The Summer of Our . . . Disinterment?

King Richard III

You’ve probably heard the big news. The whole world is abuzz with it. Archeologists in Leicester, England think they may have found the remains of King Richard III buried deep beneath a council parking lot. Scientists searching for the grave have said “strong circumstantial evidence” points to a skeleton being the lost king. The remains show wounds to the skull and a scoliosis of the spine. The University of Leicester will now test the bones for DNA against descendants of Richard’s family. Professor Lin Foxhall, head of the university’s School of Archaeology, said: “Archaeology almost never finds named individuals – this is absolutely extraordinary.”

And it is extraordinary. If the bones turn out to be Richard’s, then a whole slew of historical questions might be clarified, and others raised: was Richard the hunchback Shakespeare made him out to be? Was his depiction of the last Plantagenet monarch part of the wider Tudor campaign to discredit the former crown? Will it change Mark Rylance’s already brilliant and nuanced interpretation of the villainous character, which opens for a very limited run at the Apollo theater on November 6. Who knows? (btw: Mark is a steadfast supporter of the Roundtable and inquiry into authorship)

Rylance as RIII

But the find does have subtle implications for the authorship question, too. History is never finished, no matter what tenured academics might like to believe. The quest for “truth” must pry open the creaky, rusted gates of convention. In a June blog we reported on the recent discovery of the remains of the Curtain theater in Shorditch. So . . . where’s the thatch? For years scholars believed the Curtain, like the globe, had a thatch roof, but the excavation showed no sign of it. Tiles perhaps. There was some evidence of tiles. This is not a game changer, of course. But it does alter what we believe about the time, AND the theater.  If the skeleton turns out to be Richard’s it is pretty solid proof that things long past and given up as lost forever — in academic terms: “settled” — can still turn up, in a parking lot no less. Let’s keep looking!

Below is a pretty good commentary from a Guardian reporter on the scene:

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