Wednesday, July 6, 2011

William Shakespeare

Shall I be plain?  I wish the bastards dead;
And I would have it suddenly performed.

From Act IV, scene ii, of Shakespeare's 1591 play, The Life and Death of King Richard III.  Richard III was crowned King of England on this date in 1483.  He succeeded to the throne when his 12-year-old nephew, Edward V, and Edward's younger brother (also named Richard) were declared to be illegitimate because their father (Edward IV, Richard III's older brother and the King of England from 1461 until his death in 1483) was not legally married to his mother.

Richard III died at the Battle of Bosworth Field two years later.  His defeat brought an end to the War of the Roses.  The victor in that battle was Henry Tudor, who became Henry VII. 

Historians still debate what happened to Richard's two nephews -- who became known as the "Princes in the Tower" because they moved into the Tower of London (then a royal residence, not a prison) in anticipation of Edward's coronation, and were kept there by Richard after he usurped the throne.  But most agree that the princes were eventually murdered in the Tower.  Shakespeare believed that Richard had a knight named James Tyrrell get rid of his nephews.  (In the quotation above, Richard is speaking to Tyrrell.)  Tyrell admitted committing the murders in 1501, but his confession may have been obtained through torture.

Richard III

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