Cor­rect­ing the twisted facts on Richard III

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

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.

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