Richard III’s Bodies from Medieval England to Modernity

Shakespeare and Disability History

Jeffrey R. Wilson
Book Cover

PB: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2267-5
Publication: Oct 22

HC: $110.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-2266-8
Publication: Oct 22

Ebook: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2268-2
Publication: Oct 22

268 pages
6 x 9
2 figures, 23 halftones

How is Richard III always both so historical and so current?


Richard III will always be central to English disability history as both man and myth—a disabled medieval king made into a monster by his nation’s most important artist.

In Richard III’s Bodies from Medieval England to Modernity, Jeffrey Wilson tracks disability over 500 years, from Richard’s own manuscripts, early Tudor propaganda, and x-rays of sixteenth-century paintings through Shakespeare’s soliloquies, into Samuel Johnson’s editorial notes, the first play produced by an African American Theater company, Freudian psychoanalysis, and the rise of disability theater. For Wilson, the changing meanings of disability created through shifting perspectives in Shakespeare’s plays prefigure a series of modern attempts to understand Richard’s body in different disciplinary contexts—from history and philosophy to sociology and medicine.

While theorizing a role for Shakespeare in the field of disability history, Wilson reveals how Richard III has become an index for some of modernity’s central concerns—the tension between appearance and reality, the conflict between individual will and external forces of nature and culture, the possibility of upward social mobility, and social interaction between self and other, including questions of discrimination, prejudice, hatred, oppression, power, and justice.

About the Author(s)

Jeffrey R. Wilson is a teacher-scholar at Harvard University and the author of Shakespeare and Trump (Temple).