“Sin, death, and hell have set their marks on him,
And all their ministers attend on him.”
The news that the remains of Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England, have been found is truly stunning — especially for those of us who regard the portrayal of him by Shakespeare as the consummate stage villain (a man even worse, if it can be believed, than most depictions of me). His death at the Battle of Bosworth Field is considered by many to mark the end of the English Middle Ages.
“And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With odd, old ends stol’n out of holy writ,
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.”
One of the greatest theatrical performances I’ve ever seen was Gary Armagnac playing the title role as Richard III at the Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City a number of years back.
“Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile,
And cry ‘content’ to that which grieves my heart,
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face for all occasions.”
The fact that the royal skeleton was found under a parking lot in Leicester speaks eloquently, whatever one thinks of the actual historical King Richard, of the transience of human glory.
“Conscience is but a word that cowards use,
Devis’d at first to keep the strong in awe:
Our strong arms be our conscience, swords out law.
March on, join bravely, let us to’t pell-mell;
If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell.”