“The Most Arch act of Piteous Massacre/that Ever yet this Land was Guilty Of”: How Shakespeare’s Method of Exposing Richard Differs from More’s

  • Charles A. Hallett
  • Elaine S. Hallett


Did King Richard III murder his two nephews, sons of the former King Edward IV? On this crucial matter, Thomas More and William Shakespeare agree. Both accuse him. More describes the murder in graphic detail:

Sir James Tyrell devised that [the princes] should be murdered in their beds, to the execution whereof he appointed Miles Forest, one of the four that kept them, a fellow fleshed in murder beforetime. To him he joined one John Dighton, his own horse-keeper, a big, broad, square, strong knave. Then, all the other being removed from them, this Miles Forest and John Dighton about midnight (the seely children lying in their beds) came into the chamber and suddenly lapped them up among the clothes—so bewrapped them and entangled them, keeping down by force the featherbed and pillows hard unto their mouths, that within a while, smo[the]red and stifled, their breath failing, they gave up to God their innocent souls into the joys of heaven, leaving to the tormentors their bodies dead in the bed. Which after that the wretches perceived—first by the struggling with the pains of death and, after, long lying still—to be throughly dead, they laid their bodies naked out upon the bed and fetched Sir James to see them. Which, upon the sight of them, caused those murderers to bury them at the stair-foot, meetly deep in the ground, under a great heap of stones. (History, 100)


Graphic Detail Artistic Decision Trusty Manner Illusory Distortion Murder Scene 
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© Charles A. Hallett and Elaine S. Hallett 2011

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  • Charles A. Hallett
  • Elaine S. Hallett

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