That Shakespeare Life-logo

That Shakespeare Life

History Podcasts

Hosted by Cassidy Cash, That Shakespeare Life takes you behind the curtain and into the real life of William Shakespeare.

Hosted by Cassidy Cash, That Shakespeare Life takes you behind the curtain and into the real life of William Shakespeare.


United States


Hosted by Cassidy Cash, That Shakespeare Life takes you behind the curtain and into the real life of William Shakespeare.






Ep 115: History of Oranges with Dorian Fuller

Like so many of Shakespeare’s words, even a single line can have an elaborate history. When it comes to the word “orange” there is just such a history to be found if you know where to look. For the 16th century, oranges were a staple item for seasonal eating on tables from the average person all the way to the nobility. While the real “rage” in history for it being fashionable to have orange houses called orangeries in England would not hit in full force until after Shakespeare’s...


Ep 114: The Tabard Inn with Martha Carlin

For the entirety of Shakespeare’s life, the Tabard Inn was a well established public inn on the mainstreet of Southwark, leading to London Bridge, and it was famous because Chaucer had set the opening scene of The Canterbury Tales there, but according to a 27 page hand written document once owned by famous antiquary David Laing, the Tabard Inn served as a frequent meeting place for William Shakespeare, who gathered there with famous friends like Richard Burbage, Ben Jonson, and other...


Ep 113: Supernovas & Eclipses with Michael Rowan Robinson

In 1572, when William Shakespeare was 8 years old, a large supernova streaked across the sky making a lifelong mark in the memory of not just a young William Shakespeare, but across the consciousness of all of England who saw it that night. At the height of Renaissance thought, and during the time Galileo was presenting his ideas in Italy, William Shakespeare was writing Hamlet, King Lear, and other plays which not only allude to the work of famous physicists and astronomers of the 16th...


Ep 112: Cutlery and Forks with Brigitte Webster

We sit down to a properly set table and expect to see at minimum a fork, knife, and a spoon. More elaborate settings may have more utensils, but for William Shakespeare, his lifetime was the first moment in England’s history when dining habits were caught somewhere between the age of eating with one’s hands, and the advent of proper utensils at the dining table. While the invention of the fork happened centuries prior to Shakespeare, the fashion of using them to eat with at a table for meals...


Ep 111: Aqua Vitae and Scotch Whisky with Rosie Wilmot

Do you know the origin of the word “whiskey”? Turns out we have Scotland to thank for not only the drink we know as whiskey today, but the word we use to describe it as well. The earliest record of whiskey on paper happens in 1494 with a reference to aqua vitae in the Exchequer Rolls, but there was a great interest--and a good deal of illicit smuggling of Scotch whiskey-- happening not just in Shakespeare's lifetime, but under the title "aqua vitae" (which is used no less than 6 times in...


Ep 110: The Paston Letters with Rob Knee

The Paston Letters are a collection of over 1,000 pieces of correspondence between 1422 and 1509 which, while never intended to last into the modern era, have been preserved throughout the centuries for the unique light they shed on the everyday events in 15th century England. John Paston was a lawyer in England, and while the letters sometimes represent the communication of John Paston to members of the aristocracy most of the letters are written by his wife Margaret, who is writing to her...


Ep 109: 16th Century Playing Cards with Kathryn James

With court records of Mary Queen of Scots playing cards, as well as James I of England preferring the game Maw when entertaining royal dignitaries, we know that playing cards was not just popular for royals but a pastime at all levels of society during Shakespeare’s lifetime, and it was a relatively new arrival to England overall. Playing cards did not reach Europe until 1360, and the first mention we have of playing cards in England comes in 1463 when King Edward IV banned the import of...


Ep 108: Elizabethan Corsets with Cass Morris

The first historical written reference to a separate undergarment for women is found in the wardrobe accounts of Mary Tudor. There, the records indicate Mary had “Item for making of one peire of bodies of crymsen satin| Item for making two pairs of bodies for petticoats of crymsen satin | Item for making a pair of bodies for a Verthingall of crymsen Grosgrain” The fashion of using a “pair of bodies”, which clothing historians explain is another phrase for corsets, was a staple item for...


Ep 107: Beer & Taverns with Rebecca Lemon

During the life of William Shakespeare, plain water was often unclean and filtration, while available, was rudimentary at best. It was not safe to drink the water of the Thames river, and in order to compensate for a general lack of fresh drinking water, the most popular beverage in Elizabethan England even for regular meal times, was beer or ale. Drunkenness was a common occurrence, as was the consistent consumption of large amounts of alcohol. There are court records showing the monarchs...


