In William Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” the king is shown facilitating the deaths of King Henry VI and his son Prince Edward; of Richard’s brother George, Duke of Clarence (drowned in a butt of malmsey wine); of the Second Duke of Buckingham; of Richard’s own wife, Anne Neville; and especially of the Princes in the Tower of London, the 12-year-old King Edward V and his 9-year-old brother Richard, Duke of York. It is the greatest example of theatrical overkill since the Tarantino-like closing scenes of “Hamlet” and “Macbeth,” yet there is absolutely no evidence that Richard was guilty of any of it. Shakespeare even has Richard killing the Duke of Somerset at the battle of St. Albans, which took place when Richard was 2 years old. …

It is hoped by Ricardians (yes, the small but vocal band of Richard III’s supporters have a sobriquet) that the world-wide interest in his disinterment by Leicester University archaeologists will focus attention on his reputation. Just because his last stand at the Battle of Bosworth Field took place 528 years ago, it doesn’t mean that a good man’s name should continue to be sullied. As Shakespeare’s own Iago says in the third act of “Othello”: “Who steals my purse steals trash . . . but he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed.”

Richard should be admired even today. After all, here is a monarch who abolished press censorship, invented the right to bail for people awaiting trial, reformed the country’s finances, and led bravely in battle despite a crippling disability.