Leicester, Middleham and That Play

The performances of Shakespeare’s Richard III scheduled to take place inside Leicester Cathedral on 19th and 20th July 2017 are causing waves. There can be little doubt that the size and extent of the waves is by design. What theatre company and venue wouldn’t want publicity for a controversy they were causing to appear on the BBC, in the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Times and many other media outlets that would not otherwise have given it a single line of copy?

A petition on Change.org has been started to mobilise a campaign to prevent the performance taking place. As I write, it has over 800 signatures and I can see it spread widely across social media. The play is due to be performed at other cathedrals, stopping at Ely, Peterborough, Gloucester, Bristol and Salisbury before a run of fifteen performances at Temple Church, London. The group putting on the play, Antic Disposition, have asserted that it will be staged in a ‘sensitive’ and ‘careful’ way.

I’m not averse to this in principle, though I know plenty are and I can see beyond my perspective to appreciate their concerns. Churches and cathedrals have long been centres not only of worship but of community and it is important for their future that they explore new ways to keep themselves at the heart of those communities as society becomes a more secular institution that might question the need for religious ones. My problems with this are really two-fold.

Shakespeare Richard III

Firstly, the staging of this particular play in this particular spot is, at least on the surface, insensitive. I don’t think this is simply because it’s in a religious house ,because it offers an examination of the darker sides of human nature and causes the viewer to consider the conflict between predetermination and free will. There can be few subjects better suited to consideration in church. The real issue is that this play, Shakespeare’s Richard III, is to be performed in close proximity to the king’s new tomb. Given the way his character is demonised in the play, it seems an insensitive and inappropriate move.

I have a strong suspicion that the widespread reporting of the play and the outrage it is causing is precisely what was wanted. Ricardians are notoriously easy to get a rise out of and it is this enragement that is being harnessed to produce more publicity than the play would otherwise have ever generated. Antic Disposition claim that their interpretation will be sympathetic and sensitive but without an almost complete rewrite, this seems ambitious at best and disingenuous at worst. I am a firm believer that, and have previously blogged here about the idea that, sections of Shakespeare’s Richard III have been grossly misinterpreted but the subtleties are nuanced, rely on a wider understanding and would be difficult to turn into a focus for the play.

My own response to hearing of this was to contact Antic Disposition and ask them whether they would be interested in some copy for their programme, perhaps to explain the differences between the myths and the facts around Richard III and the events of the play. I sent a link to my blog about the play to demonstrate my work and opinion and essentially offered to help if I could. Four days later, I have received no reply, not even a ‘thank you for getting in touch’ or a ‘thanks but no thanks’. Facebook Messenger shows that the message was read on Monday. (UPDATE: 12/05/17 – I have now received a reply from Antic Disposition and am waiting to see whether I can be of any assistance to them. I sincerely hope that I can!) I am also aware that others amongst the Ricardian community had been in touch with the Cathedral and with Antic Disposition directly and quietly to try and express some concerns. The lack of response to any of this and then the sudden eruption of media interest is at least suggestive of a publicity stunt. But, it’s a commercial enterprise, so surely that’s a fair tactic, isn’t it?

This is where the Cathedral’s involvement begins to concern me though. Rev’d David Monteith’s response found in many of the articles that ‘What we now know is that he belongs to the whole nation and not just to one section of people particularly committed to his story’ is confrontational rather than helpful. It makes it far easier for view the Cathedral’s interest in Richard III as cynical and financial. The added comment that ‘I’ve heard most people say how glad they are that Richard III, the Shakespeare play, will be performed here’ seems to add to the quarrelsome tone. The Cathedral’s page on Richard III’s background and history begins ‘King Richard III was born at the Castle in Fotheringhay on 2 October 1452, the youngest of three brothers’. Richard was, in fact, the youngest of four brothers – Edward, Edmund, George and Richard. If even this most basic fact is incorrect, it raises concern as to the Cathedral’s commitment to offering even the factual truth about, let alone a re-examination of, their charge.

The second element of my annoyance lies with the Ricardian community – of which I consider myself a part (unless I’m ejected after what I have to say!). Sometimes we are our own worst enemies and expose ourselves to ridicule that does nothing to help the cause of promoting the re-examination of Richard’s life and times. I’m sure many would insist that the ridicule is a price worth paying, but it isn’t when it does nothing to forward the cause. If the Cathedral and/or theatre company were relying on harnessing outrage about the performance at Leicester Cathedral to help promote the performance, then the Ricardian community has played right into their hands and given them more than they could ever have hoped for. They went fishing. We fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

Richard III
King Richard III
When Richard III’s remains were discovered, the real opportunity for a re-evaluation of the man and his reputation was lost, engulfed by a tidal wave of bitter arguments about where he should be buried. That fight is still very much alive and I don’t doubt the conviction of those who feel they are standing up for what they believe in, but I would contend that any hope of advancing the real aim of the vast majority of the Ricardian community was hindered hugely by these disputes and still is. Does it really matter where his mortal remains lie? Absolutely not. Does it matter if a play that paints him in a bad light is performed next to his tomb? Absolutely not. Mortal remains are very different to the soul Richard would have hoped would find its way to Heaven.

Most medieval kings would object to an awful lot of modern life, not least the irreverence for those holding political power that we take for granted as our right. I find it amazing that there has been no serious documentary on Richard III’s life since he was discovered, given all the publicity around the dig and subsequent events. The only explanation for this gaping omission is that if Ricardians can’t even agree amongst themselves, then what hope can any production company have of producing a documentary that would be widely appreciated and welcomed?

It is perhaps telling that English Heritage are, on 23rd and 24th August, showing a rare film of a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III from 1910 within Middleham Castle – Richard III’s long term home. If the performance in the Cathedral is insensitive, then surely the one at Middleham Castle is too. However much outrage we offer in response to however many performances, the play is over 400 years old and isn’t going away.

