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  • The verismo opera Andrea Chenier by Umberto Giordano makes numerous changes to the historical record:
    • The opera portrays Chenier as a Girondin and Girondin sympathizer as well as a Republican, and someone who is critical of royalists. The real-life Chenier was a royalist constitutional monarchist who loathed both the Girondins and the Jacobins, serving as a writer for the defense of Louis XVI during his trial. It's likely that the opera blends Andre with his Adapted Out brother Marie-Joseph Chenier who was a Republican, an ally initially of Girondins but later worked with Robespierre during his Festival of the Supreme Being, which presents its own problems.
    • The opera also has anachronistic touches such as Incroyables and Merveilluses in Paris during the Terror, when both of them were fashions of aristocratic and bourgeois men and women that were specifically counter-revolutionary in intent and date from the Thermidor and Directory periods. Later productions such as the 2016 David McVicar one also feature Robespierre prominently involved in Chenier's arrest and execution when at the time Robespierre was absent from the Committee of Public Safety for more than a month as a result of illness (or sulking in protest depending on the historian) and he had no involvement in the latter's death. The 2016 production also attributes a fake quote to Robespierre which justifies Chenier's death by stating "Even Plato banned the poets from his Republic" which has never been traced to any of Robespierre's speeches.
    • Maddalena de Coigny is based on an inmate of Chenier's but unlike the opera she survived and had many children and certainly didn't join him Together in Death.
  • When William Shakespeare tackles history, history usually loses. However, it's hard to fault him given his often-stated intent to entertain people. It's more of a failure when modern writers use Shakespeare as a definitive authority, something he himself might not have appreciated.
    • Shakespeare was patronized by the British monarchy (in spite of possibly not being a good Protestant). He knew exactly what side his bread was buttered on. Dan Brown is offended at being compared to Shakespeare because — as he points out — he gets things like geography and clothing accurate. Usually.
    • The Winter's Tale is set during pagan times, yet features the Kingdom of Sicily (1130), the Kingdom of Bohemia (1212) and the Tsardom of Russia (1547).
    • Richard III is Tudor propaganda based on dubious sources. Other than Richard's accession and defeat at Bosworth Field, the Bard gets everything wrong.
      • The story of the Princes in the Tower is questionable.
      • Much of what he says about Richard III was already "Common Knowledge" at this point, so it's not all his fault. As hinted above, the guy who deposed Richard III was Henry VII, Elizabeth I's grandfather. So it wouldn't have been a good idea to try and paint a positive picture of Richard III.
    • The film version starring Laurence Olivier even admits it is inaccurate at the beginning but basically says they're telling it because it's a good story and keeps history interesting.
    • Macbeth changes Duncan from a young, violent invader to a wise old king, telescopes Macbeth's 17-year reign into two years, creates Lady Macbeth almost from whole cloth, and reimagines the Stuart family tree.
    • King James was supposedly descended from Banquo through his son Fleance. Macbeth was commissioned by James, who paid Shakespeare a king's ransom to write and stage it. Naturally Shakespeare would throw in things that would please James. This is also why at the end of the original play, Shakespeare put on another play showing the descent of the Stuarts from Fleance through to James VI. Total nonsense, but James and Shakespeare both liked it.
    • Many people believe that Sir John Falstaff was a historical person because of his inclusion in ''Henry IV Parts 1 and 2". Although he may have been very loosely based on an old Stratford acquaintance of Shakespeare's, Falstaff himself is wholly fictional.
      • Sir John Fastolf was a very real knight of the Garter who was a contemporary of Henry V (and long outlived him). To what extent he was the inspiration for Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff is debated to this day.
      • The character was originally named John Oldcastle, after a real 15th century person. Since Oldcastle had well-connected descendants, Shakespeare had to change the name.
    • The Romans in Julius Caesar, who wore nightcaps and used clocks.
      • And read books with pages, as well as the entire events of Caesar's murder, burial, and arrival of Octavius all being compressed into the same day, the actual events occurring within the period of a month.
