Wednesday, July 16, 2008

a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse...

You know how sometimes once you get interested in one thing, you become of aware of a whole lot of other related things? They may have been there all the time. Or you might just be dipping into the shared unconscious. Who knows?

I've always been interested in history, through art. Hated art history at school, which was mostly about dates, something my brain refuses to process. But I love reading about the folks in the paintings and their life, their world.

Watching The Tudors got me into well, the Tudors, and that lead to reading about the French court of Francois Premier (who was a huge fan and patron of Leonardo [back to art again]) and then backwards in time about Richard III. Then all of a sudden I found a great book, The Sunne in Splendour, by Sharon Kay Penman, about Richard and his brother, Edward the IV, and the other night Looking for Richard, starring and directed by Al Pacino was on. Finger on the pulse?
Pacino obviously understands evil schemers. And I'll hand it to him, he wasn't Michael Corleone with a hunchback. But for me, he can be really awful or really good. Sometimes, just distracted. So his improv-like take on Shakespeare's poetic vilification of Richard was at times really hard to take. Also his choice of collaborators was odd. Some of the choices were great - Kevin Spacey, of course. Some of them - Winona Ryder - huh? A great scene in the play where Richard seduces Lady Anne, over her dead husband's coffin ran sort of like this:

Pacino : Iambic pentameter without an accent, but giving it a good shot.
Ryder: Duh?

I'm not a Ricardist - one of those folks who think Richard was robbed by history. I also don't believe everything I read, so the truth is probably somewhere between Shakespeare's monster and Penman's hero. But another recent read, Alison Weir's The Princes in the Tower seems just like a load. A historian (but now also novelist) firmly in the Tudor camp, she is completely unable to be objective, spinning her "facts" to suit popular interpretations. The only thing she concedes is Richard may not have had a hunchback. Many other theories abound, and another popular book, and a great read, Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time clears Richard of the murders.

What is so fascinating about history and art is the folks who inspire it and make it. And the endless interpretations that it can take. Which is why someone like Richard III or Anne Boleyn and their hard-to-understand behavior can still seem so interesting today. Because don't we try to understand (mostly unsuccessfully) behavior of folks we know, actions that make no sense at all, every day?


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