Stephen Lewis: Richard III embodies how pop culture has twisted history.Lifestyle

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Stephen Lewis: Richard III embodies how pop culture has twisted history.Lifestyle

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Stephen Lewis

A recent PBS program about the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the young princes who were said to have been murdered in the Tower of London at the hands of their uncle, who became Richard III in the 1480s, was one of the most controversial in history. I remembered one of the intersections. and popular culture.

Elizabeth II’s namesake, Elizabeth I, was the daughter of Anne Boleyn, the beheaded second wife of Henry VIII. But at the center of this crossroads is her grandfather, Henry VII.

Henry VII, surname Tudor, became king at the end of the decades-long Wars of the Roses between the rival Plantagenets of York and Lancashire. The defeated was Richard III, from whom Henry took the crown. That’s the historical side of our crossroads.

Shakespeare wrote a series of historical plays during the reign of Elizabeth I. These plays offer aspects of popular culture that intersect with what an American high school student thinks while struggling with his language.

He was a popular man, but he certainly understood that Elizabeth I would not be satisfied with the portrayal of events that overshadowed the legitimacy of her family. These Tudor-era historians needed a villain to legitimize their family’s accession to the throne.

Richard III appears.

Tudor historians, more concerned with politics than with facts, painted Richard as a morally bankrupt figure who took the throne leaving behind a corpse and broken promises. , there is little agreement on actual facts such as marriage for political convenience. Simply put, history is not resolved. What can be said is that the evidence shows that Richard in life and Richard who came down to us primarily through Shakespeare’s brilliant lens had little to do with each other.

As documented by reputable sources, Richard’s positive qualities are overwhelmed by Shakespeare’s caricature of the great villain. In one memorable scene, he convinces the widow of the man he killed to marry him.

Shakespeare’s genius creates characters who look and act like evil incarnate. According to Tudor sources, Shakespeare’s Richard is a hunchback and the most brilliant murderer of his own brothers and the aforementioned princes.

First, physical issues. When Richard’s bones were discovered under his parking lot in 2012, examining them revealed that he had scoliosis, which causes one shoulder to rise higher than the other, but Tudor history It was shown that the house did not stand as claimed. These historians also postulated a withered arm.

By all indications, he was a capable battlefield combatant and died of numerous wounds. Hawthorne uses the same metaphor in Chillingworth’s character in The Scarlet Letter.

Prince now. The elder of those princes was waiting to be crowned as Edward V. They were housed in the Tower of London. The Tower of London contained not only a prison, but also a proper royal apartment. Neither of them left the tower. A PBS show showed that they might actually have survived. Even if they were killed, it’s not certain that Richard was responsible.

Shakespeare’s popular culture Richard has relegated the historical Richard to such a deep shadow that he cannot come out. At the crossroads of history and popular culture, the latter becomes a boulevard and the former narrows into a dimly lit side street.

Stephen Lewis, a native of Brooklyn, New York, is a retired British professor and author of a recently published memoir and three mysteries set in upstate Michigan. Please contact Lewis at