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Was Shakespeare a Tudor Propagandist? He Wrote "Richard III" In 1592, Over 100 Years After The Battle of Bosworth Field

Updated on May 22, 2015

Shakespeare is fiction, not history. It was written for entertainment, as books, films, and television shows are written even now. It was theater, not thesis.

Theater is a "suspension of reality." Is it dramatic? Of course, it is. It is theater. It was never intended to be historically accurate. It was theater back then, at the turn of the century, and it is theater today. Without Shakespeare, would anyone have looked for Richard III's mortal remains? Without Shakespeare would anyone today even know who Richard III was? Even the Ricardians have to admit that Richard III gained his fame as a direct result of Shakespeare's play. Without William Shakespeare would we have the proliferation of all the novels, movies, television series, magazine articles, scientific studies and so forth without having Shakespeare as a catalyst? Lastly, Shakespeare wrote Richard III in 1592. Which Tudor monarch had him write that Tudor propaganda? Elizabeth I was, at the time, very old and would die by 1603. She had nothing to prove or disprove. The English people loved her. They still do.

Shakespeare did not come up with the known facts on his own. He researched and drew on the historical material that was available to him at that time, for all his plays. The basic story already existed, as did the stories about Henry V, Richard II, Henry IV, or any historical figures that Shakespeare made immortal in his great work. Shakespeare did not have the proverbial "axe to grind". He was an artist, and a playwright. To vilify Shakespeare, or his body of work would be patently unfair, and, what's more, it would be slandering Shakespeare, as some people believe Richard III was viciously slandered, and misrepresented. If slandering Richard III was wrong, then so is pillorying the various writers, the sources of what information we have today, that speak about the events of 1483, until the Battle of Bosworth. in 1485. Most of the accounts that deal with the Princes in the Tower, tell the story of the twelve year old, Prince of Wales, and his younger brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, ten years of age. Many of the articles and books that defend Richard III are written without looking at the facts, the foundation, that support what they wrote. Allegations are made without one iota of solid fact to back it up. In 1592, Richard III had been dead for over a hundred years. Shakespeare did not make it up as he went along. The story existed before Shakespeare was even born.

Richard III Reading Shakespeare

Richard III reading Shakespeare's play.  Did Shakespeare make him famous?
Richard III reading Shakespeare's play. Did Shakespeare make him famous? | Source

Richard III Did Not Believe in Due Process or the Rights Under English Law For Those He Had Arrested And, Later, Executed

Richard of Gloucester did not follow the law of the land. Men were arrested by his orders and beheaded on the spot, or imprisoned, and, then, beheaded. They were not allowed to speak and defend themselves, or have anyone speak for them, or to be able to produce evidence, or even to have a mockery of a trial, as Henry VIII did, during his If Richard did not accord these rights to 'his' subjects, then, perhaps, we should treat him as he treated others.

Those who falsely accuse Shakespeare, and others, without any basis in fact, are doing precisely what they accuse William Shakespeare, Thomas More, The Bishop of Ely, and others of doing. Most rely on material already in print stating opinion as facts. They are just parroting, and not looking for the truth themselves.

William Shakespeare as a Young Man

William Shakespeare did not write "Richard III" until 1592, over 100 years after Richard III's death...
William Shakespeare did not write "Richard III" until 1592, over 100 years after Richard III's death... | Source

Did Richard III Usurp His Nephew's Crown?

The allegation has been made Richard of Gloucester was 'forced', against his will, to take the crown that rightfully belonged to his nephew, Edward V, and, then, his brother, Richard of Shrewsbury. The reason is that Edward IV had supposedly had a pre-contract with a woman named Eleanor Talbot. The Church had no record of it happening. Eleanor Talbot never claimed that Edward IV was betrothed to her; her father, John Talbot never made such a claim on behalf of his daughter, Fortunately for Richard III, neither the father or the daughter were alive to speak to the unfounded charges. The man who made the allegations was not a man of God, not a Bishop, not a priest, not a monk, he was merely the brother of the man who "forced' Richard to accept the crown, the politician, Lord Mayor of London Shaa. Ricardians believe this lay person, who had no standing as clergy, and could not back up his accusation with anything tangible or that could back up his statement. He did not have firsthand knowledge because he had married them. He could not have married them or drew up a contract of marriage because, again, he was not affiliated with any Church. Since Cicely of York and her brother Richard were first cousins of Eleanor's mother, the Pope would have had to give them a Dispensation to marry. Edward IV would have been a mere nine years old when Eleanor married her first husband, and became Eleanor Talbot Butler.

In a court of law, the so called marriage contract allegation would be dismissed for lack of evidence. Richard of Gloucester did not defend his brother, King Edward IV, the brother that he, Richard III, supposedly, loved. Richard III could not have believed the allegation that his nieces and nephews were illegitimate at face value, because he had witnessed a previous marriage. Richard would have been about one year old himself, at the time of a marriage contract. When Eleanor married, any prior marriage contact that existed would be null and void. So, we can safely say that Richard did not require any proof of the charges before he accepted them on one man's say so.

Was Richard III a usurper? Almost certainly. Did Richard III have his nephews, the helpless "Princes in the Tower," murdered? Maybe not; there is another person who very likely committed the crime, knowing that Richard III would be blamed, lose support, and, thereby, lose the crown. In a future article, we will all look at each known fact, and look at another suspect.