The time has come. I’m going to say it. I’m ready for the fallout. Here goes.

Ricardians need to let go of the Shakespeare play.

It has been a source of irritation to Ricardians for as long as there have been Ricardians, but I would suggest that it should be harnessed as the biggest weapon in a Ricardian’s locker, not be feared and shunned like a monster chained up in the cellar.

Shakespeare’s Richard III is ubiquitous and represents the first, and perhaps only, exposure many will have to this particular king. Some are well aware that it is fiction with political undertones and overtones that have nothing to do with Richard III and everything to do with Elizabethan politics (most notably Robert Cecil, as I have previously blogged). Some, though, will walk away accepting Shakespeare’s history plays – not just this one – as factual, historical documentaries and look no further, leaving Richard III as a murdering, deformed monster.

The challenge, and most importantly, the opportunity is to harness this widespread exposure to improve the understanding of the line between demonstrable fact and Shakespearean fiction. It might not be an overnight change, but if Ricardians, perhaps through the medium of the Society, could foster close relationships with theatre groups that meant we supported productions as a method of improving awareness, then the process could get underway. If theatre groups knew they could get a positive reception from Ricardians who would be willing to write copy for their programmes, they would surely do it because it lightens the load on them whilst offering their audiences an interesting and endlessly variable new perspective on Richard to compliment the play and add to their appreciation of it. I would suggest that this approach would be more productive and would bear more fruit than continuing to oppose and rant.

This approach, a unifying and moderating of the Ricardian stance, taking opportunities and letting go of those things that cannot, or need not, be changed, is what will lead to increased media interest in a revision of the history surrounding Richard III. This is what could lead to a documentary offering factual information to push gently back against the traditional view. It might even lead to a sympathetic film of Richard III’s life. How amazing would that be? If we keep fighting battles that don’t really matter between ourselves, we will never even take part in the war, never mind have a chance of winning it.

Here’s hoping I’m still allowed to call myself a Ricardian!

62 thoughts on “Leicester, Middleham and That Play

  1. Very well written Matt

    Whisper it quietly though but I signed the petition 🙊🙊

    Kind Regards

    Ben

    Sent from Ben Amponsah’s iPhone

    >

  2. Great blog Matt. I also signed the petition but I absolutely agree that Ricardians are very often their own worst enemy!

  3. Hello Matt,
    I actually agree with most of what you say but as you know, I am one of those Ricardians and we in the Loyal Supporter’s Society were faced with a dilemma – should we sit back and say nothing, for as you say, it is all free publicity or should we ask them to perform this play in another venue? Most of us who are followers of Richard’s story and medieval history, know it is not ‘real history’ and that it is most probably about Cecil – but there are sadly those who don’t. Have you read any of the comments that followed Facebook postings about The White Queen and The White Princess? 😮 I for one cannot sit back and let people carry on with such false ideas about Richard and some, even still describe him as having a hump! I have just emailed the Right Reverend Martyn Snow, the Bishop of Leicester asking him if it possible to move the play to another location in view of the Cathedral’s often quoted mantra of ‘Dignity and Honour’. I went to see this play many years ago when Derek Jacobi played Richard’s part – I loved it! He played him with humour, as a lovable rogue. I cannot feel easy though in it being performed in the precincts of Leicester Cathedral though, it is not right, it is dishonourable and disrespectful and makes them look as if they are reneging on their promises and dancing on his grave.

    1. Thanks for reading Dianne – and for not expelling me! I really do appreciate the conviction of those who act to oppose this sort of thing. All I was trying to say is that sometimes there are more than one way to crack a nut. Sometimes there isn’t, when those approached don’t seem to want to work with anyone, but the divisions amongst Ricardians frequently frustrate me because they significantly damage the aim of all of us. I love Shakespeare’s play too but the tendency to not only bend the truth but snap it in two is no good for anyone but the program makers.

  4. I personally object to using churches for secular performances, dancing on a dead man’s grave is just the icing on the cake, performing “Romeo and Juliet” would not make the venture any less blasphemous.

    1. Hi Iris. I think that is a valid but slightly separate point. Many churches perform a secular role and I think it is valuable that they do so. Where would cathedrals be if they ceased to operate as tourist attractions? That is a personal view though and I respect your point entirely.

      I wonder what the response would be from Worcester Cathedral if someone attempted to perform Shakespeare’s King John in front of his tomb there?

  5. Hi Matthew, the petition was started by me, knowing full well that it owuld be giving the performance publicity, but I also felt it was something that all Ricardians would be more or less united about (whether they were originally in favour of Leicester or York). That may or may not be true, but it has offered me an opportunity of explaing Richard’s proven good deeds and qualities on my local Radio statio. It might also intrigue newcomers who know little about him. I agree that the play will never go away, and also that it would be great to stage one with a positive slant. There was one on in London about eighteen months ago (Good King Richard) and Nance Crawford has also written a rhyming play which is excellent. Philippa Langley wrote a screenplay years ago but has not been able to get it funded. Maybe your suggestion of pulling together to support a revisionist play would be a possiblity – I hope so.

    However, I didn’t feel I could turn the other cheek this time. I have always held off in criticising Leicester and, like you, wish Ricardians could be more united. I waited until I saw the window, the Visitor Centre, etc before commenting and I never review books I haven’t read either. But we all know Shakespeare’s version of Richard, as you say, and it would be difficult to rewrite it sympathetically. I just couldn’t let it pass. It isn’t even all about Richard, it is about simple respect for the dead, as people who know or care little about him have also flet it to be disrespectful.

