A Mirror for Magistrates

Shakespeare’s Library –  History

#7 A Mirror for Magistrates (1610)

This book is a collection of poems written by a number of different authors, each of which recounts the life and tragic end of a famous figure from the English past. The poems were intended to be exemplary and didactic: many of them feature the ghosts of historical figures who relate their deeds and misdeeds. Here, the ghost of the infamous tyrant Richard III tells his own terrible tale, with an illustration showing Richard wielding a dagger. The opening of this story recounts his monstrous birth: he was fabled to have been born with teeth (“I ready toothed came”) and he had a misshapen body that was often interpreted as a reflection of his evil nature. Shakespeare transformed and extended the reputation of Richard III, making him into the most notorious villain in English history and the most popular villain on the English stage. A Mirror for Magistrates was first published in 1559; this updated edition dates from 1610, and includes the life of the recently deceased Queen Elizabeth.

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