Shakespeare Solved ®

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These novels solve the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare by transporting us back in time, to walk in his shoes, and see his world through his eyes.

Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Benedict Cumberbatch and Richard III

Like so many people around the world, I have been fascinated by the burial ceremonies for King Richard III at Leicester Cathedral.

I was very excited that Benedict Cumberbatch was involved, and even read a poem.

The poem "Richard" was written by the Poet Laureat, Carol Ann Duffy.

I had no idea that Benedict is distantly related to Richard -- he is a third cousin, 16 times removed from the king.

Perhaps that is one more reason why Benedict was so eager to play Shakespeare's Richard III for the Hollow Crown series, which he has been filming recently. Here are some pictures from that production:

In case you haven't seen the reading of the poem, here is a video:

In case you haven't read it, here is the poem:


My bones, scripted in light, upon cold soil,
a human braille. My skull, scarred by a crown,
emptied of history. Describe my soul
as incense, votive, vanishing; you own
the same. Grant me the carving of my name.
These relics, bless. Imagine you re-tie
a broken string and on it thread a cross,
the symbol severed from me when I died.
The end of time – an unknown, unfelt loss –
unless the Resurrection of the Dead …
or I once dreamed of this, your future breath
in prayer for me, lost long, forever found;
or sensed you from the backstage of my death,
as kings glimpse shadows on a battleground.

There are not many moments in history when the past, the present and the future all seem to align as perfectly as they seem to do now. King Richard's bones were lost for centuries, then recently found, reinterred and his life and reign memorialised by his descendent, Benedict Cumberbatch, who will interpret King Richard for us in film.

We should be consider ourselves very fortunate to witness such history.

Finally, we should thank Philippa Langley, who was the unlikeliest person in the world perhaps to discover the exact location of Richard III's bones in that Leicester car park. 

Philippa Langley with the reconstruction of King Richard's head

But she was the one who discovered it. Like that wonderful line in The Imitation Game: "Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine."

I remember watching the documentary The King in the Car Park, and the archaeologists from Leicester University all treated her as if she was a lunatic. They were very dismissive of her. For example, when they found bones in the exact spot where she told them to dig, they didn't believe it could be King Richard's bones! They started digging in other spots!

It was only later that they paid closer attention to the bones in the first spot and realized what they had found. Amazing.

Philippa Langley was the woman who told them where to dig, and without her, Richard may have been lost for much longer.


David B. Schajer

Related Article:

Benedict Cumberbatch as William Shakespeare

Looking for Richard - The Richard III Society

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