Shaping Richard III after Shakespeare

Overview

How and why did the image of one of the most notorious English kings change in the century following the publication of Shakespeare’s eponymous play in 1597?

Dr Jitka Štollová (2013) received her doctorate in Cambridge in 2018, under the supervision of Prof. John Kerrigan. Before becoming a Title A Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, she held a Junior Research Fellowship at Jesus College, Oxford. She completed her BA and MA studies at Charles University in Prague.

In her research, Jitka examines the different ways in which Tudor and Stuart writers interpreted lessons of medieval English history. In her case study of the portrayal of Richard III during the Stuart period, she challenges the narrative that this notorious king was seen solely as an epitome of tyranny, as he was portrayed in Shakespeare’s influential play. Drawing on a range of hitherto unknown or under-examined sources, her research shows that political pressures of the seventeenth century led to a partial revision of the Tudor view of him. Against the background of the tumultuous events in the seventeenth century – a new dynasty, protracted conflicts between Stuart kings and parliament, and the Civil Wars – writers produced more subtle and balanced interpretations of the king. The portrayals of Richard III reveal a paradox of possibilities: he could simultaneously be seen as a usurper, a king elected by parliament, a cynical tyrant, and a monarch arguing against the abuse of taxation. His example demonstrates that attitudes towards the boundaries and limitations of royal power were constantly in flux and depended on external circumstances. In this talk, Jitka will explore some of the reasons behind this development.

 


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