Shakespeare’s historical accuracy

100 years after the death of Richard III with no written evidence and no body to reference it is amazing how accurate Shakespeare’s depiction of King Richard III is. King Richard’s body was lost after he was killed in a battle. It wasn’t until 2012 that the body was found.

King Richard was indeed hunchbacked. The limp and withered arm are Shakespeare’s exaggerations. Richard was obviously hated. His death shows a pretty clear image of the hatred that was felt for him. He was stabbed several times including once postmortem in the butt, something that signifies anger.

“God and our good cause fight upon our side.”(5.5.194) Richmond was certain that killing Richard was the right thing to do. This depicts quite accurately the way at least some people felt when battling King Richard.

Another piece of evidence suggesting Richard was unliked is his place and position of burial. Kings were typically buried in well documented, quality graves. Richard was thrown into a grave that wasn’t large enough for him and lost for 500 years. He had no casket or any other signs of a dignified burial.

“A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” (5.7.7). Shakespeare depicts Richard as a hard core fighter, determined to be in the middle of the battle. When his horse is killed Richard wants a new one desperately so he can get back into the middle of the battle. The evidence found from Richard’s body reveals that he was deep in the middle of battle when he was killed. Judging by the amount of wounds that he received at the time of death, there were many people responsible for his death.

With 100 years of rumors and speculation it is amazing that Shakespeare was able to portray King Richard III so closely to what science now reveals about him.


4 thoughts on “Shakespeare’s historical accuracy

  1. michaeldrago

    Thanks for the interesting background information. It’s still difficult to determine exactly how much of the play is fiction and how much is reality – we still have no idea, for instance, whether Richard really killed the two princes – but

  2. Alex Verso

    Wow, this background information was very interesting to read. It’s amazing how recently the body was found, I never would have guessed it would take so long to find it. Shakespeare was definitely right on the money with how he described Richard.

  3. gerouc1

    I always felt like the “A horse, a horse” line was one of the most interesting. For someone who is deformed and probably considered physically weak, it is not a surprise that he would be so raring to get back into the thick of the battle. It’s probably the one thing I find admirable about the character, his perseverance and determination to do what he wanted to get done.


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