“Now is the winter of our discontent…”

So begins the dialogue of my favorite Shakespeare play ever… Richard III.  Also probably one of my favorite characters, ever.

The other day I read a Yahoo! article that took on a CSI: Roses tone and  detailed Richard’s death, from the wounds that probably didn’t kill him, to the blow on the back of the head that probably did, to the spiteful dagger through the backside after his death.  Quick, it asserted, but terrifying.  Probably nothing like the ending of Ian McKellan’s movie, where Richard dies smiling.  Cheeky bastard.

But that is Richard, as Shakespeare characterizes him.  Wicked, a wizard with language, blessed with acerbic wit, and full of self-loathing.  There is something about a villain who hates himself that the reader/viewer finds very appealing… it makes him (in this case Richard) seem approachable, especially in comparison to the saintly Henry Tudor.  I admit, I identify to a point with Richard… I have a decent way with words, admittedly though I am not an orator, I can have a biting tongue, and for years I cringed away from my reflection in the mirror.  When my now fiance first told me that he was interested in me romantically, I got off the phone and started, unfortunately, to quote the scene after Richard successfully woos Lady Anne.

“Upon my life, she finds, although I cannot,
Myself to be a marv’lous proper man.
I’ll be at charges for a looking glass
And entertain a score or two of tailors
To study fashions to adorn my body.
Since I am crept in favor with myself.
Shine out fair sun, until I have bought a glass,
That I may see my shadow as a pass.”
And then I fell downstairs.
I took it as an omen that I should not be Richard, and with a lot of unkingly words, picked myself up.  And just as well, for whether one believes the Bard and Saint Sir Thomas More, or not, the last English king to die in battle maintains an evil reputation.  The discovery of his makeshift, undignified grave even showed that he suffered from scoliosis– that part of the play and More’s history not being pure propaganda after all.  Go figure.
Historical debates aside, though, Richard III is still one of Shakespeare’s greatest characters, and what a lucky day for historians when he was discovered!  As the morbid poem that immediately popped up on the Internet goes, “Roses are red, smothered nephews are blue. I’d wait 500 years under a car park for you.”  Definitely not Shakespeare, but not bad.