A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
I can add colours to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
And set the murd’rous Machiavel to school.
Henry VI, Pt 3. Act III, Scene 2.
Richard the Third, King of England, is a man standing in the shadows.
Five hundred and twenty-three years ago, he went down fighting on Bosworth Field and almost immediately controversy began to swirl around him.
Did he order the murder of the child king, Edward V and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury? Were they, in fact, murdered at all? Does it even matter?
Was he a monster, a saint, or a just a man – as ruthless as a Mediaeval king needed to be?
Shakespeare famously (and indeed gleefully) climbed aboard the ‘monster’ bandwagon, to superb dramatic effect … but even though his Richard was the mentally and physically deformed degenerate the Tudors wanted the world to see, he gave us a phrase that fits The Last Plantagenet king perfectly. From this distance, he’s a chameleon and a shape-shifter … apparently changing according to the background, the light and the position of the observer.
We won’t be providing any definitive answers this week, but we will – we hope – be offering a reasonably balanced overview of the most controversial and enigmatic monarch England has ever known.
On Monday, I start the ball rolling with a few (very) random thoughts on Shakespeare’s incomparable Richard III … an unsurpassed study in pure, unapologetic villainy.
On Tuesday, Richard III Week continues with Jackie reviewing, in her own words: “One of the most popular retellings of the story of the tragic king, Sharon Kay Penman’s somber The Sunne in Splendor.”
Emma Darwin has centre stage on Wednesday, talking about how and why she centred her new novel, A Secret Alchemy, on Richard III’s enemies, and why she’s ordered a bullet-proof vest for publication day . . .
Historian Dr Gillian Polack joins us on Thursday and explains why the real villain of the piece is – in fact – Sir John Everett Millais. (She thinks she might like to borrow Emma’s bullet-proof vest if she has no immediate need for it.)
On Friday, Rosy uses Richard III Week as another excuse to waffle on about Shakespeare in film with Olivier’s and McKellen’s versions figuring in there somewhere.
It’s me again on Saturday (sorry …) with a review of Richard III: The Maligned King by Annette Carson – the first major positive reassessment of the reign of Richard for over 25 years. (There’ll be a giveaway too …. one freebie copy is up for grabs.)
Finally, on Sunday, Annette herself will be joining us to close the week, in a chat covering aerobatics, rock music and (eventually, when we got around to it) whether or not the truth about Richard III actually matters.
Comments throughout the week are open to everyone: please feel free to join in. If at least ONE knock-down drag-out doesn’t develop we’ll be deeply disappointed …
(The wonderfully moody photograph of the statue of Richard III in Castle Gardens, Leicester is reproduced with the kind permission of the photographer, Kevin Tebbutt – kev747 on Flickr.)