The good guys always win. We know this because Hollywood has taught us that. We also know this because history has taught us this. But when people take into account and acknowledge history’s teachings, most fail to also consider history’s hypocrisy. Every day, all through our lives we become softened and comforted with drugs, fed gradually and continuously by our trusted media. We are overwhelmed by the goodness of our rulers. Wherever there is evil, it is always won over by the forces of good. America – saviour of democracy, has defeated the evil communist empires.
Australia is a more civilised and developed country now that it is in the capable hands of the Europeans. Israel with the help of America (our favourite knight in shining armour) is winning the battle against Islamic terrorists so that they can secure their “democratic interests”. Again and again we are reminded that history, after all, is written by the winners. The Black Adder episode; The Foretelling, attempts to remind us of history’s hypocrisy by studying the events of the War of the Roses an texts from literature depicting this, and illuminating them in humorous light.
Special treatment is given to Shakespearian accounts of the war. It provides a ridiculously different version of event, mocking us for respecting Shakespeare as a historian. The writer does this by making continuous appropriations to Richard III through similar but humorously modified phrases, the inconsistent use of Elizabethan language, familiar names but with different characters and by depicting similar events. The story starts off with good king Richard III addressing his group of merry men by saying, “Now is the summer of our sweet content made overcast winter by these Tudor clouds.
Words from that famous opening soliloquy, recited by theatre’s most well known Machiavellian villain, modified to have a ridiculously contrary meaning that we find humorous. Hah, we say in disbelief, Richard a nice guy? We find that hard to take in because we listen and accept what Shakespeare tells us. The essence of The Foretelling’s humour is derived from many such allusions to Richard-III. Richard is not the only victim of such characterisations. Innocent sweet little Edmund is potrayed as the evil traitor; the Black Adder ad is given a particularly daft hairstyle!
The knight Richmond – champion of goodness, servant of god – is now the vile enemy, accused of rewriting history for his own sake. It is not just characters who are attacked. The Foretelling mercilessly destroys the “lies” constructed by Shakespeare and his gang and provides us with the “actual” and “truthful” accounts of the crucial events which shaped history. The battle of Bosworth Field was not won by the Tudors but by the Yorks. Sadly the King died because of an accident and the evil Henry VII escapes with his because of another such accident.
Further appropriation is made by the inconsistent use of Elizabethan language. The reason for not using the language constantly though out the play is to tell us that it is to be viewed/read in a different context to the original one. A reminder that it was written in modern times and is to be judged without considering the values of the Elizabethans. Other than these obvious appropriations, reference to Shakespeare is made by making fun of the way we are required to first study and comprehend the confusing family relationships and lineage to fully understand the plot.
Richard III: Who is that? Richard, Duke of York: I know not my lord. I’ll ask my son. Harry! Who is that? Prince Harry: It is your other son my lord. Thus through all these methods of appropriation it is evident that the play’s essence is derived from it’s relationship to Shakespeare’s Richard III. Only when we juxtapose the two texts and observe it’s (absurdly) contrasting links do we see the rising message and humour. If we had absolutely no knowledge of the original text The Foretelling would have appeared a text with no depth of meaning. A text which relies on pointless sex jokes, shallow black humour and stupid characters to entertain.