Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Critical Mom and Richard III

Now, folks, what I have in common with Richard III---drumroll:  I do have something in common with His Majesty--is scoliosis.  He of the twisted spine!  Yes, that was one of the characteristics that the anthropologists trusted the most when they identified that fifteenth-century skeleton found beneath a parking lot and said to be that of Richard.  Then there's the intriguing find that he was illegitimate.  There's a trait I'd like to share with him.  Could I really be the child of my mother and my father?  I'm afraid neither of them had the energy for an affair during their marriage, which took up, really, absolutely all of their time.  But it would have been so nice to have discovered some noble, or in Richard's case ignoble, but at any rate, different ancestral line, in my case.
In Richard's case the different ancestral line . . . the one apparently proving that he seems not to have been of the royal house from which he claimed to be descended  . . .  hmmm, did he know?  And was that why he was always so evil and grumpy, at least in Shakespeare's version of him?  Shakespeare really knew how illegitimacy could disappoint one.  Think of Edmund in King Lear:

Thou, nature, art my goddess. To thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I

Stand in the plague of custom and permit

The curiosity of nations to deprive me

For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines

Lag of a brother? Why “bastard”? Wherefore “base”?

When my dimensions are as well compact,

My mind as generous, and my shape as true

As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us

With “base,” with “baseness,” “bastardy,” “base,” “base”—

Who in the lusty stealth of nature take

More composition and fierce quality

Than doth within a dull, stale, tirèd bed

Go to th' creating a whole tribe of fops

Got ’tween a sleep and wake? Well then,

Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.

Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund

As to the legitimate.—Fine word, “legitimate”!—

Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed

And my invention thrive, Edmund the base

Shall top th' legitimate. I grow, I prosper.

Now, gods, stand up for bastards!
Just think what being a bastard can do for you:  you worship Nature, instead of God, and that, back in sixteenth-century England, was probably a hanging offense.  (Nature was after all female.  And pre-dated Christianity.  She played chess with the pieces of Stonehenge).  Plus marriage ruined sex, Edmund was claiming.  Bastards were the only ones, he believed, whose parents had enjoyed producing them.  Which leads to his final line:  "Now, Gods, have some erections in support of bastards!"  So to speak.  A line which "No Fear Shakespeare" glosses most bowdlerizingly as "Three cheers for bastards."  Yes.  Well.  
Back to Richard:  Oh, What if?  What if not only I were illegitimate, like Richard, but what if he were the current queen's great-great-great-somethingorother?  Would the descendents of Mary, Queen of Scots, if she had any, get to charge in and claim the throne?  Or some other even rowdier ancestors?  Stay tuned.  Hala Gorani just trotted us all through the basics on CNN, but I can't wait to hear what happens next. 

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