Richard III | Breaking Bard Episode 11


“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.

Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,

By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,

To set my brother Clarence and the king

In deadly hate the one against the other”

      • Richard III Act I, Scene 1


When I say, Richard III, images of a hunchback villain likely come to mind. One that is cruel and tyrannical to his core. A man obsessed with power and willing to go to almost any length to secure that power. This image is what the Tudors wanted us to believe. It was Henry Tudor, or Henry VII, that defeated Richard and brought a new era of peace to England. That’s not the whole story though. Henry Tudor had a pretty weak claim to the throne, so they had to use propaganda to secure the Tudor dynasty. This meant painting Richard as the villain, and they did that very effectively. The Tudor chroniclers bent the truth of what happened to provide nefarious motives that were not laid out by contemporaries.

It was the Tudor chroniclers that Shakespeare sourced from for his plays, namely Holinshed. This meant that Shakespeare dramatized history and in doing so, created one of the most memorable villains of all time. In terms of events, Shakespeare is largely accurate. He compresses timelines, of course, but overall what happened in Shakespeare happened in reality. Where the play deviates from reality appears to be with Richard’s character, so that is what Eli and I will be exploring today. It’s time to look past the Tudor myth and find out who the real Richard III was.


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