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Podcasts – Sheldrake on Shakespeare

James Sheldrake, jack of all literary trades, attempts to say something valuable about each of Shakespeare's plays in handy 15-minute instalments.

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Measure for Measure – A society play

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/measure-for-measure-a-society-play.mp3 In a resumption of normal service that is perhaps not quite the triumphant return he would like, Sheldrake confesses himself drawn more to the ideas of Measure for Measure than its drama. The discussions of Virtue and Justice in the play are strikingly front and centre, and the social aspects of these philosophical ideas form the matter of this episode. Dodging the comedy/dark comedy/tragicomedy/problem play debate, Sheldrake gives you Measure for Measure; a play about the nature of society. Subscribe on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

31 Aug 2014

Rank #1

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The Taming of the Shrew – Sexist drivel or a play for our time?

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/the-taming-of-the-shrew-sexist-drivel-or-a-play-for-our-time.mp3 As social politics continue to change with gathering speed, works of literature have to catch up or fall by the wayside. The plays of Shakespeare, written in a very different age from our own, must be scrutinised. Does this play, a notorious battle of the sexes, pass the test? Sheldrake thinks so. Subscribe on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

31 May 2014

Rank #2

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Short SoS – Genre

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/short-sos-genre.mp3 This is not the first time genre has been used as a critical tool for understanding Shakespeare’s process and plays, but Sheldrake – never one to dismiss an idea merely because it has been heard before – draws together some big ideas about comedy and tragedy and shows the way that Shakespeare messes about with them. Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

28 Sep 2014

Rank #3

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Julius Caesar and the Soliloquy

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/julius-caesar-and-the-soliloquy1.mp3 The soliloquy is one of Shakespeare’s most recognisable and distinctive theatrical devices. It is in no small part responsible for his fame as a dramatist of human psychology. Was Julius Caesar the gateway in Shakespeare’s soliloquising art between the 1590s and the 1600s? Sheldrake takes a close look at a few speeches from the play. Subscribe on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

12 Jul 2014

Rank #4

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Othello – Perspective

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/othello-perspective.mp3 It’s difficult to know what, and particularly who, to talk about in Othello. Iago is a distraction, Othello likes to inflate his own sense of himself, whilst Desdemona can seem even less than she is. Which is odd, because the characters too find themselves not quite knowing how to interpret what they see in front of them. Or they misunderstand completely and interpret too easily. Their perspective is awry. And because Shakespeare wants to show us just how easy it is to do that, he makes audience after audience lose their perspective too. Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

23 Feb 2015

Rank #5

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King Lear and Service

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/sheldrake-on-shakespeare-king-lear-and-service.mp3 King Lear is a work of obvious genius, so what to say about it in fifteen minutes that can illuminate it? Using the historical idea of service, and the relationship between service and – believe it or not – love, we can get a handle on all sorts of relationships in the play. And Sheldrake thinks these handles can help us whether we are in a classroom, sitting room or rehearsal. Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

16 Dec 2014

Rank #6

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Short SoS – Costume Matters

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/short-sos-costume-matters.mp3 The scarcity of scenery on Shakespeare’s stage does not mean that there were no impressive visual effects. One way of awing an audience was with fine costume. As a primer to the full Henry VIII episode next week, Sheldrake describes the impact of costume in two scenes from that play. Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

7 Mar 2014

Rank #7

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The Merry Wives of Windsor – Words, Words, Words

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/the-merry-wives-of-windsor-words-words-words.mp3 The Merry Wives of Windsor is devoid of ideas, so let’s talk about language instead. And hear Sheldrake play five parts in fifteen minutes. Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

29 Mar 2014

Rank #8

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Troilus and Cressida – Shakespeare’s Ugliest Play

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/troilus-and-cressida-shakespeares-ugliest-play.mp3 We associate Shakespeare with humanity, warmth, generosity and kindness when he writes about people who have made a wrong decision. Even Richard III at the beginning of his play tells us what a dreadful life he’s had until now. Troilus and Cressida is different. Shakespeare is merciless with his characters and shows the Trojan War as a perverse catastrophe for everyone unlucky enough to be caught up in it. From the scheming warriors at the top to those suffering at the bottom, Shakespeare shows us two civilisations, Greece and Troy, buckling under their own weight. Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

18 May 2015

Rank #9

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Henry VIII – Master and Apprentice