    So if I agree you can still be a Ricardian, will you forgive my giving them free publicity? 😉

    1. Hi Joanne. I was aware that the petition is yours and the number of signatures clearly demonstrates that there is a strong swell of feeling. These are just my thoughts and I completely accept that ignoring it or giving it free publicity is a rock and a hard place. Hopefully the publicity will have as much of a positive, Ricardian edge too. What that amounts to is that I don’t think you need to be forgiven, but applauded. I just thing the whole thing, on every side, exposes bigger problems. 🙂

      1. I haven’t found Ricardians to be divided, and if at all, Jo’s petition has certainly united us all in our distaste for slandering the dead king and broadcasting for the umpteenth time all the lies told about him. It isn’t exactly Christiian is it ?
        Those who perpetuate and play hosts to ” false witness” are as bad as those who originally set out to humiliate, mock and blacken his reputation. And the idea of upholding his Dignity and Honour has been smashed by the Church who are just guilty of dancing on his grave for their 30 pieces of silver. Would you approve of desecrating the wargraves of those who died at Flanders or The Somme with an all singing and dancing production of ‘Oh What a Lovely War!’ Oh, why ever not? After all its only a musical isn’t it?
        Sometimes you HAVE to protest against an injustice if you have any sense of fairplay, not just sit back and feel superior because you are afraid of stirring up reaction. What we need right now is Philippa Langleys screen play of RIII to be made into a big screen blockbuster movie to completely vindicate and change the minds of the general public. She is so close.

  6. As long as ‘we’ Ricardians can keep plugging away and writing positive books (Joanne and Matt????) I think we will eventually erode all the myths. I really cannot understand anyone who repeats parrot fashion Shakespeare’s version of Richard without reading other sources. I find it very exciting that there is ‘ a persistent legend’ for example, that Francis Lovell took the ‘Princes’ up to his manor in Longdendale and the family tradition in the Tyrell family that Elizabeth Woodville and the boys stayed at Gipping Hall with the permission of their uncle. And the fact there is a document that asks for Tyrell/Lovell? (I don’t have my notes to hand) to meet secretly with two spare horses…….

  7. Hi Matthew….
    I agree with so much that you have written here. I did sign the petition, but also wrote to the Dean expressing views very similar to yours.
    I think that the constant repetition of Shakespeare’s Richard III as ‘the thing to do’ about Richard III hits a raw nerve with most Ricardians and to perform it in the building where his body lies after being restored to a place of Christian worship is insensitive. You are right that there is an element of capitalisation on ‘habeas corpus’ within the deanery!
    It’s unfortunate for all Ricardians that this particular play is a masterpiece and you’re right, we have to live with it. Unfortunately an informed passage in a programme is not likely to balance the mesmerising immorality of Shakespeare’s main character. I don’t have a problem with the play being performed elsewhere – even the dubbed silent film in Middleham Castle. Just not in the place where his remains now lie: that’s not showing the promised ‘dignity and honour’.

    1. Hi Ruth. Thanks for reading and commenting. As I wrote, this does have an uneasy air or insensitivity about it which neither the Cathedral nor the theatre company seem willing to acknowledge and lessen, but most people view the heated reaction as strange and inexplicable and the Ricardian community also needs to recognise and mitigate that fact. Like the Cathedral and the theatre group, we are too happy to ignore it and carry on regardless, in my opinion.

  8. A good article, Matt – I am surprised that the proposed showing of the old film at Middleham (in August too) has not created much reaction. A large number of Ricardians who opposed the reburial at Leicester are always telling us that Middleham was Richard’s home, a place very closely associated with him, unlike Leicester. These same people say that Richard’s spirit is now ‘at home’ in Yorkshire, so how much worse is it to show the film there?

    I agree with you that a great opportunity for a new, academic biography of Richard incorporating the latest research, was lost at the time of the reburial and Ricardians’ energies were, and to an extent still are, devoted to the endless argument over his burial place.

    In the end, it is not so much the place where he was buried that is important, it is his reputation and achievements. A ‘great schism’ in the Ricardian movement is counterproductive.

    1. I don’t really think Annette Carson’s updated edition of The Maligned King can be bettered at the moment: she has incorporated all known sources.

  9. A brilliant dissection, Matt, and I agree with every word. The trouble is that Ricardians (of whom I am certainly one) become very emotional about this king. I don’t know what it is about him that produces this effect, but I can’t see it going away. When emotions are involved, seeing clearly becomes difficult.

    I have never minded him being buried at Leicester. The reasoning was the same as for Edward II at Gloucester—it was the nearest appropriate church to the point of death. At least, I imagine that was the reason. Nor do I mind that Leicester (in general) has prospered on account of Richard’s presence. Gloucester did when Edward II was interred at the cathedral (whenever that event actually took place, but there lies another story!)

    The cynicism displayed by Leicester Cathedral and the Antics of the acting company is almost sneering. As you say, it has been done with the purpose of stirring up just the sort of free publicity Ricardians have so gullibly donated. No doubt the play will have a full house. Well, good luck to them. A stony silence from Ricardians would be a suitable “response”, but that won’t happen.

    I wrote to Gloucester Cathedral, saying what I thought, but have not had the courtesy of a reply. I thought my remarks were measured, not hysterical, and that an equally measured answer might have been appropriate.

  10. I think you are absolutely right Matt. We have to accept they are 2 different things; Shakespeare belongs to the world, but as great drama, not historical fact. After all, his MacBeth is totally inaccurate historically (he was a successful King, and Duncan was the usurper in reality) but that doesn’t stop people enjoying the play whilst still knowing the facts.
    Richard III is being re-evaluated in so many ways – and quite right too – but trying to rewrite Shakespeare would be several steps too far towards insanity.
    But none of that excuses the Cathedral’s “information” that can’t even get basic facts straight. Poor Edmund, first stabbed to death then airbrushed from history…

  11. Great article Matt. I actually found myself compelled to explain the context of this play to my daughter yesterday, as she is reading it for school. I then thought that was great material for a video for my facebook page so did that too. Not as indepth as yours but just putting the play into context. I’ve written in the past on what Richard III owes to Shakespeare because, in my opinion, without that play the interest around Richard wouldn’t be as great as there would be no cause to rally against and opinion to redress. As a fellow scoliosis suffer as well, I also find myself taking the idea of evil being a feature of the condition rather to heart.
    Thanks for the article, great stuff as always. Philippa

  12. I agree with what you mentioned in regards to publicity, and as Dianne Penn states, this was actually heavily debated among the Executive Committee of R3LS before we took action. We could clearly see the hook dangling among the paltry bait, but we felt that it would be wrong for us to stay silent and hoped that we could make the line snap, or at least tangle it a bit.