Ep 106: Rudolf II and the Hapsburg Family with Peter Wilson

Throughout Shakespeare’s lifetime one of the most widely circulated and reported on current events was the state of the Holy Roman Empire. Ruled for much of Shakespeare’s lifetime by an eccentric named Rudolf II, who secluded himself in Bohemia to the neglect of his Empire. Rudolf II and his weird choice to isolate himself in Bohemia would have been enough to make Shakespeare’s references to Bohemia in his plays make sense, but on top of Rudolf II there was also Don John of Austria, the half...


Ep 105: Guns in Elizabethan England with Grace Tiffany

Famously, William Shakespeare’s Globe burned down from canon fire in 1599 and several of Shakespeare’s plays mention guns, gunpowder, and bullets. While we think of Shakespeare’s era as one of romantic sword battles, duels with a rapier in the streets, and even the massive naval battles with the Spanish Armada, for the life of William Shakespeare everything was under constant strain and a theme of developing the new. The development of new weapons technology was no exception as the late 16th...


Ep 104: Mary Queen of Scots with David Schajer

After a long, and tense back and forth of letters, threats, offers of sisterhood, and ultimately betrayal, Elizabeth I ordered Mary Queen of Scots to be executed in 1587, when William Shakespeare was 24 years old, right in the middle of what is called Shakespeare’s Lost Years, because historical records leave a gap here in the timeline of the bard about exactly what he was doing in these years of his life, but looking at broader history, it turns out much of England was confused about what,...


Ep 103: Corn Famine & Coriolanus with Lauren Shook

As William Shakespeare sat down to write Coriolanus, the Corn Famine of 1608 was in full swing. While the King, James I, took actions to combat the shortage of corn in England, theater seems to have played a role in communicating the citizens unrest and unhappiness over the famine. Not only was Shakespeare writing Coriolanus, where Roman citizens face a similar fate to the Londoners viewing the story at The Globe, but Church pastors all over England were writing, and in some cases...


EP 102: Richard Miller on Ophelia's Flowers

When you study Hamlet, especially in school or when you read or watch a commentary on the play, it is not surprising to have someone point out to you that the flowers Ophelia carries in her bouquet as she sings her sad song after the loss of her Father, Polonius, hold powerful 16th century historical significance. It’s so important that I even included a nod to the flowers specifically in my 3 Minute Animated version of Hamlet that just published on Amazon Prime but even when I included...


Ep 101: John Florio with Marianna Iannaconne

The term "hand-and-a-half sword" is often used in reference to long-swords but is not considered a historical description of the weapon. There is no evidence of the term “hand-and-a-half” having been used during the Middle Ages when the sword saw its heyday in popularity and there’s no reference to hand and a half sword either in English or other languages before the 16th century. But the term does show up during the life of William Shakespeare. Why is that term appearing at this moment to...


Ep100: David Crystal and How Shakespeare Sounded

During the 16th century, William Shakespeare had his own way of pronouncing words as well, and exploring how to define what that pronunciation was, and how it impacts our understanding of the plays, is a special field of historical linguistics called Original Pronunciation. Our guest this week, Dr. David Crystal is the leading expert in the field of Original Pronunciation and he joins us this week to talk about how an experiment he lead at The Globe theater in London taught everyone involved...


Ep 99: Lynn Bowser and Argaty Red Kites

Shakespeare mentions kites seven times in his plays, often using the term to reference specific attributes of the bird to describe someone in the story. He'll refer to someone as "a kite" as if that's bad, or other times, he'll use the bird (or 16th century reputation of the bird) to suggest attributes like suspicion: Although the kite soar with unbloodiebeak? (Henry VI Part II) In the late 15th century, the King of Scotland decreed kites should be killed whenever possible, and that...


Ep 98: Dawn Tucker and Elizabethan Acrobats

Biron in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost declares “O my little heart:— And I to be a corporal of his field, And wear his colours like a tumbler's hoop!” And in Romeo and Juliet there are stage directions which call for Romeo to [He climbs the wall, and leaps down within it] These references have gone largely overlooked by theater companies who perform these plays, being glossed over in dialogue, or constraints of the theater space itself determining what precisely it will look...


Ep 97: Mike Hirrel & 16th Century Props and Scenery

Ben Jonson staged a masque at court called The Fortunate Isles which begins with a spirit descending onto the audience, featuring a floating island so elaborately constructed that England’s premiere architectural professional, Inigo Jones, who is the designer behind Whitehall Palace, Banqueting House, and Covent Garden square, was hired to construct an apparatus specifically for this performance. While records do not detail the construction of this magical floating island, we know from...


Ep 96: Catherine Loomis and Music on Stage

Modern productions of plays include all manner of music, accompaniment, and we almost consider an orchestra pit to be synonymous with theater today. For William Shakespeare, however, his plays were performed in a variety of locations, all of which were void of any orchestra pit but we do know that Shakespeare’s plays included music with works like Hamlet calling for Ophelia to sing a song, but also flourishes to signal entrances as well as exits, along with popular ballads and even a few...