Did you hear about this? The body of Richard III has been found and identified. The grave in which he rested was somewhat ignominious though clearly “a fine and private place” since he has lain undisturbed for over 500 years. They dug him up last fall, and they’ve been busy since then: they also commissioned a facial reconstruction. It really doesn’t do him any favors, to be honest. And an argument has apparently started already over where the bones are to be reburied. I’m on the side of York, myself; they love him and I think they they would appreciate having him back.
The search was spearheaded by the Richard III Society, the existence and mission of which indicate the strength of Shakespeare’s characterization of the man as one of the great villains in English literature, as well as the impulse to rehabilitate the reputations of attractive bad guys. After all, if we’re attracted to a person, he can’t possibly be all bad, can he? If he could, what would that say about us, about me? I’ve written about the play, and interpretations of its central character, before when Charles and I saw it in 2011, and we saw it again this past summer at the Globe theatre in London. This last was maybe the best version I’ve ever seen – both the funniest and the most disturbing.
Isn’t it fun when research turns up piles of new information about something you’re interested in? I’m sure Shakespeare and Early Modern scholars will be able to make hay about this for several years at least. After all, many of us* have learned to publish entire books built on the tiniest slivers of new or disputed information. It’s a matter of survival. So with this kind of bonanza, imagine what they can do!
* Not me so much, especially not these days. But I can’t quite admit yet that I’m not part of that group anymore.