    Sadly, we have also reached out to a number of theatre companies offering to help write something for their programme, or to ask them to have an open discussion with the audience about how much the play differs from reality. I think those who go to see Shakespeare may also have an interest in how that play was used in its time. I loved Julius Caesar as I studied it for O’level. The discussion about whether it was close to fact never surfaced, which is a pity, however dissection of the play revealed its quite obvious about how easily public, and individuals, can be persuaded to move from one viewpoint to another by simple rhetoric. Maybe what we learn from this play could be used to.sway those who view Shakespeare’s Richard III as at least partly accurate if given the chance. One point I would also like to make is that technically Richard III is a ‘tragedy’ not a ‘history’. MacBeth is also categorised as such, and his play is also derogatory of the real man who was a good and just king. And yes, I would also think it shameful if they decided to stage MacBeth near his tomb in Saint Orans Chapel Cemetery on the Isle of Islay (hope I am not giving anyone else ideas).

  13. EDIT: Sadly, we have also reached out to a number of theatre companies offering to help write something for their programme, or to ask them to have an open discussion with the audience about how much the play differs from reality, TO NO AVAIL.

  14. PS to my own comment, and that of Rachel Walker; I mentioned this furore to some colleagues in an am-dram performance tonight. Their reaction? Why didn’t Shakespeare write accurate history?
    Because he was born and brought up in Tudor England so was unlikely to know any different…
    If history is written by the winners, then anyone who has the brass neck to backdate his reign by 24 hours to make those loyal to the reigning king traitors could give Goebbels lessons in propaganda
    But we are where we are. Richard has been buried with honours in the town nearest to where he fell. One play is not going to alter that – and it’s worth noting that the Earls of Strathmore have more than once allowed MacBeth to be performed at Glamis without having a hissy fit. Matt is right – it’s a cynical bid for publicity

    1. Maggie, it is not about the play as such, we all know it will continue to be performed, but it is about respect for the dead. And shame on the Earls of Strathmore if the same situation exists there (I know nothing about the real MacBeth, except that he wasn’t as Shakespeare portrayed – I assume he is buried at Glamis?). Also, I strongly object to the term ‘hissy fit’. I know many Ricardians do get offended at the drop of a hat, but I am not one of them. I have remained neutral in the York v Leicester debate as I can see both sides of the argument. I have visited Richard’s tomb at Leicester many times and was there for the re-interment, which I thought was done well, not perfectly, but well. I try to judge everything for myself (for example, the new windows – I liked them – and the Visitor Centre, most of it was very good and the ‘grave site’ I thought was very well done. So I am not prone to hissy fits. This is about honouring their promise and respecting the dead. I will change my neutral opinion of Leicester in the future if they continue with this; it’s such a shame because the people of Leicester are some of the most helpful and friendly I have ever met, but the Dean et al are dishonouring the whole city by their crass actions.

    2. Hi,Maggie
      When you posted this comment,I was in in correspondence with everyone affected,so I didn’t post anything here or anywhere else.Please,have a look at my posts here on Matt,s blog yesterday.
      Your comment is a typical example of the result of the brainwashing we were are victims of.There is nothing wrong with Shakespeare grotesque play,a parody of Tudor lies with.a character which is not remotely similar to Richard.It is more similar to Tudor,because it is him.
      All this about Tudor England is the core of the problem.Shakespeare was Ricardian and he was misinterpreted to hide certain facts that may be very unpleasant from the point of view of the establishment that has its roots in the Tudors.Elizabeth was not happy to be a Tudor,so she understood and tolerated Shakespeare’s attacks against her grandfather.
      Today’s Anglican Church ,Leicester Cathedral may use the cynically misinterpreted Shakespeare serving today’s power,but this could be a great occasion for Ricardians to point out that Shakespeare was misinterpreted. Compl aiming against Shakespeare himself only keeps the outrageous lies about him,the Elizabethan age and the real historic scale of the problem alive.

  15. Hi Matt, great to see you at SRH the other day – we miss you but very pleased you are keeping up the great work you are so good at! I thought that, as a king, Richard should have had a place at Westminster Abbey like many of the rest, but I think he was given the good send off that he finally deserved. Shakespeare, like all writers past and present, is allowed ‘artistic licence’ – I would like to think anyone with intelligence enough to appreciate Shakespeare would have intelligence enough to realise that it is ‘just a play’, not factual and that it has actually made more people, like yourself, more interested and determined to find out the truth about the man. Where facts are not known, I really love speculation and different interpretations of what may or may not have happened, which is why I’m a big fan of your fiction (please don’t keep me waiting forever for the next installment!!) but like you, I am incensed when known historical facts are mis-reported and the public mis-lead – I will never forget Dan Snow once stating on The One Show many years ago that Henry VIII had chopped Wolsey’s head off and stolen Hampton Court from him! Look forward to reading your thoughts in future!

    1. The petition isn’t about whether Shakespeare is right or wrong or fiction or fact, but that it portrays Richard badly and therfore shouldn’t be performed in the Cathedral where he rests.

      But actually, many intelligent people do think Shakespeare is true, because he has such a revered reputation and was alive nearer to the time in question. I think the best plan would be, as Matthew mentioned, to try to contact whoever is putting it on and see if a note could be added to their programmes, just giving some of the truth – that would make them think.

