WAS Richard III a hero or villain?

You may hear Shakespeare's character assassination in his hatchet-job History play, Richard III, at Shakespeare's Rose Theatre on the Castle car park until September 1, or experience a more balanced account in "a celebration of the Yorkist King" at the York Dungeon from Saturday to September 2.

Richard III is the third character to come under the spotlight in the Clifford Street visitor attraction's year-long Yorkshire Rogues & Legends campaign, following Mother Shipton and Margaret Clitherow.

"History has no lack of controversies, and there is certainly no other English monarch that has invited more argument and debate than Richard III," says performance manager John Andrews. "First there was the question of whether he should be buried in York or Leicester, but this summer, the York Dungeon is asking one question that still has no answer: was Richard III a hero or villain?"

The dungeon is inviting visitors to decide for themselves, as Yorkshire Rogues & Legends recalls a time when Richard ruled over the city of York and the Wars of the Roses were at their most prickly.

"We’re all hugely excited here at the York Dungeon," says Andrews. "The new changes tell a story we’ve never told before, and the audience, as always, will be directly involved in that story, with plenty of surprises on the way.

"Obviously you have Shakespeare’s version of Richard III as this grotesque villain, but we want to portray the Richard that York loved; the man who had so many connections to the city, that a lot of people seem to have forgotten."

General manager Stuart Jarman adds: "The burial debate was one of great interest and conflict in York as many believed it should have been Richard’s final resting place but Leicester denied the city, and Richard, of this."

Visitors can still expect the full blackly humorous York Dungeon experience every day this summer, alongside the Rogues & Legends series. "You’ll meet all of York’s famous characters, from the Vikings to Dick Turpin, with plenty of scares and laughs to be had" says Andrews.

Charles Hutchinson