      • Books with pages aren't as bad a problem as usually assumed — vellum codexes bound in wood did exist in the Roman times.
      • And Caesar saying "For I am constant as the Northern Star"; the location in the sky of the North Celestial Pole varies due to the Precession of the Equinoxes, and in Roman times it wasn't near any star.
    • Shakespeare's portrayal of Henry V as a wild vagabond when he was the heir to the throne is also inaccurate. Henry was always the same duty bound, serious man his whole life.
      • Likewise, Hal's single combat with Hotspur at the Battle of Shrewsbury in Henry VI: Part 1 is a total dramatic fabrication. Not only does Shakespeare portray them as the same age when Hotspur was really decades older, but in reality, rather than personally cross swords, both men were felled by arrows to the face (Henry barely survived; Hotspur wasn't so lucky).
    • Shakespeare has King John say, "The thunder of my cannon shall be heard" in France. The first English cannons were used at the battle of Crécy in 1346 – 130 years after the death of King John. Cannon are also mentioned in Hamlet which is set in the 11th century, well before gunpowder was introduced in Europe.
  • Christopher Marlowe, an Elizabethan dramatist who influenced Shakespeare, was also prone to this. In his Tamburlaine plays, the eponymous (anachronistic) Scythian conqueror ("Tamburlaine" was Turkic, not Scythian) takes control of the Persian Empire (which ceased to exist in 330 BCE, unless he meant the contemporary Safavid Empire, which did not exist in "Tamburlaine's" time) by capturing its capital, Persepolis (which was burned down by Alexander the Great over a millennium ago), capturing the King of Turkey (which was a sultanate) and marrying the daughter of the Egyptian (Mamluk) Sultan, Zenocrate (who, aside from being invented, has a Greek name).
  • Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Real history is mixed in with the story of the seventh president's fame as an emo rock star, but there's quite a bit of (presumably) entirely intentional inaccuracy.
  • The Crucible has so many inaccuracies about the Salem Witch trials that it practically needs its own page.
    • For starters, Abigail and friends were children, not teenagers as in the play. (Miller himself admitted this.)
    • While it is true that Giles Corey died while being pressed, they were already convinced that he was a witch, and that's how the law saw his death.
    • John and Elizabeth Proctor tried very hard to stop this nonsense, but John was hanged long before the craze died, and Elizabeth only escaped on account of pregnancy, being released once the hysteria ran its course.
    • Its attempt to connect the Salem Witch trials to the Red Scare, which — in spite of its justification in pointing out some facts — has opened it up to a counterattack by those who point out that Communist spies in the Western governments were not imaginary creatures, though the hunts for them did cause considerable collateral damage.
  • Claudio Monteverdi's opera 'L'Incoronazione di Poppea', dramatises the Roman Emperor Nero's adulterous affair with, marriage to and crowning of Poppea Sabina. Busenello, the librettist, based the story on the histories of Tacitus, taking a lot of liberties (removing some important characters, adding invented ones, condensing the events of several months into a single day) for which he was neither ashamed nor apologetic; when the libretto was published in his collected works, his synopsis included the line 'here we represent these actions differently'.
  • When Handel's opera Serse was premiered, its creators were disarmingly up-front about most of the story being made up, despite the title character being a historical King of Persia: "Some imbicilities, and the temerity of Xerxes (such as his being deeply enamour’d with a plane tree, and the building of a bridge over the Hellespont to unite Asia to Europe) are the basis of the story, the rest is fiction."
  • 1776... apart from the fact that it's Founding Fathers singing and dancing about independence? The show is actually fairly accurate to history as it was known at the time, with many things taken from the writings of the people involved, but there are some digressions explained in the book:
    • Many of the Congressmen were cut because there were over fifty of them and they just wouldn't fit. Some of Sam Adams' traits were combined with his cousin John, including his eerily accurate prediction of the The American Civil War.