William Shakespeare Quote

This is what Shakespeare wrote.  This is not a man who would blacken another man's reputation.
This is what Shakespeare wrote. This is not a man who would blacken another man's reputation. | Source

Shakespeare and Richard III

However one feels about the guilt or innocence of Richard of Gloucester. later, Richard III, King of England, we have to ask ourselves one question: If William Shakespeare had not wrote a play about Richard III, would we even be having this discussion? For better or for worse, almost everyone knows who Richard III was, the events of 1483 still fuels debate hundreds of years later. In the future, more books will be written about Richard III, but, Shakespeare will still be read, as well, his plays will still be watched, and people will still marvel at Shakespeare's incredible gift to the world. The Battle of Bosworth Field, fought in 1485, was not the end of Richard III, he lives in literature, plays, television series. People still choose sides as to his culpability in the deaths of us two, helpless nephews in the infamous Tower of London. While Richard III may not have ordered their deaths, no one, not even the Ricardians, can say that Richard III fulfilled his promise to his brother, King Edward IV, in his role of Lord Protector of little Edward V, King of England, and his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York. Their disappearance happened when they were in the Tower of London, under lock and key. Did Richard III keep his little nephews safe? No, he did not.

There is an expression that says, "Bad press is better than no press." Richard III owes his fame to none other than William Shakespeare.

Everyday Quotes by William Shakespeare

Quotes we use every day that came from William Shakespeare
Quotes we use every day that came from William Shakespeare | Source

William Shakespeare

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    • Lynn Weisen profile imageAUTHOR

      Lynn Weisen 

      3 years ago from South Amboy

      Have you read, "The Second Wars of the Roses...Part 2"? After you read it, I think you will agree that all the pieces fit, and that there could only be one man who could have killed the two boys in the Tower of London, and he intentionally pinned the crime on Richard III, to achieve exactly the results that came to pass... and, it almost worked perfectly... he came so close to being king, it gives me goosebumps...

    • Lynn Weisen profile imageAUTHOR

      Lynn Weisen 

      3 years ago from South Amboy

      I absolutely agree that Richard did NOT kill his nephews... I think it may even have been carried out to impugn R3's reputation. People believing that R3 murdered two innocents is what destroyed R3. Many people changed allegiances when R3 could not produce his nephews to refute charges that he had murdered them. If R3 could have displayed them to the public, he would have. R3 did not go looking for them, history tells us that, no record survives that tells us of a manhunt or search. R3 did usurp the crown, a common place occurrence back then, no big deal... the disappearance of those two boys was another matter. If we look at all the facts, and, accept every version of events recorded, the answer is staring right at us, it has been there all along. Do you agree with me about who the real villain was, and his motives?

    • profile image

      evabe 

      3 years ago

      No,you are taking your 'facts' from Tudor propaganda,because it became establishment,it became strong power.Shakespeare wrote his plays to challenge Tudor propaganda,because the Tudor age was a 'glooming peace' for him.But you raise a question with which I nearly agree.

      I depends...Nobody knows what happened to Richard's nephews.IT is very possible that he protected them so well,that hidden,not even the Tudor party,who were clearly plotting to murder them and blame Richard,but even they couldn't find them.

      The other version is nearly what you say.But Richard also lost his own crown,life and everything in two years --so maybe,and I'm inclined to think this:he was a good person,not suited to be a king in those difficult times. He was a good lawmaker,concerned about the welfare of others (a person like this,adding to it that he was loyal to the children's father,would have NEVER murdered his nephews!)--he could have been a good ruler in peace--as he was as the ruler of the NOrth,still loved in York after all these centuries--but he could not cope with the Tudor threat,plottings,calumnies,treason,invasion etc.

      These are sad facts--in this world strength,based on evil is stronger than well-meaning godd-heartedness.So it may have happened to Richard too

      If this version is the truth about him,he still deserves compassion,not all the mud thrown on him ,just repeating what Tudor started-- a proven,unmitigated villain who made Titulus Regius disappear,about whose accusations against Richard now we know for sure,that nearly all were fabrications.Then it's highly unjust to keep on insulting Richard because of one detail,that of the nephews,that we know nothing about--again only the Tudor accusations.He is more than unlikely to have killed them. That he hid them very well together with his own illegitimate children,or he could not protect them well,as he could not protect himself either,this is an interesting question.

    • Lynn Weisen profile imageAUTHOR

      Lynn Weisen 

      3 years ago from South Amboy

      Which facts do I have wrong? As a librarian, I am pretty much hard-wired for documented facts and accuracy. Shakespeare's character in a play is just that, a character in a play. Not history, not presented as fact, written and acted out for entertainment, not as a history lesson. Did R3 usurp the throne? Of course, he did. Was Richard III the only Lord Protector who failed to protect his underage charges? Yes, yes he was... Anyone who, as King, can not keep two small boys, locked in a fortress, safe, does not qualify to be king, himself. At best, R3 was grossly negligent. What I'd like to know is where is the outrage over two, innocent children, who were being "protected" by their loving uncle? R3 was a grown man, who made his choices. What did those small boys do to deserve your indifference to their fate? Are you sure you aren't getting your "facts" from historical fiction books and television shows?

    • profile image

      evabe 

      3 years ago

      If someone doesn't know elemental facts is the author of this outrageous article.I'm writing a book with the title Shakespeare Made Me Love Richard III.

      Shakespeare is full to the brim with anti-Tudor hints,and the misunderstood character is a grotesque parody of the calumnies against Richard

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