      1. I have been in touch with Antic Disposition and we’ve had some discussion. I’m hoping they’ll come back to me and that we can work together to make this valuable for their ticket holders as well as providing something factual and useful to counteract the ‘Shakespeare Effect’.

  16. That’s encouraging. I too signed the petition since I think the staging close to the King’s tomb shows a shameful insensitivity to hos followers and lack of respect for an anointed King of England. But I too found the endless agitating about a York burial tedious in the extreme, once the decision was taken. And family is from York!

    1. What I find tedious is the often repeated opinion that somehow, York would not have ‘used’ a Ricardian reburial there for tourism purposes. I remember clearly the response of the York MPs when Richard was identified speaking about the wonderful opportunities for tourism in the city if he was reburied there.

      As Richard was eventually reburied in Leicester, we will never know what York would have done, but the idea that the place is somehow ‘purer’ than anywhere else is rather odd. Perhaps people have not seen the skeleton from Towton displayed in a museum there. Or visited the Henry VII Experience. Or the Jorvik Centre.

      1. I agree with you Jasmine – whoever had the honour of reinterring his remains would have used him for tourism. I’m not sure other places would have done this, though. I have always tried to remian neutral on the location, but this really stinks!

      2. It doesn’t matter where Richard iii was buried, his tomb would attract tourism and in fact any famous King or Queen would and always have done. Monasteries and Cathedrals have always had their famous Saint who drew in the crowds and if not a saint, then a King would do the same job. Why? Because they were considered sacred and would be a valuable source of income. York has plenty of sacred tombs and history and has always drawn pilgrims and tourism. In fact a pilgrimage was just another form of tourist. In York there’s a museum for just about everyone who ever came to the city. You can even visit the cell and grave of the highwayman Dick Turpin. London and Canterbury are other places with Kings and Saints coming out of the stonework. Windsor has Henry Viii and Worcester King John and Prince Arthur, the first husband of Katherine of Aragon, who is buried in Peterborough. Tourism is big business and always will be. Yes, it’s a shame that Richard iii has become an attraction, but he is one of the most famous and controversial Kings in history. We have fought long to get people to recognise his true legacy as a law maker and just King, which the centre in Leicester tries to promote. However, you can’t stop people wanting to visit his tomb. That’s the whole point of it being accessible to the public. I have never seen any one disrespect his tomb on a visit. Everything is done to make people show respect. It would not matter where he was buried, people would still come to his tomb. It’s just not on to perform a play which maligned him there and an alternative exists next door in the Civic Centre/ Guildhall.

  17. It is an odd decision, Joanne, and not one I am particularly comfortable with. However, the Dean does have a point when he said that Richard does not belong to one particular section of society, but to the nation as a whole. I am sure that if you asked the general public, 99.9% of them would wonder what all the fuss is about.

    1. Not the ones I’ve spoken to. And actually Richard doesn’t ‘belong’ to anyone, except maybe God. And the Dean consistently acts as if only he and Leicester ‘own’ Richard so all I can say is ‘pot, kettle, black’.

  18. I have signed the petition regarding the play being performed in Leicester Cathedral because King Richard is buried there. It seems very inappropriate. However, I have no objection to the play being performed elsewhere with a disclaimer that the play is not historic and has been challenged by numerous scholars and people with a genuine interest in knowing the truth about the life of Richard iii and should only be seen as drama. Maybe the performance at Middleham should be reconsidered or again perhaps be accompanied by a historic discussion. If Leicester feel very strongly that the play should be performed and let’s not forget we are talking about free speech here, then there is the Civic Centre next door which is part of the old Guildhall, a traditional place for staging Medieval plays. Why not perform the play there? There is plenty of room and in fact it seems more likely to attract a good audience. Again a few words about the context of Shakespeare’s play and it’s inaccurate content could be said before hand.

  19. Matt, this is a proof of the fact that Shakespeare’s interpretation MUST be set right. have written about this issue to the Cathedral,the theatre group and the Richard III Society.In all my emails I stressed that Shakespeare was the greatest Ricardian ever,the misinterpretation insults him as much as it insults Richard.If the theatre performed the real Shakespeare,showing that the figure named Richard iii is a product of Richmond’s mind,the same actor playing the two roles,it would only honour Richard.

  20. And I find it very sad that the Society in ,the Ricardian Bulletin of which I published articles about this subject,simply ignores what several of us have been trying to make them see for years.:that Shakespeare is misinterpreted.I actually wrote to the Chairman of the Society,that yes,they should sponsor performances of several anti-Tudor Shakespeare plays,King John which is an anti-Tudor allegory,this grotesque Richard iii the play that made me a stout Ricardian,because I understood it etc…
    William Bliss published a book ,The Real Shakespeare,in 1949suggesting what I know for sure,that Shakespeare was Ricardian.Now this is among the rare,out of print books. I am struggling in very bad circumstances in Stupid Spain where they only wanted me to be a silly,unthinking teacher of English,Present Simple,Present Continuous…
    I have just re-edited and published in physical form my book about the Ricardian Shakespeare. Among us,few authors who recognized the truth,you are in far the best position. What drove me almost literally mad last year,that those who wrote about the misinterpreted Shakespeare all their lives,WANT TO SILENCE us,but you are in the best position to really set this right after all,don’t let them silence you about Shakespeare or change your mind.
    Here,in my country of origin Hungary ,where I am now, something is moving.I have called the attention of some people to it.You can do much more in England,Matt

