Today's confirmation that remains found beneath a car park in Leicester are those of the last Plantagenet king of England will not strip the mystery from one of William Shakespeare's greatest plays, a literary expert has predicted.

Scientists at the University of Leicester this morning stated the skeleton exhumed in September last year during an archaeological dig is that of King Richard III - a man revered and vilified in equal measure as a visionary reformer and ruthless murderer of his family members respectively.

The monarch is famous today for his death at the Battle of Bosworth, which effectively ended the Wars of the Roses - as well as the disappearance of his young nephews, and his derisory portrayal in Shakespeare's play The Tragedy Of King Richard III.

richard Mark Rylance playing Richard III at the Globe in 2012


Philip Schwyzer, professor of renaissance literature at the University of Exeter, said confirmation today that the remains found in Leicester are those of the last English king killed in battle solved only a small part of Shakespeare's great enigma.

Prof Schwyzer said: "There is still plenty of mystery in this work - the fact that we now know of Richard III's final resting place is only a piece in that puzzle.

"There are still so many unknowns about Richard's motivation, his crimes, his psychological state.

"I think Shakespeare was hinting at the audience to address those unanswered questions in his play. Richard's body is left on stage at the end, with no narration of where it will be laid to rest.

"I think Shakespeare was telling us that we are never going to get all the answers."

Shakespeare's play tells of a monarch blighted by deformity, including details of a pronounced hunchback and withered arm.

However, today's evidence suggests Richard III's disability was not as severe as suggested in the play, and with little evidence of the crippled limb.

Prof Schwyzer, whose book Shakespeare And The Remains Of Richard III examining the story behind the play is due to be published later this year, said he expected a "backlash" against the great bard from some who accuse him of telling lies about the monarch.

But he also predicted a surge in interest in the play, one of Shakespeare's most celebrated historical works.

He said: "Shakespeare's physical description of the king sets up a sort of 'chicken and egg' scenario. Richard III says he cannot prove himself a lover because of his deformity, so he will prove himself a villain.

"Shakespeare poses the question of which came first - is he villainous because of his deformity, or does the deformity emphasise his mental characteristics?

"Whatever the results of today's findings, the mysteries of Richard III are far from solved."

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  • Shakespeare's work contains the first recordings of over 2000 English words including elbow, lackluster and moonbeam. PICTURE: Artfinder

  • He is also responsible for inventing a huge number of expressions still in common use today. These include: fancy free; dash to pieces; lay it on with a trowel; rhyme nor reason, and wear your heart on your sleeve PICTURE: Wikimedia

  • In Shakespeare's time theatres had no curtain and no scenery, and lighting was just daylight or candlelight, so the set had to be written into the play and described by the actors. PICTURE: Wikimedia

  • In 1613 the original Globe theatre burned down when a cannon shot during a performance of Henry VIII caused it to go up in flames.

  • There is evidence to suggest that the William Shakespeare did not in fact write the Shakespeare plays: about 50 other candidates have been suggested, include Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. Among those who doubt Shakespeare's authorship are Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud and Charlie Chaplin. PICTURE: Wikimedia

  • The First Folio was the first extensive collection of Shakespeare's plays, and was published after his death in 1623. It is the only source for about 20 of Shakespeare's plays, which otherwise would be lost.

  • Shakespeare's father, John Shakespeare, made gloves for a living but in the 1570s he was prosecuted four times for breaking the law by trading in wool and money-lending. PICTURE: Wikimedia

  • According to the<em> Oxford Dictionary of Quotations</em>, Shakespeare wrote about one tenth of the most quotable quotations ever written or spoken in the English language.

  • When Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, she was already three months pregnant with their first child. PICTURE: Wikimedia

  • Although he spelled it all kinds of ways throughout his life (such as Willm Shaksp and William Shakspere) he never actually signed his name 'William Shakespeare'. PICTURE: Wikimedia

  • The family line ended in 1670 when Shakespeare's daughter Judith died. She was the only one of his three children to have children, and they all died young. PICTURE: Wikimedia