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Episode 30: Malcolm Hebron Introduces to Shakespeare's Renaissance Magus

The character of Prospero in The Tempest is full of magic, superstition, and the question for the audience about whether Prospero is a good man or a selfish and greedy villain. Then of course, we have to ask, was he even a real man at all, or something supernatural? When The Tempest was first staged, it was done so before King James I at a celebration for All Hallow’s Day in 1611. As King James was highly suspicious of all things magic and supernatural, it’s impressive that Shakespeare...


Episode 29: The Science of Shakespeare with Dan Falk

William Shakespeare’s life overlapped some of the most extraordinary scientific discoveries in human history. Modern thought was developing the idea of a round Earth, the sun being the center of the universe, and scientific minds like Galileo, Thomas Digges, and Tycho Brahe, were utilizing then cutting edge technology like the telescope to transform the way we thought about the universe and our place in it. This swirl of scientific thought, imagination, and theory was buzzing around William...


Episode 28: Exploring 16th Century Witches and Witchcraft with Marion Gibson

Halloween is coming up a few days from now, and it seems like a good opportunity to explore the origins to the holiday, which began as a religious celebration. Of course, since then it’s grown into a fun night of candy and costumes for us here in the US, but for William Shakespeare, ghouls, ghosts, and witches had real life implications. While king of Scotland, James VI became convinced witchcraft was an active danger to him personally, and in order to prevent that danger, he conducted...


Episode 27: The History of Shakespeare's Beard with Christopher Oldstone-Moore

From the Chandos portrait to first folio engraving, all of our visual depictions of William Shakespeare show him with a full face beard. Was this grooming style typical for Elizabethans or was William Shakespeare stepping outside the norm with his choice of facial hair? We think of Shakespeare as a hipster artist guy today, but what did the Elizabethans think about Shakespeare’s Beard?


Episode 26: Tiffany Stern Talks 16th Century Quill Pens and Graphite Pencils

When we think about William Shakespeare, we almost synonymously think of him holding a quill pen, or furiously scratching away on a piece of parchment with ink on his hands creating a masterpiece. When it comes to the history of writing, pens in particular, and even references to writing that happens inside Shakespeare’s plays, the world of writing instruments in Shakespeare’s lifetime was really widely varied. Not only were there other options beyond the infamous quill pen, but it’s highly...


Episode #25: Sally Beth MacLean Talks With Us About Shakespeare & 16th Century English Travelling Playing Companies

Between 1590 and 1642, there were about twenty companies of actors in London and only 4-5 of them played in London proper at one time. In addition to these companies, there were more than a hundred provincial troupes. The fact that there were many more provincial troupes than city-playing companies demonstrates that for William Shakespeare’s lifetime, it was actually the purpose built theater which was new and different, while travelling companies were the traditional way to tell stories...


Episode #24: Glyn Parry Uncovers New Documents about John Shakespeare, William's Father

For years, historians have ruminated on the state of William Shakespeare’s father, John Shakespeare, and the financial troubles that were speculated to have caused the bard to leave Grammar School before graduation around age 14. Without any real substantial evidence to confirm or deny what actually happened to John Shakespeare, we have been left to wonder what, if any impact, these troubles had on the budding young playwright. Wondering, that is, until now. Dr. Glyn Parry has uncovered new...


Episode #23: David Horobin Introduces us to the history of Falconry in Shakespeare's lifetime

One of the most referenced sports in the plays of William Shakespeare is that of falconry. From hoodwinked to wrapped around your little finger, many of the colloquialisms we use to describe human relationships today can be attributed to Shakespeare, who learned them from the sport of falconry. Falconry is the sport that takes large birds of prey, like falcons or hawks, and catches food which is kept on the table. It was not only a popular sport among nobles during Shakespeare’s lifetime,...


Episode 22: Clare Asquith on Shakespeare and the Essex Rebellion

Many British historians will recognize the Essex Rebellion as a famous event, but less well known is the almost pivotal role in that uprising that was played by William Shakespeare. Robert Devereux was the 2nd Earl of Essex and was, in addition to being the Queen’s favorite, also one of Shakespeare’s most notable patrons. After a ghastly display of disrespect to the Queen in public, along with many grievances Essex felt towards Elizabeth I, he found himself appointed Lord Lieutenant of...


Episode #21: Swords of Shakespeare | An interview with Joseph David Martinez

When we see a Shakespeare play, we take for granted just how much work, and history, goes into staging the fight scenes. Whether it’s Hamlet and Laertes dueling it out, or the legions of armies storming the stage in the Battle of Agincourt, the fights that Shakespeare put on stage are the secret sauce that helps seal the deal on Shakespeare’s plays. Our guide this week into the real life of William Shakespeare is Joseph David Martinez. Joseph is a founding member and past president of the...