  21. When I tried to convince the Richard iii Society to research the Elizabethan Age because according to my interpretation of Shakespeare,it was much more Ricardian than previously thought,not one,several persons seemed to be interested.Later they all seemed to change their minds.What is going on?
    I actually wrote in my email to Mr Stone,the Chairman,that they could be in the strongest possible position.If a theatre wants to perform another wrong and false and wicked misinterpretation of Shakespeare’s grotesque drama,the Society could point out the misinterpretation of our greatest ally. Or what if a theatre performed the real Shakespeare after all?Then the Society would have no reason to complain at all.
    But I am afraid that it is not so farfetched what I published in my book,my website,and several places: power,the establishment in the U K having its roots in the Tudors, some people are scared of the conclusions that will be drawn once the whole truth about the Elizabethan Age comes to the surface.
    The brainwashed public has no clue about the scale of all this.And people who represent the truth,are oppressed in stupid countries like Spain.This was why I published my book in a hurry last year despite its serious editing errors .We must not let anyone silence and totally ignore us
    Eva Burian who is really pretty hopeless but does not give in

    1. Hi Eva – I had your book on my Kindle, well a sample, and this reminded me about it – I have lots of ‘to be read’ books on there. So I read the sample and have now downloaded the whole book – your analysis is really interesting. One point so far – when I was studying Shakespeare (Coriolanus) for A-level, we were taught that a ‘Tragedy’ as depicted by Shakespeare referred to a person who caused their own downfall through character flaws. So Romeo and Juliet would not qualify since it is more a matter of misunderstanding and bad timing. I remember arguing that Coriolanus was a tragedy, that he was a ‘tragic hero’ because he had the flaw of uncontrolled anger. WRT Richard III, this would suggest that Richard was the cause of his own downfall because of character flaws, so how would you reconcile this with your theories? Thanks!

      1. Hi,JrLarner
        Thanks for your comment and finding my theory interesting.Well,I don’t really reconcile this what you say with my theory.We all have character flaws.Practically all.I have become pretty hysterical because of my bad situation in Spain,for instance.But what if Richard was one of the few of us who were on his way to become a saint?And he fell victim precisely of this?Someone suggested that he also thinks that Shakespeare was obsessed with Richard,and he sees more in Hamlet than my theory.As you know I also suggest that Hamlet is an important play from the Ricardian point of view,but this person goes further and suggests that Hamlet is the character who develops from wavering individual to the saint who sacrifices his own peace of mind and even his life,like Richard did.
        I don’t know.Maybe this was in Shakespeare’s mind.
        One thing is sure.Richard may or not have been a saint.Either way,he did not fall victim of his character flaws,because his rival was an absolute villain.And this is the core of my sad,but true theory.Because of my flaws and limitations,of course,i can be wrong about many things. Not this one.Shakespeare’s whole oeuvre is not only anti-Tudor,but it also portrayed the tragically truth of human history,that evil is stronger than good. You know,if you read my book that I even.stress that perhaps Richard was not a good politician because he was a good person.
        I suggest to see the whole thing from the point of view of the villainy of the Tudor camp.Richard could have his flaws,but a perfect villain defeated him with the help of other perfect villains,traitors. In our schools we were not educated to see this.This is very unpleasant for the powerful.They don’t want people to realize that strong and lasting power and evil are allies.This is why I think that all this goes far beyond the concrete tragical case….

      2. Hi,JrLarner
        Thanks for your comment and finding my theory interesting.Well,I don’t really reconcile this what you say with my theory.We all have character flaws.Practically all.I have become pretty hysterical because of my bad situation in Spain,for instance.But what if Richard was one of the few of us who were on his way to become a saint?And he fell victim precisely of this?Someone suggested that he also thinks that Shakespeare was obsessed with Richard,and he sees more in Hamlet than my theory.As you know I also suggest that Hamlet is an important play from the Ricardian point of view,but this person goes further and suggests that Hamlet is the character who develops from wavering individual to the saint who sacrifices his own peace of mind and even his life,like Richard did.
        I don’t know.Maybe this was in Shakespeare’s mind.
        One thing is sure.Richard may or not have been a saint.Either way,he did not fall victim of his character flaws,because his rival was an absolute villain.And this is the core of my sad,but true theory.Because of my flaws and limitations,of course,i can be wrong about many things. Not this one.Shakespeare’s whole oeuvre is not only anti-Tudor,but it also portrayes the tragic truth of human history,that evil is stronger than good. You know,if you read my book that I even.say that perhaps Richard was not a good politician because he was a good person.
        I suggest to see the whole thing from the point of view of the villainy of the Tudor camp.Richard could have his flaws,but a perfect villain defeated him with the help of other perfect villains,traitors. In our schools we were not educated to see this.This is very unpleasant from the point of view of the powerful.They don’t want people to realize that strong and lasting power and evil are allies.This is why I think that all this goes far beyond the concrete tragical case….

  22. Matt,I am sending this message to you,rather than to anyone else who might read it.I have been discussing this issue on LinkedIn, the only social media I am wiling to use.In the Shakespeare group someone answered that the theatre wants to perform the unfortunate play as a dark comedy.This triggered a new series of posts and emails of mine,because I was horrified at the blindness of some brainwashed persons at the Richard iii Society.As you say,they are their own enemies–and those of Richard!
    The interpretation of the theatre is very near mine.As I wrote to some members of the Society,and I also posted two days ago on LinkedIn,they should only show why it is a dark comedy,and they would honour Richard’s memory much better than people like the woman who urged the digging up of Richard’s bones,but according to her declaration on the site of the Society,though a script writer,she is unable to recognize some elemental characteristics of the oeuvre of a playwright.She will never admit how wrong she was about Shakespeare.But there are some more open-minded people at the Society.They informed me that the Society is divided about this issue as about many other issues.
    I suggested that the should still collaborate with the theatre.The theatre to which I also wrote.But they might have taken some part of their interpretation from us,Ricardian authors and researchers whose posts and articles and books have been public for years.
    The Society that made the huge error of this pathetic protest,did not mind two years ago that there were insulting articles on the King Richard In Leicester website,and that copies of the Olivier film were sold without understanding and explaining that the character is not Richard.I did.I wrote to Leicester Cathedral about the issue.So they knew about my Ricardian interpretation of Shakespeare’s oeuvre.Maybe they were open to it and the unfortunate behaviour of the Society did harm to something that could have been very good.
    Please,try to influence future events knowing about all this.Some people at the Society should acknowledge that they did not understand Shakespeare. That is the only thing that helps.We all make mistakes.I have just tried to correct some huge editing mistakes in my book that were in it,because last year I published bit without polishing thinking that I could die soon.I was horrified to see what mistakes I left in it last year,only because I could not bring myself to review it I was so hysterical at the time.
    But the mistake of the members of the Society not understanding their greatest ally,Shakespear e,has grave consequences! Please,help them to open their minds
    Eva Burian

