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Trophies, Traces, Relics, and Props: The Untimely Objects of Richard III

From: Shakespeare Quarterly
Volume 63, Number 3, Fall 2012
pp. 297-327 | 10.1353/shq.2012.0048



This essay charts the early modern afterlives of a range of objects associated in the Tudor era with the reign and person of Richard III. While some of these things survived because they remained useful in the present, others were preserved as witnesses to the lost past (trophies) or as vital links between the past and the present (relics). Strikingly, a number of these objects—including Richard’s dagger, his prayer book, his crown, and his bed—reemerge as significant theatrical properties in Shakespeare’s Richard III. Like their real-world counterparts, many of the play’s props seem bent on interrogating or disrupting the boundary between the present and the past. In its treatment of objects, Richard III invites us to consider how much and how little separates the dramatic property from the genuine article, and in doing so to gauge both the proximity and the distance between Shakespeare’s time and the late medieval world of Richard III.

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