Liam Rudden: Give me Shakespeare’s Richard III

The coffin containing the remains of King Richard III. Pic: Comp

The coffin containing the remains of King Richard III. Pic: Comp

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RICHARD III, written by William Shakespeare around 1592, has always been one of my favourites of the Bard’s works.

It painted a picture of a monarch driven by the lust for power. An amoral ‘hunchback’ with a withered arm who orchestrated the deaths of his nephews, the Princes in the Tower.

Whether any or all of this is simply Tudor propaganda (child skeletons were discovered in The Tower in 1674), it makes for great drama.

Not that Shakespeare could ever have imagined ‘the drama’ to come four centuries later when remains believed to be those of the last Plantagenet king would turn up in a car-park, with the feet missing, apparently crushed by foundations of a building. The exhumation of those bones took place in September 2012 and now they’re ready for reburying - cue ‘royal’ hysteria from Channel 4, which appears to be treating the week long event as some sort of TV spectacular - there’s even an online live feed from Leicester Cathedral, where you can watch people walk past the black-draped coffin.

Talk about watching paint dry. It’s not exactly dramatic, but then neither was coverage of Richard’s arrival at the Cathedral. There was pomp. There was a ceremony. But where was the drama? Sombre dirges and mumbling bishops are hardly ratings winners.

Fascinated as I am by history, I’m afraid I just don’t get the whole lying in state thing either, other than it being a stroke of genius by the local tourist board - visitors have even been caught taking selfies with the coffin.

Hopefully the re interment itself will be more dynamic, but looking in from the outside, with absolutely no emotional connection to bones purporting to be those of a character from the pages of history, I can’t helping wondering how Tony Robinson and the Time Team would have handled this discovery.

It’s all very bizarre. What would Shakespeare have made of it?