    1. You have agood point, Eva, but as you say, many do not see the possibility that Shakespeare was not portraying Richard seriously. Therefore, at the moment, the performing of this play still constitutes an insult to Richard. In any case, it should not be performed in the vicinity of his grave. The production company, I’m sure, still sees it as portraying Richard, even if they are doing it as a comedy, unfortunately.
      BTW, I have now finished your book and I was impressed by your arguments and the examples you gave, quotes, etc. You have obviously spent a great deal of time researching it. I will give you a review when I get time!

      1. jrlarner
        Thanks so much for your observations and offering me a review.I never asked anyone on the internet to do it,though many forums suggest it to authors
        As far as the unfortunate grotesque drama is concerned,I agree with you that the theatre may be malicious,not knowing what they are doing.On LinkedIn I even posted that their interpretation is near mine,but it might be sheer instinct without understanding what the comic nature of the play really means.But it might be what I suggested yesterday,that they had read some of our. articles,Matt’s and mine and our ideas influenced them.
        Either way,the Society should have reacted more constructively. Collaborating with the theatre,they could have pushed them towards a great Ricardian performance.It would only help to set things right,not insulting Richard at all.
        And their version being so near the mocking grotesque drama interpretation,perhaps they could still be contacted about the issue.This was what I suggested to some members of the Society.
        It is in my book,and very clearly on my website that we were partly deliberately misled about Shakespeare because of political reasons.It is not shameful if someone has not noticed this,if he or she does not claim to be a dramaturgy expert.You mislead me as you wish about astronomy, for instance.This is normal.The problem are those people who belong to the world of film and theatre and the theory of dramaturgy,still,they are not willing or unable to open their minds.
        Perhaps the artists of this theatre don’t want to present themselves as professionally bad halfwits. The tragedy of Richard iii would be the worst play ever written if it portrayed Richard.Stressing the comic elements the theatre is very near the truth ,that of course,the comic character ,not even remotely similar to him ,is not Richard.

  23. It would not be fair not to correct what I posted here previously about Philippa Langley. I suggested that she did not understand Shakespeare.Since then I exchanged a few emails with her.she acknowledges that Shakespeare’s oeuvre can be interpreted as a great Ricardian oeuvre.But she thought that now,at the time of this controversial performance in Leicester,given the total misinformation of the public about the playwright, the protest she published on her website and that of the Richard iii Society,would be the best way to do about it.
    Of course,I answered and I repeat it here,that she got this wrong.If primitive,limited minded so-called scholars have misled everybody about Shakespeare,we,enlightened Ricardians,should grab any occasion like this one to spread the light about the issue…
    Eva Burian

  24. I meant,to do something about it,but the word ‘something’ is missing from the above post.

    Bad,limited internet access on a cheap tablet.People who see the light,struggle in these circumstances,while halfwits who serve establishments ,,spread their lies and stupid misinterpretations having strong propaganda machineries supporting them

  25. It would not be fair not to correct what I posted here previously about Philippa Langley. I suggested that she did not understand Shakespeare.Since then I exchanged a few emails with her.she acknowledges that Shakespeare’s oeuvre can be interpreted as a great Ricardian oeuvre.But she thought that now,at the time of this controversial performance in Leicester,given the total misinformation of the public about the playwright, the protest she published on her website and that of the Richard iii Society,would be the best way to do somethhing about it.
    Of course,I answered and I repeat it here,that she got this wrong.If primitive,limited minded so-called scholars have misled everybody about Shakespeare,we,enlightened Ricardians,should grab any occasion like this one to spread the light about the issue…
    Eva Burian

  26. Good piece, yet in a strange way, like the Midlleham Castle production, producing the lay litteraly over Richard’s grave would be a good way to harness interes in Rechard beyond the piece of political fiction. The reputation the play bestows on Richard is as much a part of Richard’s history as what he actually did. but that need to be qualified in considering when and why it was written (both with the Shakespearean as well as historical contexts)

    This becomes an occasion to explore how the Tudor dynasty established its credentials on a moral base that would inevitably lead to the collapse of Monarchy as a viable political institution in England. morailty has surprisingly little to do with power: indeed the Valois never used morality as a justification, thus reinforcing the political force of the monarchy in France.

    In short, the play participates in the ‘Richard III effect’, in which the new dynasty establishes its creds by discrediting the preceding dynasty (it is the common practice since William the conquerer) The Stuarts would try to hold power but fifty years after this infamous play, they would be swept aside; when the monarchy was ‘restored,’ it was much more for the pretty pagentry than for any political need.

    Finally, it would be useful to address Shakespeare’s sources (particularly More) as well as the prevalent social and political pressures that shaped the play. The value of the play is in its explorations of the abuse of power. Henry V is in many ways designed to negate that royal image (and perversely, in fact, tends to reinforce it: Richard III could not exist withouth Henry V, and vice versa).

