Shakespeare and the Remains of Richard III
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This book explores how recollections and traces of the reign of Richard III survived a century and more to influence the world and work of William Shakespeare. In Richard III, Shakespeare depicts an era that had only recently passed beyond the horizon of living memory. The years between Shakespeare's birth in 1564 and the composition of the play in the early 1590s would have seen the deaths of the last witnesses to Richard's reign. Yet even after the extinction of memory, traces of the Yorkist era abounded in Elizabethan England - traces in the forms of material artefacts and buildings, popular traditions, textual records, and administrative and religious institutions and practices. Other traces had notoriously disappeared, not least the bodies of the princes reputedly murdered in the Tower, and the King's own body, which remained lost until its dramatic rediscovery in the summer of 2012. Shakespeare and the Remains of Richard III charts the often complex careers of these pieces of the past over the course of a century framed on one side by the historical reign of Richard III (1483-85) and on the other by Shakespeare's play. Drawing on recent work in fields including archaeology, memory studies, and material biography, this book offers a fresh approach to the cultural history of the Tudor era, as well as a fundamentally new interpretation of the wellsprings and preoccupations of Richard III. The final emphasis is not only on what Shakespeare does with the traces of Richard's reign but also on what those traces do through Shakespeare--the play, in spite of its own pessimistic assumptions about history, has become the medium whereby certain fragments and remains of a long-lost world live on into the present day.
This looks like a nod to the great Elizabethan project that would eventually bear fruit in the form of Holinshed’s Chronicles, which the printer Reginald Wolfe was probably already promoting in the early ³¹ The Mirror for Magistrates, ed. Lily B. Campbell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1938), 373. Further page references in text. ³² See Mirror for Magistrates, 110, 219, 267. The reference to More as an authority distinct and potentially discrepant from Hall suggests that the poets made
use of Rastell’s 1557 edition of The History. “Every Tale Condemns me for a Villain” 185 1560s. In the absence of such a definitive chronicle, Baldwin makes the pragmatic choice to follow Hall, yet he also reserves the right to deviate from this and all sources: “and where we seme to swarve from his reasons and causes of dyvers doynges, there we gather upon conjecture such thinges as seeme most probable, or at the least most convenient for the furderaunce of our purpose” (267). This is close
princes’ remains as “reliques” serves as a reminder of the host of saints whose shrines had been dissolved in the 1530s, their once-honoured bones disposed of ignobly or scattered on the winds. The bodies of several kings, as has been seen, had also vanished without trace, whilst the remains of less exalted ancestors had disappeared en masse, either in the dissolution of the monasteries or in the subsequent dissolution of chantries and charnel houses under Edward VI. The poem’s affirmation that,
The Wandring Jews Chronicle,” in Transforming Holiness: Representations of Holiness in English and American Literary Texts, ed. Irene Visser, Helen Wilcox (Leuven: Peeters, 2006), 61–80. 72 7¹ Taylor, Old, old, very old man, C3r. Taylor, Old, old, very old man, C3v- C4r. 7³ Taylor, Old, old, very old man, C4r. 84 Shakespeare and the Remains of Richard III attempted rising in Berkshire had called for “the prices of victualles to be brought lower agayne as they were in King Rychardes time.”74
Suppression of Monasteries (London: Camden Society, 1843), 222. ³² Fabyan, ccxxiiir. ³³ Vergil, Three Books, 156. Thomas More also refers to the widespread report, without specifying a weapon: “He slewe with his owne handes king Henry the sixt, being prisoner in the Tower, as menne constantly saye.” More, History, 8. 35 ³4 Vergil, Three Books, 227. More, History, 87. ³6 John W. McKenna, “Piety and Propaganda: The Cult of Henry VI,” in B. Rowland, ed., Chaucer and Middle English Studies in Honor