    • Dickinson was given a Historical Villain Upgrade and cast as John Adams' main antagonist in the vote for independence.
    • The Declaration wasn't actually decided as a stalling tactic. In a surprisingly sensible move, Congress voted on independence first and debated over the wording later.
    • Martha Jefferson didn't visit Jefferson in Philadelphia. (The actual reason Jefferson was so anxious to get home was because she was quite ill at the time.)
    • Unanimity was not an official condition of independence, but it was understood that they all needed to do it for the reasons Hancock stated.
    • The final vote didn't come down to the issue of slavery and a Southern walkout. To a modern audience, the issue had to be addressed—it was a fundamental hypocrisy that later ripped the country apart. Plus, Franklin pointing out that they were also Americans was pointed in an era where phrases like "un-American" were freely hurled at political opponents. In reality, Congress removed the anti-slavery clause without that much fuss, quietly passing the buck to the next generation.
    • In general, details were moved around and filled in when they were absent. Today, historians believe that James Wilson was similar to Lyman Hall, being a committed independence man who only delayed his vote so he could check with his constituents. But when the play was written, all they could find was that he'd abruptly switched his vote, so they wrote him as an indecisive Yes-Man to Dickinson.
  • Hamilton in general strives to be as historically accurate as possible, but squeezing together a person's entire life into a single two-act show was always going to reuire some consolidation, which Lin-Manuel Miranda is pretty open about admitting.
    • Aaron Burr, Sir plays pretty fast and loose with the timeline regarding the beginning of the war (in reality, it had started by now, but Hamilton acts as though it hasn't), and simplifies Hamilton's friend situation greatly: in real life, he really did meet Hercules Mulligan shortly after arriving in America, but he didn't meet Laurens and Lafayette until he joined as Washington's aide, and they weren't really friends with Mulligan. Notably, Chernow was apparently resistant to the latter change, and earlier drafts have Hamilton only meeting Mulligan during this song, but presumably it would've split up the action too much to have another meeting later.
    • Satisfied claims that Angelica doesn't have any brothers and wasn't married when she met Alexander - in reality, she did and she was. Miranda has stated outright that he changed this because he felt it was way more dramatically interesting if she and Alexander really could have gotten together at some point.
    • The depiction of the Laurens/Lee duel was also changed a fair bit: it actually happened before Hamilton got married, and not only was Washington not really upset about it, even Lee himself apparently only gained respect for Laurens afterwards. While Hamilton did quit the army at one point, that didn't happen until much later, and it was simply a result of Hamilton's growing frustration at being refused command having reached breaking point. Of course, the duel was necessary to set up the correct way a duel is to be run for contrast in later songs, to give some dramatic reason for Hamilton's departure, and to show off the strained Hamilton/Washington relationship of the time.
    • There were actually two elections where Jefferson and Burr ran against one another, in 1800 and 1804. Phillip Hamilton died in between them, and it was after the latter that the Hamilton/Burr dueled happened, so for obvious reasons of time and drama they were consolidated into a single election.
    • The musical makes Burr much more remorseful about shooting Hamilton than he actually was. In real life, despite the occasional show of regret, he was fairly cavalier about the duel and its outcome, sometimes even making jokes about it. This change was probably made because Burr is the narrator—he's almost always onstage, and so he can't be too unlikable or no one will enjoy the show.
    • The musical also makes Hamilton far more "progressive" than he was. The show gives the impression that he was as serious an abolitionist as his friend John Laurens, purely on the basis of the real-life Hamilton's involvement in the New York Manumission Society. In truth, Hamilton never once made any serious speeches against abolition publicly nor wrote any articles to such an effect, or ever proposed policies against it, because as historian Eric Foner noted, he cared far more about property rights and elitism than abolitionism. The show also makes much of Hamilton's immigrant origins to make him relatable when Hamilton in fact made it harder for immigrants to settle, and that it was Aaron Burr who was more important on that front.


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