Thursday Interview: Richard III

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Photograph: ITV/REX

– Richard, your reputation isn’t good. The man who murdered the Princes in the Tower. Difficult one to live down, that.

– My kingdom was at stake. Weighs rather more than a reputation, I’d say.

– But if you hadn’t been so bloodthirsty –

– You’d have been deprived of someone you love to hate. And Shakespeare wouldn’t have written his ridiculous play. I’d sue him for libel if it didn’t mean he’d have to withdraw it altogether. Bad publicity’s better than none, after all.

– You mean you weren’t like that?

– I was no more bloodthirsty than anyone else. It’s the way we did it back then. And it inspired Game of Thrones, which you love, so I wouldn’t get on your high horse like that. Even if I’d have swapped my kingdom for it, ha, ha!

– Well, I must admit, King Joffrey’s deliciously loathsome. And to be honest, thanks to Mr. Roberts, our English teacher, you were my introduction to Shakespeare. I got hooked. While the other kids were prancing about pretending to be Mick Jagger, there I was doing the whole hunchback and withered arm thing, declaiming, Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York, and all the clouds that lour’d upon our house –

– All right, all right. Fancy yourself as Laurence Olivier, I see. A preposterous performance that was! He got me totally wrong. But it goes to show I have an appeal after all.

– Must have, I suppose. Look at poor Lady Anne. You kill her husband and father-in-law, next thing we know, you’re persuading her to marry you.

Was ever woman in this humour woo’d? Was ever woman in this humour won? Brilliant, yes! Well, you’ve either got it or you haven’t, I suppose.

– Not that it helped you much in the end. But to move on, you were rediscovered recently, I mean your skeleton was. How does that feel?

– Wonderful, in a word. They dug me up in a carpark in Leicester. Where I’ve now been given a proper burial at last. Television crews, thousands queuing to pay their respects, the whole caboodle. So you see, there’s justice after all. The Queen didn’t turn up but she sent a message. ‘A King who lived through turbulent times’, she said – bit of an understatement there. And Benedict Cumberbatch read a poem. So there you go. Vilified by Shakespeare, honoured by Sherlock Holmes – what more could I ask for? Except for the throne, of course.

Dead, or Alive (again)

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It is with a heavy heart that I sit at my laptop to announce the death of Mabel Moo, whom I interviewed just last month. Optimistic to the end, she went to the slaughterhouse believing she was testing a new milking facility. It was no doubt better that way. RIP, Mabel, we shall miss you.

Izzy’s May I: The Write this week is about the death of fictional characters. As she gives a good list herself, I shall only add a couple here (apart from poor Mabel). Perhaps the death which caused the greatest trauma was that of Sherlock Holmes, in the 1893 issue of The Strand Magazine. ‘It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen,’ writes Watson at the start of The Final Problem, before going on to reveal that Holmes had fallen to his death at the Reichenbach Falls, pushed by his old enemy Moriarty. Having lost its fictional mainstay, The Strand Magazine promptly lost 20,000 devastated subscribers. Unlike his readers, Conan Doyle was relieved to be rid of his creation: “I have had such an overdose of him that I feel towards him as I do towards pâté de foie gras, of which I once ate too much, so that the name of it gives me a sickly feeling to this day.” Eventually he relented though, revealing ten years later, in one of the most famous examples of retcon (retroactive continuity, or altering an established fact) that Holmes hadn’t died after all.

Very different is Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, which I’ve just finished. If you haven’t read it, do (no excuses, I’m afraid, that’s an order). It’s no spoiler to tell you the heroine Ursula dies. In fact I lost count of the number of times she dies, but she springs back to life again and again. You might think it’s a tiresome device, but in Atkinson’s masterful prose it becomes a delight.

So there you have one of the joys of fiction. Though death in novels can often be harrowing and atrocious, it also sometimes loses its sting. Speaking of which, it appears the stun gun at the slaughterhouse didn’t work – Mabel is back in her field!