Did you know that for all his fame and recognition as a writer of classic literature — William Shakespeare, also known as the Bard of Avon, wrote political black propaganda? Shocking you might say – but it’s true.
The cases of black propaganda that Shakespeare wrote were not sideline jobs but were among his most famous writings. Shakespeare’s portrayals of some historical figures were discovered to have been grossly distorted. Such was the case of Scotland’s King Macbeth. An even worse case of distortion and character assassination was his portrayal of England’s King Richard III, the incumbent king before the rise of the Tudor monarchs.
In Judy Weinsoft’s August 27, 1993 lecture to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, she presented an analysis of Shakespeare’s misrepresentation of King Richard III. In this play which starts with the famous line “Now is the winter of our discontent” — Shakespeare immediately depicted Richard, Duke of Gloucester and later King Richard III, as an ugly soul that’s housed in an ugly body.
In his opening soliloquy, Richard described his physical appearance:
“I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them.”
In the same soliloquy, Richard described his character:
“And therefore since I cannot prove a lover
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasure of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams
To set my brother Clarence and the King
In deadly hate, the one against the other.
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew’d up
About a prophecy, which says that ‘G’
Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be.”
History however notes that King Richard III was neither villainous nor physically deformed. In fact, his successor, King Henry (Tudor) VII, was suspected of having been responsible for the many crimes and atrocities Shakespeare attributed falsely to Richard III.
Per Weinsoft, even Tudor historian, Polydore Vergil, had “acknowledged that in spite of Richard’s infamy and evil deeds, the king began to give the show and countenance of a good man.” Weinsoft added that: “Modern historians also note Richard’s primary concern for legal remedies for all subjects, as well as his financing and patronage of charities and collegiate churches.” Clearly, history debunks Shakespeare’s characterization of King Richard III.
It must be appreciated that Shakespeare did not live under a climate of press freedom as we know it. He lived during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I who was the granddaughter of King Henry VII, the slayer of King Richard III. Shakespeare could have lost his writing hand or his head if he wrote the inconvenient truth.
Judy Weinsoft cited this historical account of one person who got the ire of the Virgin Queen: “In 1579, one Hugh Singleton so enraged Elizabeth I by printing a certain tract, that he was condemned to lose his right hand as a punishment and impediment to all further printing.” Thus, for Shakespeare, it was either he panders to the Tudor myth or he loses a right hand and stops writing.
In the era of Elizabeth I, the English were at least treated to excellent Shakespearean literature while they were being fed with political black propaganda. There is at least artistic value in the Richard III black propaganda of William Shakespeare. The historical veracity of Richard III can be considered bovine ordure but the writing is pure gold on top of the dung heap.
Alas, over here we only get the bovine ordure from the often low brow pens for hire that specialize in political black propaganda. Expect no artistic narratives from them, no sophistication and definitely not even a semblance of credulity. They compose toxic fiction that can only come from twisted minds and crooked characters. Their only affiliation — somewhat — to classic literature would be to mimic Faust, the Christopher Marlowe character who sold his soul to the devil.
They feed on ignorant minds thus worsening the Information Gap that stalks the underprivileged of our society. Conscience is left at home in their line of work. They do not care at all if the people they’ve maligned are innocent. They do not care if they are ruining good public servants who happen to get in the way of crooks who pay them well.
Even if they’re Filipinos, you cannot expect them to make exceptions when serious national issues are concerned — like when nationalists are trying to prevent foreign exploitation of Philippine national resources. For them, the only consideration is meeting their price and it matters not to them if generations of Filipinos could be paying for the cost of their lethal lies and distortions.
These character assassins operate through newspaper opinion columns, broadcast commentaries, mobile text messages and the various internet websites. You can almost imagine the big cash register ringing with every crooked point of view that they are peddling for their dubious clients. They have absolutely no qualms about the damage that they’re inflicting on innocent people by the evils that they’re fabricating and spreading.
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