pain most of his life, but suffered stoically.  Richard died at the age of 33, still quite a young man.richardIII-6This is how Richard III might have looked like — very un-Shakespearean.

To finish this post on an optimistic note (besides looking forward to  The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III, Judi Dench as Cecily, Duchess of York and Sophie Okonedo as Queen Margaret, promised in 2016) let’s see Lawrence Olivier — one of the most memorable Richards in the history of the theater — performing Richard’s redemptive song from the Horrible Histories.  The lyrics is below for those who wishes to sing along.

I was sure that you’d love me
To that hope, I did cling
‘Cause I’m… Richard the third
And… everybody loves a king!

Thought I did a good job
Why do you disagree?
There’s a lot of people
Spreading nasty rumours ’bout me
Every word is a lie
So I’m singing this song
‘Cause the history books
Have been telling it wrong!

Never had a limp
Always walked my full height
Never had a hunch
And my arm was all right
Never took the crown
With illegal power
Never killed my nephews
The princes in the tower
Tudor propaganda
It’s all absurd
Time to tell the truth
About King Richard the third

My brother Edward, died
His kids too young to rule
So… I took the throne
Why not? I’m nobody’s fool!

Thomas More wrote a history
Said I’d murdered Edward’s boys
Shakespeare said their death
Was an evil ploy
But I say those two
Are historical vandals!
They’ve ruined my image!
I mean, what a scandal!

Never bumped off
Those harmless young heirs
Never buried them
Under the Tower of London stairs
Never poisoned my wife
Bumped off her daddy
This is me, sweet Richard
Do I look like a baddy?
Never was two-faced
Sure you’ll agree
I was misunderstood
King Richard three

Can you imagine it?
I’m the last Plantagenet
Beaten by Henry
In the Wars of the Roses
The Tudor dynasty
Didn’t care that much for me
Now I’m painted as a baddy
That’s why one supposes…

Never forget
When you hear of my crimes
Never drowned my brother
In a massive vat of wine
Never said ‘My horse!
My kingdom for a horse!’
Who made that up?
Why, William Shakespeare, of course!

Now my tale is told
You won’t hear a bad word
About a special ruler
King Richard the third

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