Shakespeare/Was Shakespare covering his back?
Following the announcement today that a skeleton found in a car park in Leicester, England is indeed that of King Richard III (portrayed in Shakespeare's play as having a withered arm that was clearly not evident in the skeleton), how much of the play is to be considered accurate and if the majority is a pack of lies, was Shakespeare trying to cover his back in deference to Her Majesty Elizabeth I (whose's grandfather was the person who killed King Richard at Bosworth field)?
Thanks for calling upon "Allexperts" for an opinion regarding Shakespeare's treatment of Richard III.
When I taught Richard III I always told my classes that Shakespeare "adjusted" his history plays for a variety of reasons. Although it is likely that Richard was just an ordinary man without physical defect, why not mess him up a bit? Just as modern writers do with their works, Shakespeare wanted his plays to be exciting and vivid, so, if writing a HISTORY play might be a bit boring, he added elements (true to history OR false) to spice it up. And as far as kissing up to the queen, why NOT? Kill two birds with one stone. Make Richard an UGLY, DEFORMED villain that audiences (and Liz) will love to hate. A handsome one might be interesting, but it's EASIER to dislike an ugly character.
Elizabeth (and Elizabethan audiences) would rather that their country's enemies be portrayed as especially evil and grotesque. If they were not portrayed that way, one might believe that they were NOT so evil as they seemed.
Power tends to corrupt people, so Shakespeare used that belief to his benefit in Richard, Lear, Macbeth, AND other plays. Even if power didn't corrupt all his characters, other character flaws led to their demise.
I'm not sure that I would use the wording "covering his back" by portraying a deformed Richard, I'd just say that he was accomplishing at least TWO things in doing so. He was making his play more interesting to his audience--AND he was making Richard easier for his audience AND Elizabeth to hate. Even DOGS barked at mean, old, ugly Richard after all.