Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Shakespeare and Richard III's grave

I have been grappling with Shakespeare's works, for some years now.  I have four notebooks of categorised aspects of his multiple observations. Hence, I feel a bit inspired, now and then, to make some guesses at some of his habitual thoughts, such as on the recovery of the remains of Richard III.

For a start, I think William Shakespeare would be very pleased to be justified in correctly portraying the physical facts of Richard III's distorted spine.  A physician in The Times today confirmed that such a severe scoliosis would, indeed, have caused him to have a  "hunchback". If it had been proved that Shakespeare's portrait of the twisted back was completely untrue, the label of "propagandist for the Tudors" might have carried some weight. As it is, it carries no weight either about Shakespeare or about Sir Thomas More, who wrote the history on which Shakespeare based his play.

Second, we need to recall that William Shakespeare had a really lurid imagination and morbid fascination with death, graves and tombs.  He thought about the smell of skulls (pah!), about people taken for dead coming alive again in vaults of mouldering bones : he conjured the stuff of nightmares in tombs.  His vivid imagination about graves and tombs would have surely led him to note, in his commonplace book, the good state of Richard III's bones after 500 years in the cold earth. As for being able to reconstruct his face, or at least its proportions, he would have some apt wording for facial reconstruction such as "resculpturing his lascivious cheeks".

But, on the negative side, we must recall that the dead rising from the ground is a very bad omen of disordered nature in Shakespeare's works, a strong warning of the overthrow of Rulers.  The opening of the tomb of such a "Machiavel" would surely have given rise to such forebodings. It was rather odd that when Prime Minister Gordon Brown fell, I was not the only one to notice that the conspiracy to topple him took place in Westminster Hall -  where Richard II's murder and downfall was plotted.

Finally, we must recall that Shakespeare threatens to put a curse on anyone who dares to move his own well-preserved bones. "Cursed be he who moves my bones".  This is partly due to material bodies being in an interim state, waiting on Judgment Day. Also the resurrection is a bodily one. It was only this week, that I realised that on Shakespeare's grave there are two Christian references.  First, he refers to "Jesus sake" and then to "the dust enclosed here".   "Dust" is the Biblical name for mortal man, an expression of believing humility.

Richard III was not at all "dust" and his remains should be moved from a car park.  However, I don't support a craze for disturbing the graves of all those who sleep in the earth.  The bones of the two Princes in the Tower, whom Richard III was supposed to have murdered in their sleep, are purported to be in Westminster Abbey but the Abbey refuses to let DNA tests to be done on them (see attached article).

There comes a point at which the Church and we must finally say: "This is a Christian burial site. These bones will stay here until the Trumpet sounds and they rise either to eternal life or to eternal damnation, depending on their repentance and trust in the saving merits of Jesus Christ's death on the Cross, for their sins".


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