An unassailable belief in Shakespeare’s Richard III reveals more about the historical texts

This week in part one of my interview with writer, editor, and activist Caitlin Doughty, which published in The New York Times, the identity of King Richard — the last-surviving William Shakespeare character in existence — comes up. Doughty shared her historical research on this extremely tenuous historical fact with me and its implications.

“Historically, Richard has always been this thing,” Doughty explained, “and it’s always really been treated with a tremendous amount of skepticism — he was just never treated with any evidence that indicated his life was anything more than what his author says. And so it’s because there’s no evidence that it was anything more than what was really in his head that people never really accepted.”

(In fact, at the center of that same 1599 drama, Richard’s life has also been pretty much blown out of proportion by far-right media and conspiracy theorists since 2013, and Doughty’s testimony on the subject is an important reminder of the ambiguity of his legacy. “Because of this tremendous popular belief that he was this monstrous enemy of the state, and because of the use that he was used to by the English state, they just assumed that he could be anything they wanted him to be, and they couldn’t think of anything else. So that was what they were really basing his greatness on. He is such a perfect example of that.”)

Caitlin was also a guest this week on the podcast “Trigger Warning” and discussed the sort of mixed emotions she feels about being an LGBTQ activist in 2016 and beyond. She also answered questions about her young daughter’s coming out journey, her activism, and future ambitions. Listen to the full interview below:


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