Wednesday, February 26, 2014

SHAKESPEARE’S HOLLYWOOD vs. HISTORY


 
THE DEFORMED VILLAINOUS RICHARD III vs.
GOOD KING RICHARD

 

We read the play in high school and watched Laurence Olivier drag his lame foot across the movie set, limping in choreographed precision with his uneven shoulders, from which the right one hung a withered arm. “dogs bark at me as I halt by them” (Richard III, 1.i). He sneers, thin-lipped, under a blue-black wig and turns in profile to showcase the pointy putty nose. In Henry VI, 3.ii Richard claims that Nature has conspired to “shape my legs of an unequal size; / To disproportion me in every part”.

Since August 22, 1485, this was the Richard we saw, filtered through the imaginations of paid Tudor propagandists such as Thomas More and the imagination of the Bard to amuse and possibly appease his royal theatergoer and monarch, Elizabeth I. Shakespeare sure knew his audience, namely the granddaughter of Henry, Earl of Richmond, the Welsh pretender whose brave men at arms (Henry stayed horsed at a safe distance) pummeled Richard III off his mount and his throne to begin the Tudor dynasty.

The new King Henry VII paid historians such as Sir Thomas More to drag Richard’s name through the mud as they dragged his body, in order to lend more credibility to his tenuous claim to the throne.

Literary critic Stephen Greenblatt says Tudor’s smear campaign involved portraying Richard as a “monster of evil, a creature whose moral viciousness was vividly stamped on his twisted body.”

Having evolved over the centuries into the "Tudor myth," Richard’s purported reign of terror became the go-to “historical record” taught in schools and perpetuated by playwrights such as the Bard, novelists and Hollywood.

These myths, or lies, depending on your degree of Ricardian loyalty, thrived because: a) history is written by the victors, b) everyone loves to hate a villain, and c) no one bothered to refute Richard’s reputation as a twisted crookbacked monster. Until 1924 when a Liverpool surgeon, Saxon Barton and a small group of friends created the Richard III Society.

But his alleged bodily flaws aren’t what kept his reputation mired in that Tudor mud. Richard’s piety remained in doubt mainly because there is no record as to what happened to his nephews, one of whom was to become Edward V, after they disappeared during Richard’s short reign. Known as ‘the Princes in the Tower,’ the boys vanished after Dr. Shaa at St. Paul’s Cross declared them illegitimate in a sermon. In 1674, workers discovered a small box containing bones under a staircase of the White Tower. The bones were placed in an urn in Westminster Abbey where they remain today. In 1933 forensic scientists determined the bones belonged to two males of ages 12 and 10, the ages of the Princes when they vanished. But the studies could not determine their identity.

Despite the Richard III Society’s ongoing efforts to proclaim his innocence, there is still no proof as to whether he did away with his nephews.

But we now have proof that Richard wasn’t the mangled withered-armed humpback of Bard lore—and that proof is in another set of bones—those of  Richard himself. In February, the announcement flew round the world that Richard’s body was unearthed under a car park in Leicester, at the site of the church where he’d been buried after his death at the Battle of Bosworth. DNA testing on a male descendant gave Ricardians the world over the match they’d been hoping for. Richard indeed suffered scoliosis, curvature of the spine, which decreased his height by four inches. But his condition did not render him a hunchback by any means. Nor did his arm bones show any signs of being mangled or withered. These findings, a long-awaited relief to Ricardians, dispelled all the 500-year-old theories, myths, fictionalizations, and yes, lies about Richard’s deformities. Therefore his dramatized villainy—some scholars believe Richard was a bad guy because of his deformity (giving him the feeling of rejection, inadequacy, and sense of being unloved)—was disproved.

But the historical record itself hasn’t given us believable evidence of his wicked ways, dragging a deformed body or not. He was by all accounts an energetic and benevolent king. His un-mangled, un-hunched remains and his reconstructed face tell us that he didn’t become a monster because of a deformity. If you’d care to learn of Richard’s good deeds you’ll see he left his kingdom a better place than he found it. We can take the Bard’s and Thomas More’s words as fiction, or at least with a pinch of salt, and Ricardians everywhere can rest assured that he was a good guy after all. 
Visit the Richard III Society American branch.