Episode #20: Intoxicants and Drunkenness in Shakespeare's England| Interview with Phil Withington

Whether it was beer, ale, tobacco, or other plant based stimulants, almost every man and woman in 16th century London from the brothel to the royal court had an opinion on, and often tried, intoxicants. Substances like tobacco, ale, beer, and even chocolate were being brought to England for the first time by explorers who were travelling to new worlds and returning with samples of new and exciting crops that grabbed hold of England’s collective attention, impact the economy and business...


Episode #19: Becoming Friends With Ben Jonson | An interview with Helen Ostovich

Rivals in life,and in legacy, Ben Jonson is a playwright who gave Shakespeare a run for his money. Some of Ben Jonson’s extravagancy on the stage and creativity as an artist is even said to have influenced how Shakespeare chose to stage some of his own plays, with the two men being linked in anecdote after anecdote when you study history. Obviously aquaintances, colleagues, and contemporaries, but was Ben Jonson friends with William Shakespeare? And what can we learn about the bard from our...


Episode #18: An Introduction to the Life and Work of Dr. John Hall, Shakespeare's Son in Law | An Interview with Sara Read

William Shakespeare’s oldest daughter, Susanna, married Dr. John Hall when she was 24 years old. John was a faithful son in law to William Shakespeare, and as a medical doctor in Stratford had a unique look at what it was like to live and work in a small town of the 16th century England. John Hall’s surviving case books help Shakespeare historians piece together many realities about Shakespeare’s life, not the least of which is some of the medicinal herbs and treatments the bard and his...


Episode #17: Dogs, Cats, Monkeys, and the pets of Shakespeare's England | An interview with Jennifer Jorm

In Shakespeare’s play, Two Gentlemen of Verona, one character has a pet dog. The dog’s name is Crab. The part in the play is very small, but remains included by Shakespeare, which leads to some interesting questions about animals and their role in Shakespeare’s history. He must have included Crab strategically, but why? Animals in history are connected mostly to farming, agriculture, and perhaps display by royalty to demonstrate their vast exploits into trade and international travel....


Episode #16: Stepping inside The Globe to See a Play Might Surprise You, An Interview with Richard Dutton

We take it for granted that Shakespeare's theater was similar to ours, when in fact, the experience of stepping inside The Globe or other Elizabethan playhouses was quite different for Shakespeare than for us today. To take us behind the curtain and explore the inside of The Globe theater, Richard Dutton is our guide today, helping explore the sights, sounds, and smells inside a real Elizabethan theater. Richard Dutton is a specialist in the theater of William Shakespeare, having...


Episode #15: Did Shakespeare Really Wear Those Poofy Shorts? An Interview with Historical Costumer, Ninya Mikhaila

Shakespeare is often portrayed wearing bright purple poofy pumpkin pants, characteristic both of the time period and our impression of William. Today, Ninya Mikhaila, a professional historical costumer, joins us to share her experiences of recreating 17th century clothing, and tell us all about how William Shakespeare would have dressed.


Episode #14: Interview with Douglas Bruster about how Shakespeare promoted his plays in the 16th century

Douglas joins us today to discuss marketing in the 16th century. With new plays performed as often as every afternoon, and a large portion of his target audience being illiterate, how did Shakespeare fill seats and manage to sell enough tickets to stay in business? Douglas Bruster is a professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. His research centers on Shakespeare, drama, and literary history. His discoveries have been featured in such venues as The New York Times and...


Episode #13: Interview with Barbara Traister exploring astrology, doctors, herbs, and witches in Shakespeare's England

Barbara Traister is the author of The Notorious Astrological Physician of London, and Heavenly Necromancers: The Magician in English Renaissance Drama, as well as former Professor of English at Lehigh University. She joins us today to look at some of Shakespeare’s examples of medicine depicted in his plays and explore where Shakespeare got it right, and some of the hidden messages we can discover in the text by understanding the realities of astrology and 17th century medicine. In this...


Episode #012: Interview With Glyn Jones, Head of Gardens at Shakespeare Birthplace Trust: Did Shakespeare Have a Garden?

Glyn Jones joins us today to talk about kitchen gardens and estate gardens that impacted Shakespeare. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust maintains 5 gardens thought to have been part of William Shakespeare’s home in Stratford and today Glyn Jones is going to help us explore whether or not Shakespeare had a garden himself, what purpose a garden might have served a playwright, and what sort of things would have been planted there. In this episode, I ask Glyn about: - Why would a playwright own...


Episode #011: Literature Versus Theater | An Interview About Shakespeare with Nigel Wood

Does William Shakespeare belong in the theater and not the literature department? Nigel Wood is a Professor of Literature at Loughborough University, specializing in early modern literature and the staging of dramatic texts. He joins us today to discuss the evolution of Shakespeare's plays as a result of reading what was intended to be performed. I will be asking Nigel about the significance of stage directions in addition to the written dialogue, and what impact Condell and Heminges'...