Contrasting Shakespeare's Richard with the Historical Figure Essay examples

Contrasting Shakespeare's Richard with the Historical Figure Essay examples

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There are two Richards: the Machiavellian monster created by Shakespeare and the historical figure who many historians claim is a much-maligned innocent man. So is Richard the sinner or the one sinned against? How can we decide? Is a decision even possible?

In Shakespeare's play Richard III, Richard describes himself as a deformed malcontent in the opening soliloquy. (Shakespeare often uses physical deformity to mirror an evil mind.)

I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,

Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,

Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time

Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,

...

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,

To entertain these fair well-spoken days,

I am determined to prove a villain

And hate the idle pleasures of these days. (1.1.18-31)

Many historians, on the other hand, have a different view of the man. For instance, in the 1956 biography Richard the Third, Paul Murray Kendall describes Richard based on contemporary writings and two well-known portraits of the King.

Most contemporary descriptions bear out the evidence of these portraits that Richard had no noticeable bodily deformity, and establish him as a thin, frail man of a little less than normal height. (537)

The most heinous crime that the Tudors (the kings who succeeded Richard to the throne) accused Richard of committing was the murder of his nephews-Edward V and Richard, Duke of York-the sons of his brother, the former king, Edward IV. How seriously should we take this accusation? What evidence supports it? Kendall writes, "If we take 'evidence' to mean testimony that would secure a verdict in a court of law, there is no evidence that he [Rich...


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Works Cited

Fields, Bertram. Royal Blood: Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes. New York: ReganBooks, 1998.

Kendall, Paul Murray. Richard the Third. New York: Norton, 1983.

- - - . Richard III: The Great Debate. New York: Norton, 1992.

Looking for Richard. Dir. Al Pacino. Perf. Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Aidan Quinn, Winona Ryder, and Kevin Spacey. Videocassette. Fox, 1996.

The Missing Princes of England. Dir. Melissa Jo Peltier. Narr. David Ackroyd. Videocassette. New Video Group, 1998.

Shakespeare, William. Richard III. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York: Washington Square Press, 1996.

Tey, Josephine. The Daughter of Time. New York: Scribner, 1988.

Weir, Alison. The Princes in the Tower. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995.

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