the richard iii effect

Glamis Castle

Actors consider it bad luck to say his name, but a Scottish Member of Parliament hopes that a new tourist trail dedicated to Macbeth will bubble, not trouble, the fortunes of Scotland’s tourist industry. “Apart from boosting tourism, I would also hope the Macbeth trail would put some facts behind the myths about Macbeth,” said Alex Johnstone, who represents Northeast Scotland. And with this latest initiative, any plans dedicated to the rehabilitation of a villainous British monarch through tourism shall henceforth be known as The Richard III Effect, after the notorious Duke of York, who was slain at Bosworth while calling for his horse and recently discovered buried ignominiously beneath a Leicester car park. The proposed trail is expected to include sites such as Lumphanan, the village in Aberdeenshire where Macbeth was killed in battle in 1057, and Cairn O’Mount where he took his supporters en route to his defeat. Famous sites such as Glamis in Angus, where Macbeth died in Shakespeare’s play – written around 550 years after the king’s death - are also likely to be included. Other sites include Spynie Castle in Pitgaveny – where the battle between Duncan and Macbeth took place – and Dunsinane, the hill fort in the hills above Perth, where the Thane of Cawdor fought a battle with Earl Siward of Northumberland. Notably absent is the tiny island of Iona, part of the Inner Hebrides, and at one time the burial ground of early Scottish Kings. (Macbeth, Malcolm, and Duncan are all known to have been buried on the grounds of Iona Abbey, though none of their graves are now identifiable.) As many of the locations are spread out, consider the trail a good pretext for a “fair is foul and foul is fair” golf holiday. Then again “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” seems a tailor-made complement to Edinburgh’s annual arts festival. Or there’s my favorite justification: the “too full o’ the milk of human kindness” crawl across the Highland’s whisky distilleries.

iona abbey

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obit (the dust) of the month: hand in hand to hell

Richard III

A skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park has been confirmed as that of English king Richard III. Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch’s family. The skeleton had suffered 10 injuries, including eight to the skull, at around the time of death. Two of the skull wounds were potentially fatal. One was a “slice” removing a flap of bone, the other caused by bladed weapon which went through and hit the opposite side of the skull. Other wounds included slashes or stabs to the face and the side of the head. Richard III was portrayed as deformed by some Tudor historians and indeed the skeleton’s spine is badly curved, a condition known as scoliosis. However, there was no trace of a withered arm or other abnormalities seen in the more extreme characterizations of the king. Born at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire, where Mary Queen of Scots was later executed, Richard had one of the shortest reigns in English history: just 26 months. Appointed as protector of his nephew, Edward V, upon the death of his brother Edward IV, Richard instead assumed the reins of power. Edward and his brother – the famous Princes in the Tower – disappeared soon after, leading to speculation that they had been murdered on the orders of their uncle. Challenged by Henry Tudor, Richard was the last English king to die in battle. He was slain at Bosworth in 1485, leaving Shakespeare the ingredients for a (quite literal) field day. Read the full story HERE.

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at the theatre: king lear

While I might have initially scoffed at the obscene ticket prices for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s recent six-week residency at the Park Avenue Armory, I nevertheless gave in and did the unthinkable: I paid. Full price, no less. With a mandatory 20% donation to the RSC on top of the advertised ticket price, the total came to a quasi-operatic $300 – plus service charges, natch – for a pair of second-best seats in the house. (Prime seating could be had for the offensive price of $250 a seat.) And yet, perhaps the blogger doth protest too much. This is, after all, an historic event: the opportunity to witness the most famous Shakespearean company on the planet perform a half-dozen of the master’s plays in repertory inside a full-scale replica of its Stratford-upon-Avon home. And despite not caring for Greg Hicks’ interpretation of the title role there is no denying that in the three-plus hours of King Lear I got my money’s worth of family betrayal, infidelity, fratricide, banishment, madness, murder, and a particularly visceral removal of one character’s set of eyes. (Plus, no matter how well I think I know the play, the image of Lear carrying the corpse of his innocent daughter, Cordelia, is as emotionally shocking as it is cruel.) It’s enough to make me wish I had purchased my tickets earlier in the run, so I could see these actors in The Winter’s Tale, too, or Julius Caesar – not that I could afford it, mind you. All of which makes me wonder: at these prices, who’s filling the stalls at the Armory? Or perhaps the more significant question is, who isn’t?

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park avenue shakespeare

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