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Sources for Richard III

Shakespeare used Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (2nd edition, 1587) as the primary source of Richard III. Holinshed's account, written in 1577, is itself taken from The Union of the two noble and illustre famelies of Lancastre and Yorke, written in 1550 by Edward Hall. Hall's version is based on yet another text, the History of King Richard the Thirde, published in 1513 by Sir Thomas More. Of a wonderful discussion of More's text, click here. While most of the plot of Richard III is clearly derived from Holinshed's Chronicles, Shakespeare's depiction of Richard as a brilliant villain is based upon More's text. It should be noted that two plays were acted upon the Elizabethan stage prior to the publication of Shakespeare's Richard III. These were The True Tragedy of Richard III, an anonymous play performed first in 1594, and Richardus Tertius, a drama written in Latin by Dr. Thomas Legge's, and performed in 1597. To the latter play Shakespeare owes nothing. But, there are similarities between The True Tragedy of Richard II and Shakespeare's drama. The most notable of these similarities is Richard's plea for a horse. In The True Tragedy, Richard cries "A horse, a horse, a fresh horse!". There are many other texts that Shakespeare seems to have used in constructing Richard III. But, keep in mind that all of the following are considered to be very minor sources: The Mirror of Magistrates, Ovid's Metamorphosis, Spenser's Faerie Queene, Kyd's Spanish Tragedy, and Vergil's Historia Anglia.

How to cite this article:

Mabillard, Amanda. Sources for Richard III. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


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