Correcting the twisted facts on Richard III
So much for Shakespeare’s medical credibility. After researchers studied the remains of Richard III, which were discovered in central England in 2012, they found the much-maligned 15th century king from the House of York had a severe case of scoliosis, but was far from the limping “poisonous bunchback’d toad” with a withered arm depicted in the bard’s play.
In the play, Richard even describes himself as “Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time into this breathing world, scarce half made up.”
The remains were found under a parking lot where Greyfriars Friary once stood in Leicester. Richard had been buried in the church hastily after he was killed and his army defeated nearby at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, which ended the Wars of the Roses. The grave’s location had been lost after centuries of demolition and rebuilding, but archeologists dug up the site suspecting it could be Richard’s final resting place. DNA tests of two direct descendants of Richard’s sister confirmed the remains as Richard’s.
Actors over the centuries have taken pains to portray the king with a twisted body. But the hunchback story and his villainous reputation were the work of “Tudor propagandists, especially Shakespeare” after the Tudors came to power with Richard’s death, according to the Guardian newspaper.
“Richard had a very squishy spine, but it wouldn’t have stuck out that obviously,” Piers Mitchell of the University of Cambridge and one of the study’s authors told the Associated Press. He said the king’s right shoulder was higher than his left and his upper body was relatively short. “With some padded shoulders or if the height of his trousers was adjusted, a sympathetic tailor could have hidden Richard’s twisted back,” Mitchell said.
The new study was published online recently in the journal Lancet.
Kevin Spacey played one of Shakespeare’s greatest villains at the Old Vic Theatre in London in 2011.