Bloom, Harold. . New York: Riverhead Books, 1998.

Let us look at the gothic potential of Richard and Hitler. What sources do we need? If you are studying gothic fiction, the notes and sites you have examined thus fair should have helped you define (at least potentially) those classical and Romantic period sources that shaped gothic sensibilities:

Fromm Eric. . N.Y.: Avon Books, 1966.

Kendall. Paul. . N.Y.; W.W. Norton, 1983.

Sacco, Peter. . New York: Oxford University PRess, 1978.

I had the pleasure of seeing McKellen perform the role at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. as well as viewing the film of course, and the performances more than validated Bloom's thesis. The War of the Roses became World War II, and Richard's / Hitler's personality emerged as the dominate focus, which of course is what Shakespeare intended all along. The character of the totalitarian mind has not changed. Shakespeare knew Hitler very well. It's too bad the Allies didn't in 1924, but as Bloom reminds us, we are just catching up to Shakespeare.

How does this character of Richard jibe with the historical Richard?

The princes in the Tower, as his nephews came to be known, are not so easily dismissed. Richard undeniably was behind the denunciation of Edward IV's marriage, which legally rendered his two sons bastards. The two princes could have represented a lingering point of contention. Rumors of their demise were circulating as early as 1483. Sir James Tyrrell in 1501 reportedly confessed to the murder on Richard's orders, but this is suspect as his confession came while being tortured on charges of treason.


SECOND CITIZEN: Ay, sir, it is too true; God help the while!

Historically, it's unlikely that Richard was a deformed little hunchback (with a withered arm, no less). Short, perhaps, but not deformed. Richard was at worst somewhat "frail and sickly" as a child according to some sources. That description could be applied to most children in Elizabethan times thanks to disease and the state of the era's medical learning. As for Richard in adulthood, he was well acquainted with battle as an active participant in the Wars of the Roses. He was a 32-year-old man trained in armored combat with a sword—from horseback and on foot—at the time of his death. That's hardly a portrait of deformity.

THIRD CITIZEN: Then, masters, look to see a troublous world.

Meditating on Bloom's comments invites us to stand in awe of Shakespeare's universality that transcends time and place. Directors face a dilemma with the histories. Shakespeare's first tetrology was begun by 1590, and concluded with Richard III late in 1591 (Arden edition, p. 61). He, through various chroniclers, including Hall and Holinshed, dramatized events in the great English civil war fought between 1400 (the deposing and murdering of Richard II) and 1485 (the death of Richard III at Bosworth Field). Of these plays, , Bloom's favorite due to Falstaff, and (Winston Churchill's favorite in World War II) have enjoyed continued success on stage and film: Churchill asked Olivier to direct and star in during the world war to bolster English spirits against Nazi terror.

FIRST CITIZEN: Yes, that the King is dead.

Richard certainly didn't appear overly concerned by the boys' disappearance, but they were even more of an obstruction to Henry VII's legitimacy. Henry repealed the act that made the princes bastards, although he ordered that all copies be destroyed without reading them into the record. He certainly never made much of an effort to determine their fate; curiously, Henry's original act of attainder against Richard didn't even mention the murder of the princes when he presented it to Parliament. The truth behind Richard's involvement—or innocence—in the disappearance will likely never reveal itself, obscured by time and Tudor historians.

I fear, I fear 'twill prove a giddy world.

So then what is the dilemma? By 1591, the War of the Roses had been over for more than one hundred years. One must wonder how much the average Elizabethan playgoer (who indeed new and cared more of history than Americans do) was able to recall the confusing maze of Lancastrian and Yorkist family trees. For Americans establishing relevance creates more challenges. Our lack of knowledge of our own revolutionary and civil war is appalling, so how much less do we know or care about a medieval English civil war--Edward who, we ask?

FIRST CITIZEN: Give you good morrow, sir.

Richard enacted a number of legal reforms during his brief time on the throne. His legislation ended benevolences (arbitrary taxes), protected landowner rights, and improved the judicial system to provide more rights to defendants. At the very least, though, he seized an opportunity to gain the throne in a power play at the end of the Wars of the Roses. Perhaps he was as sinister as advertised, perhaps not. History may have remembered Richard more kindly had his reign been longer, or if the subsequent dynasty had been Yorkist rather than Tudor.