Friday, July 17, 2015

Down in the Dungeon

Continuing the sequence that includes "Castle Gate", "Dark Dungeon" and "Dungeon Door", the journey turned out to be less Dante than Shakespeare, illuminated by the very candle that Lady Macbeth could not extinguish. Memory now tells me it was Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, where a red-hot poker was applied to the rectum of King Edward II because his political enemies liked his homosexuality even less than they hated his being on the throne; or it may have been Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire, where Richard II starved to death; or perhaps I was just imagining that cell in the Tower of London where Roderigo Lopes was shown the instruments of torture by the Earl of Essex, in hopes of persuading him to confess he was a Spanish spy and thereby ease the Earl's passage to the throne when Queen Elizabeth died. So many gorgeously preserved castles and country houses that we love to visit, and photograph, and draw, admiring the woodwork and the ormolu and the tapestries, quite forgetting the feudal despotism that inhabited these dwellings, the torture that inhabited its dungeons, the fairy-tales we so much prefer to actual history.

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