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Lees and Moonshine: Remembering Richard III, 1485–1635*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Philip Schwyzer*
University of Exeter


Not long after Shakespeare's birth in 1564, the last witnesses to the reign of Richard III (1483–85) would have reached the end of their lives. Richard III (ca. 1592) occupies a distinctive historical moment in relation to its subject, the period after the extinction of living memory, but still within the horizon of secondhand or communicative memory. This essay explores how memories and postmemories of Richard's reign were preserved, transmitted, and transformed over the course of the sixteenth century and into the seventeenth. While registering the powerful influence of emerging contexts, including the Reformation and, ultimately, Shakespeare's play, these memories remained distinct from, and sometimes at odds with, textual history. They survived because they offered their bearers a resource for interpreting and resisting the predicaments of the present, from the problem of tyranny to the legacies of the Reformation.

Copyright © 2010 Renaissance Society of America

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An earlier version of this essay was presented to the University of California, Berkeley, Early Modern Colloquium in April 2009. I am grateful to Jeffrey Knapp, David Landreth, Ethan Shagan, and the rest of the group for a memorably stimulating and productive discussion.


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