(Host) A recent archeological discovery, combined with a modern, on-line
dramatic series, have gotten writer and commentator David Moats
thinking about human nature and the nature of leadership.
When they dug up the bones of Richard III a few weeks ago, I was
intrigued to learn that his spine was distinctly curved and his skull
displayed a sizable open gash.
Perfect. Shakespeare was right.
The king who died at Bosworth Field in 1485 may actually have been the
evil hunchback that Shakespeare described.
There has been debate
among historians over the years about whether Richard was an archvillain
as in Shakespeare or whether Shakespeare was writing pro-Elizabeth
propaganda and Richard wasn’t really so bad.
I checked back in
one of my histories, in which the author suggests it would have been
hard for a leader to command loyalty if he was as hideous as Shakespeare
makes him out to be. Well, now we know that he was no towering Henry
the Eighth, but a monarch probably suffering with scoliosis.
historical record suggests that Richard didn’t command loyalty so much
as instill fear and carry out the timely murder. It’s an old story.
look back suggested something else. The assortment of scheming princes,
dukes and earls who occupied the stage of history back then all seemed
to be a rather unsavory lot. They called themselves the nobility, but
they acted more like gang leaders on horseback.
Think about what
it took to survive. You had huge properties where you forced the
peasants to funnel wealth up to you so you could build giant castles and
equip an army of thousands with sharp weapons. These were men trained
to hack at people with swords. Often the leaders themselves were
described as fierce and capable fighters. Their physical prowess went
far beyond the occasional round of golf or even the hunting of quail.
ideas of honor, restraint and decent conduct survived through the
carnage, and the evolution of law and democracy has had a civilizing
effect. But familiarity with the way that things used to be – and still
are in some places – ought to make us grateful about where we live. We
don’t have marauding bands on horseback roaming through our villages.
in the midst of that brutal pageant Shakespeare caught on to something.
He showed us in history plays like "Richard III" and tragedies like
"Macbeth" and "Othello" the ways that the human spirit became deformed
by ambition and selfishness. But he also showed how the human story is
redeemed by kindness and mercy. Even in his darkest moments, the light
I have been watching the online series "House of Cards"
in which Kevin Spacey plays an Iago-like congressman, given over to the
most cynical manipulations and hypocrisy. I’m waiting to find out if
the writers of that series find a way, as Shakespeare did, to answer
darkness with light, to match evil with honor. Or whether all they are
giving us is twisted bones.
We know that the human story is more than the wickedness of a malicious hunchback.