Shakespeare's Hunch: The Significance of Richard III’s Deformities in Western Literature and Culture

The 2012 discovery of Richard III’s deformed skeleton reminded us of the continuing urgency of this infamous literary oddity, an on-going relevance fostered by the deformity’s sprawling implications in disciplines as various as art, history, theology, philosophy, ethics, psychology, sociology, and the medical sciences. With implications so deep and wide, Richard’s deformity has a nomadic cultural history, which has led to scattered and selective research on the topic. This book is the first to synthesize the sources, traditions, texts, performances, adaptations, analogues, and criticism surrounding Richard’s deformity into a single narrative that, additionally, hazards a theoretical argument about the promiscuity of Richard’s deformity as a resource for thinking about such diverse matters. It shows how Richard III has remained central to modern Western culture because the play presents the frailty of the human body as the starting point for reflection on the tragic – that in life which makes us sad – extending this consideration to a series of questions and problems that cut to the very core of modern life and thought, including the tension between appearance and reality, the conflict between individual will and external forces of nature and culture, the possibility of upward social mobility, and the social interaction between the self and the other, including questions of stigma, discrimination, prejudice, and hatred.