    Whether Shakespeare’s play is produced in Leicester is in fact trivial. And participating in the brouhaha continues to trvialize the actual historical and literary issues that any production of the play should engage…

    1. At the time of the Leicester production I exchanged messages with Philippa Langley,who published a horrible article and gave interviews that only did harm.There are guys who want to silence us who recognized the real Shakespeare ,but they enjoy what Philippa is doing repeating the official lies.She promised to read my book.I cross fingers that she opens her mind.Misguided Ricardians like her do the job for the monarchy keeping alive the lies about the in reality Ricardian Shakespeare.
      I agree that this has to do with the Tudor-founded monarchy.But don’t you notice that what you call the bru-ha-ha,it is o.k.Shakespeare’s whole oeuvre is anti-Tudor,but Richard iii is a grotesque parody of Tudor lies.It IS a grotesque tragicomedy,not a realistic play,let alone one portraying Richard.

    2. The ‘brouhaha’ as you describe it, was for reasons of dignity and respect for a person’s grave and whether or not Shakespeare was depicting Tudor propaganda, the ‘Richard III effect’ or was a grotesque tragicomedy is irrelevant while the general public believe it is based on the ‘fact’ of him being an evil murdering tyrant. I think Eva has a point but, until is it more widely publicised, at the moment it is portraying Richard in a negative light.
      I find it appalling that you say protesting about the play being produced ‘litteraly (sic) over Richard’s grave’ trivialises ‘the actual historical and literary issues that any production of the play should engage’ – he was a real person and should have a right to rest in peace. Any discussion of the plays merits or otherwise can take place elsewhere – having the play where he is buried is not necessary for that.

      1. Dear jrlarner
        You answered to both of us in the same post,to Francis Mickus and myself.I try to follow your exampe and refer to the posts of both of you.
        I sympathize with the ‘litterally ‘mistake,because in WordPress it is impossible to correct errors.You either delete the whole post or you post it with the errors that are often those of hitting the wrong button accidentally or your stupid tablet changing words etc.
        And more things.Yesterday I wrote a longer and better comment and when I wanted to post it,it flew away,it didn’t get posted.Then,already upset about it,I wrote the shorter and less elaborate comment. Which is posted.
        The tragical thing is that I struggled with similar technical problems writing my book too.It was very nice of you in the summer to offer your help to spread my findings a little.They are not more widely publicized because there are people who deliberate ly try to silence me.They silenced William Bliss too whose book The Real Shakespeare,was published in 1949.You can read about it in my book.
        The BBc,the Shakespeare Institution and others were not willing to deal with the problem of the misinterpreted Shakespeare.They want to keep the official lies alive because of what Francis mentioned:this has to do with the whole British establishment of monarchs descendants of the Tudors.And the idiotic ‘scholars’who wrote the stupid things about Shakespeare and More!! It is their interest to suppress the truth.But I think that when a misguided audience laughs at a comic performance of The tragedy of Richard iii,they don’t know perhaps,but they laugh at Tudor lies and the above mentioned immoral idiots who keep those lies alive.They don’t laugh at Richard,because the play never portrayed him.I really appreciate if you help this truth become as you say,more widely spread.
        Eva Burian

      2. Dear jrlarner
        You answered to both of us in the same post,to Francis Mickus and myself.I try to follow your exampe and refer to the posts of both of you.
        I sympathize with the ‘litterally ‘mistake,because in WordPress it is impossible to correct errors.You either delete the whole post or you post it with the errors that are often those of hitting the wrong button accidentally or your stupid tablet changing words etc.
        And more things.Yesterday I wrote a longer and better comment and when I wanted to post it,it flew away,it didn’t get posted.Then,already upset about it,I wrote the shorter and less elaborate comment. Which is posted.
        The tragical thing is that I struggled with similar technical problems writing my book too.It was very nice of you in the summer to offer your help to spread my findings a little.They are not more widely publicized because there are people who deliberate ly try to silence me.They silenced William Bliss too whose book The Real Shakespeare,was published in 1949.You can read about it in my book.
        The BBc,the Shakespeare Institution and others were not willing to deal with the problem of the misinterpreted Shakespeare.They want to keep the official lies alive because of what Francis mentioned:this has to do with the whole British establishment of monarchs descendants of the Tudors.And the idiotic ‘scholars’who wrote the stupid things about Shakespeare and More!! It is their interest to suppress the truth.But I think that when a misguided audience laughs at a comic performance of The tragedy of Richard iii,they don’t know perhaps,but they laugh at Tudor lies and the above mentioned immoral idiots who keep those lies alive.They don’t laugh at Richard,because the play never portrayed him.I really appreciate if you help this truth become as you say,more widely spread.Let us not allow the bad guys prevail.In Hungary I convinced some people to do something about it,but there this is not such a well-known issue.
        Eva Burian

  27. Well said, Matt. A positive approach is always the better route. I’m very glad I found your blog. I got here by a Richard III Society FB post. Hope to read your recent book. Thanks for speaking your mind so eloquently.

  28. I ask you,Kristine and mainly Matt to take a look at my richardiiiandallill-treated website in a week or so where i will post an article about the scale of this thing. Many people at the RIII Society too,want to silence those who recognized the truth about Shakespeare
    Eva Burian

  29. The article is titled Brexit,The Catalan crisis and Shakespeare. I offered it to a newspaper,perhaps they publish it as a letter like Leicester Mercury did this summer when I wrote to them about the Ricardian Shakeapeare,but either way,they publish it somehow or not,I will put it on my site richardiiiandallill-treated.simplesite.com

  30. Thank you,Matt,for the signal you sent me after my posts of yesterday. This morning I uploaded the article ,it is on richardiiiandallill-treated.simplesite.com
    Please,take a look. And I ask everyone interested in the misinterpreted Shakespeare to take a look and try to do something about the issue,against the malice and dogmatism of some people and the misguided ignorance of some others even at Ricardian organizations who want to silence the truth about Shakespeare .

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