 

Monday, February 24, 2014

A BLOODY GOOD CRUISE now on Kindle


          A Bloody Good Cruise is now on sale for Kindle

A fun-filled blend of the vampire world and luxury cruises.

 Romantic suspense author Mona is a human, and the hero Fausto is a vampire, and although they care deeply about each other, their different backgrounds create a lot of problems. He can never be one of her kind and she=s deathly afraid to become one of his. But her best friend Tessie is madly in love with Fausto=s vamp cousin Quintus, and makes her life-altering decision to let him turn her. But as they as they all sail the Mediterranean on a writer=s cruise that Mona=s organized, Fausto=s job as the ship=s doctor is hard to perform when he realizes hunters (or the Vampire Ball Busters, as vamps call them) are after him and his fellow vamps. They abduct Tessie, who saves her neck at the last minute by turning Roy, one of the hunters. Now Roy must live as one of the despised creatures he=s devoted his life to hunting. But his problems pale in comparison to Mona=s as Fausto=s ex-wife shows up after four hundred years, hot to snatch him back. She=s not just another bitter ex hoping to rekindle the flamesBshe=s Lucrezia Borgia, history=s most notorious gold digger and husband-killer. When Mona and Fausto team up with the hunters to capture Lucrezia and get her to confess to her crimes, Mona thinks all is lost because Lucrezia refuses to talk. But Mona gets her creative writer=s  juices flowing, and right out of one of her suspense novels, tricks Lucrezia into a confession. The tabloid show The Cutting Edge, on shipboard to tape the writers= cruise, beams the story all over the world. Mona and Fausto become instant celebrities, but hunters are still after Fausto. One of them shoots Mona while aiming for him, and she realizes she must let Fausto turn her or she=ll dieBso she makes her decision, which she never regrets. Instead of looking for the next big market trend, she helps Fausto and Quintus write their memoirs, so the world can see what vampires really are about.
See A Bloody Good Cruise on Amazon here
 

Friday, February 14, 2014

PRESIDENTS DAY AND MOUNT RUSHMORE






Monday is Presidents Day, and since it’s become a huge day for car sales, it’s easy to forget the two presidents’ actual birthdays. Back when I was in grammar school, we celebrated the actual days—Lincoln’s on February 12 and Washington’s on the 22nd. Not sure we got both days off, though.

Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota is a popular Presidents Day destination. When and how was it built and by whom?

Jonah LeRoy "Doane" Robinson (1856-1946), a South Dakota historian, had the idea to sculpt an area of eroded granite pillars, towers and spires called the Needles of the Black Hills into famous people’s faces. He contacted Danish-American artist and sculptor Gutzon Borglum, (1867-1941). South Dakota Senator Peter Norbeck, who also served one term as the state’s governor, also backed him. But Robinson faced one obstacle after another. Opposition from many groups, including Native Americans and environmentalists, thwarted his project. He was denied permission and funding. Then Borglum suggested switching the location from the Needles to Mount Rushmore, because the Needles were too thin to support sculpting. He chose Mount Rushmore because it faced southeast with maximum exposure to the sun, commenting “America will march along that skyline.” Congress authorized the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission on March 3, 1925.

HOW WERE THOSE FOUR PRESIDENTS CHOSEN?

President Coolidge told Borglum that, along with Washington, Mt. Rushmore must feature two Republicans and one Democrat, so Borglum chose Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln.

CONSTRUCTION

On October 4, 1927, four hundred workers began the sculpting with George Washington’s face, using dynamite until only three to six inches of rock remained. They then used a method called honeycombing, where the workers drilled holes into the granite surface to weaken it, to enable removal by hand until reaching the final surface. The final process, bumping, used a pneumatic drill and a special bit to smooth the finished surface. The granite composition facilitated the carvings. In a flash of artistry, Borglum sculpted the presidents’ eyes as holes and placed a granite cube in each one, giving the eyes a lifelike appearance.

Workers climbed a narrow stairway to the top of the mountain every day. Harnesses attached to ropes supported them. Thankfully, not one worker was killed during the entire construction of Mount Rushmore. It was completed on October 31,1941 at the cost of $989,992.32.

HOW DID MOUNT RUSHMORE GET ITS NAME?

Originally known to the Lakota Sioux as Six Grandfathers, the mountain was renamed after Charles E. Rushmore, a prominent New York businessman and lawyer, during an expedition in 1885.