One thing is important to understand, Shakespeare may have been the most brilliant writer in history – and I won’t refute that as I am a huge WS fan – but a historically accurate writer he was not. Don’t be taking your historical views from the Bard.
Like many smart writers of his day or any day, he was a bit of a political suck. He knew he’d do better in his field if he cozied up to the political powers of his day – mainly the monarchs.
So, when he wrote Richard III and presented him as a hunchbacked, evil, murderous, conniving son-of-a-bitch, he was playing up to the monarch, Elizabeth I. See, it was Liz’s grandpappy, Henry VII who defeated Richard at Bosworth whence he gave vent to that wonderful line: “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!” which could only leave the Globe theatergoer to conclude that evil Dicky was more about saving his ass than caring for his kingdom. And Will made no secret of the fact he favored the Lancastrian side, from which the Tudors directly descended.
Later, Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, around the time James I assumed the throne. You see, it was James’ forbear, Malcolm Cranmore (progenitor of the Stuart clan of which James was a card-carrying member). So, Shakespeare did a job on poor Macbeth who was actually, by accounts of the day, a pretty decent king, much as was Richard in his brief reign (1483-85).
Now the cozying to both Elizabeth and James is understandable in both cases. In the first part, the virgin (ha!) Queen Elizabeth died childless, and there was the ever-present threat of a succession battle until James stepped in. And in the case of Richard, Henry VII brought an end to the calamitous Wars of the Roses.
Damn, I actually remember that stuff. I guess all those British history courses (not to mention Shakespeare courses) weren’t entirely lost on me and my brain hasn’t yet turned to mush.
Anyway, as many have noticed, they have finally, via DNA, proved that poor Richard’s bones were ignominiously deposited in the site of a future car park in the town of Leicester, whence he was driven over by assorted Vauxhalls, Hillmans, Austins, and one can only hope the odd Rolls, considering his one-time status as king.
Hardly a commemorative crypt in Westminster Abbey or Canterbury for a man deemed to be a rogue through the centuries.
So, from that perspective, Will has a bit to answer for. On the other hand, maybe he didn’t write Richard III or Macbeth at all, and both were written by that other writer of the same name.
That debate goes on.