Machiavellian Monster or Misunderstood Monarch?: Richard III and the Battle for the English Throne
By Dusty Lankford
Oklahoma Christian University Journal of Historical Studies, Vol.20 (2012)
Introduction: William Shakespeare’s image of Richard III as a deformed, Machiavellian tyrant consumed with his own greedy obsession for power has long plagued the truth behind Richard III’s time on the English throne. Most contemporary scholars agree that Shakespeare’s play was largely a work of propaganda meant to discredit King Richard III and promote the Tudor reign. Nevertheless, Shakespeare’s work of fiction does capture some of the spirit of Richard III’s rise to power and the controversy regarding his reign. This research endeavors to separate fact from fiction and to present a well-considered history of Richard III’s rise to power and his reasons for appropriating the English crown. Richard III certainly had a personal agenda, but he was also motivated to save England and its people from power hungry upstarts who wanted to control both king and kingdom. Though Richard III’s actions may have appeared both brutal and tyrannical, they were meant to protect England. Unfortunately for Richard, he was unable to maintain power long enough to fortify his reign.
Perhaps the saying “history is written by the victors,” is never more true than when looking at the sources for Richard III’s rise to power and his reign in England. Much like Shakespeare’s writings, many other sources for Richard’s reign are shrouded in controversy about their agenda and their historical accuracy. Many sources were written years or decades after Richard’s reign had ended, and some information was skewed in order to endorse the rulers of the time, the Tudors. Understanding these issues is important to any analysis of Richard III and the literature concerning his reign. With this understanding, a deeper picture of Richard’s time in power comes into focus and his motives and failures can be better reviewed.
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