British Archaeologists May Have Found a Lost King

Monday, September 17, 2012

Update: British archeologists have confirmed the identity of the skeleton as that of Richard III using DNA testing. 

Last week, British archaeologists announced they’d found what appeared to be the remains of King Richard III. The bones were discovered in a parking lot in the city of Leicester just more than a dozen miles from Bosworth Field, where Richard III became the last English king to die in battle. A preliminary examination of the bones suggests Richard suffered life-ending injuries on the battlefield, a finding consistent with Shakespeare's narrative. 

Anya Saffir, theater director and instructor at the Atlantic Acting School, speaks with The Takeaway about the discoveries, and the play itself.

"There's been a tremendous amount of argument on the part of historians about the degree to which Richard was disfigured." While Shakespeare's Richard had a limp, and a withered arm, many historians thought that this disfigurement must have been entirely fictitious, as Richard was a great warrior. Yet his bones tell a different story. It appears that the king suffered from severe scoliosis, a condition that made his right shoulder hunch higher than his left one.

"Richard III" is, in many ways, a play about mortality, which makes the discovery of his bones all the more poignant.

Shakespeare's "Richard III" has been hotly contested among historians for its depiction of Richard, and the license that Shakespeare took with history. Some argue that Richard was not quite the brutal villain that the play paints him to be. 

But regardless of how evil his character seems, Saffir says that it's paramount for the actor playing the role to understand their character's motivations. "It's extremely important to take your character's side in the depicting of them. Not to sentimentalize them, but to bring some sense of morality to what they do." Richard is not an easy character to find sympathetic, but perhaps his physical deformities provide a way in for actors. Richard could have been born good, but experienced such persecution that he had no recourse but to become evil.

Guests:

Anya Saffir

Produced by:

Maggie Penman and Mythili Rao

Comments [6]

Tara from Minneapolis

Henry viii was a monster and a tyrant, and yet so many seem to love him and think Richard iii was the monster and tyrant! I think the Tudors were the true villains in British history.

Sep. 22 2012 02:56 PM
Jesse from Brooklyn, NY

I was appalled that John Hockenberry repeatedly stated that archaeologists in England had found the bones of Richard III. Those bones are at a site consistent with accounts of Richard's death and, to some extent, descriptions of his physique. But are they absolutely known to be the bones of the historical Richard? No (and they may never be). Most news reports have made that distinction, often adding that the bones were being sent for DNA analysis to gain further evidence for - or possibly against - their being the remains of the historical Richard. Hockenberry's statements were misleading and irresponsible.

Sep. 17 2012 03:56 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Whenever, bones are found, I always think of Jimmy Hoffa. Pop culture infiltration, I can't shake it.

Sep. 17 2012 01:50 PM
Neil Martin

Dear John,

Very much enjoyed this segment - but feel compelled to point out that your attempt at humor during the intro fell flat. "Zounds" does not rhyme with "Found". The word "Zounds" results from the eliding of the words; Zeus & wounds is a euphemism for "God's wounds". The phrase (a reference to the stigmata) would have been considered a vulgar obscenity not appropriate for use on the public stage - ergo, the term Zounds!

Sep. 17 2012 09:45 AM
Ed Wilson from Augusta, GA

You are discussing Richard 3rd, the Shakespeare character, not the man. Note such a depiction would have pleased the powers-that-were. Eliz 1st was granddaughter of Henry Tudor (7th). Shakespeare was no fool. (See Josephine Tey's fine novel addressing the problem)

Best,

EW

Sep. 17 2012 09:43 AM
anna from new york

Oh, illiteracy. Can someone please, please, please, inform Americans that words have meanings in general and inform this illiterate Anya when the Dark Ages were. I mean the first Dark Ages. It's clear that we are now in the second Dark Ages with totally illiterate American population.

Sep. 17 2012 09:39 AM

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