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/henry-viii-master-and-apprentice.mp3 Henry VIII is a little known play, but it bears witness to John Fletcher’s apprenticeship to William Shakespeare. And perhaps it’s not that bad a play after all. Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

15 Mar 2014

Rank #10

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Short SoS – Rehearsal and Performance

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/short-sos-rehearsal-and-performance.mp3 Attempts to reconstruct the original performance circumstances of Renaissance plays, either literally or imaginatively, have been a constant companion to fascination about the literature. How did these plays actually get put together? What was the process? Would the actors recognise the concept of a rehearsal process? Sheldrake investigates. Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

20 Jun 2014

Rank #11

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Short SoS – Review – The Genius of Shakespeare by Jonathan Bate

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/short-sos-review-the-genius-of-shakespeare-by-jonathan-bate.mp3 In a new Book Review format designed to highlight a few critical classics to add to the shelves, Sheldrake outlines the relative merits of Professor Jonathan Bate’s acclaimed 1997 book The Genius of Shakespeare. Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

12 Sep 2014

Rank #12

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The Merchant of Venice – Is it worth it?

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/the-merchant-of-venice-is-it-worth-it.mp3 We seem to spend much of our lives asking whether things are worth it. Are they worth the money, the time, the effort? Are we getting value for money? Is something worth it? And everybody in The Merchant of Venice seems to be asking that kind of question too. Venice itself seems to be all about cost and Belmont seems to be all about value. But is it that simple? Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

23 Mar 2015

Rank #13

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Richard II – History or Tragedy?

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/richard-ii-history-or-tragedy.mp3 Richard II has grown in fame in recent years, but is hounded by the fact that the central character is brilliant whilst the rest of the play is the usual run-of-the-mill History drama. But is it that simple? By paying closer attention, can we see that the true genius of this play is in its combination of genres in order to understand history? Sheldrake thinks so. Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

10 May 2014

Rank #14

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Short SoS – Shakespeare at School

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/short-sos-shakespeare-at-school.mp3 If you think Shakespeare was a purely natural genius, the words spilling out from a free spirit of a mind, think again. Shakespeare’s rigorous education at school primed him in all sorts of crucial ways for his later career. Sheldrake explains how at breakneck speed. Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

21 Mar 2014

Rank #15

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Short SoS – Why is Falstaff so popular?

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/short-sos-why-is-falstaff-so-popular.mp3 Sir John Falstaff is a river who has burst his banks. He has taken on a life beyond Shakespeare’s plays and become a myth in his own right. Anybody who has a thirst for life is described as Falstaffian, he has had operas written for him, actors at the mature height of their comic powers have repeatedly enjoyed success as this embodiment of festivity and he remains an unassailable favourite with audiences. Is he just very entertaining, or is there more to it than that? Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

12 Jan 2015

Rank #16

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Twelfth Night – Play on

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/twelfth-night-play-on.mp3 Twelfth Night seems to be everyone’s favourite Shakespeare play. Why is this the case? Could it be something to do with the fact that it is a play about playing? This play is a hymn to the pleasure and virtue of playing and play wins over anti-play, though of course the real motto is that it’s the taking part that counts. Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

26 Jan 2015

Rank #17

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Short SoS – Sheldrake on Marlowe

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/short-sos-sheldrake-on-marlowe.mp3 Sheldrake decides to put his money where his mouth is regarding Shakespeare’s contemporaries. Why should we care about Marlowe, both on his own terms and in relation to Shakespeare? Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

20 Jul 2014

Rank #18

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Timon of Athens – Shakespeare and the City

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/timon-of-athens-shakespeare-and-the-city.mp3 London was growing up fast in Shakespeare’s day. Whether you’re familiar with Shakespeare or not, Timon of Athens seems a very peculiar play. But armed with some context, its connection with Renaissance finance and city drama become apparent. Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

12 Apr 2014

Rank #19

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Short SoS -Shakespeare and Evil

https://sheldrakeonshakespeare.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/short-sos-shakespeare-and-evil.mp3 Thanks to a couple of nearby anniversaries, we are hearing more than ever not only what great theatre Shakespeare is, but also what a positive influence he is. By and large, this is true. But the commemorative coin has another side, which is Shakespeare’s repeated mobilisation by fascists, racists and regimes we despise. Firstly, this is a story worth telling. Secondly, what does it mean for the plays today? Ahead of a talk on the subject in Oxford on 11th May, Sheldrake thinks aloud. Also available on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/ndhzfxm

4 May 2015

Rank #20