Today in Theatre History: “MY KINGDOM FOR A HORSE!”–August 22, 1485

It was on this day in theatre history–August 22, 1485–that the culminating event in the War of the Roses occurred.  The Battle of Bosworth Field saw the two warring houses of English nobility (York and Lancaster) clash to determine the future of the country.  In the end King Richard III lost to Henry Tudor, leading to the blah-dee blah-dee blah–dee, blah blah.  Okay, so much for political history…

Really worth more than all of England?  Perhaps.

Really worth more than all of England? Perhaps.

What’s really important, of course, is not the battles and kings and politics.  What’s really important is that the death of Richard and the ascension of Henry led directly to the arrival of the Renaissance in England and over the next century the culture of the world would change forever.  Without the Battle of Bosworth Field there would have been no Shakespeare.  Or rather the Shakespeare who was about to be born would most likely have stayed in a Yorkish Stratford and been a glove-maker or tanner or dentist or some other mercantile-based professional.  The great Elizabethan theatre companies and playhouses would never have existed.  You can’t have “Elizabethan” theatre without Elizabeth.  And Elizabeth was a Tudor.  Instead, London under the Yorks at the end of the 16th century would have been a very different place.  Because the great cultural changes we now take for granted happened precisely because the Tudors brought the Renaissance to England, in part because it was good for Tudor family business, in part because is was good for Tudor marriage and heredity, and in part because it was just in the nature of Tudors themselves–reasons that might well not have happened under a succession of Yorks.  And without the Tudors on the throne, Shakespeare would never have written about a defeated king whining on and on about missing his horse and willing to trade his entire kingdom for one.

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