Rank #1: Episode 54: Rebecca Totaro Talks About Plague
Whether it’s Lear calling Goneril a plague-sore, or Mercutio cursing the families in Romeo and Juliet by saying “A plague on both your houses!” Shakespeare’s works testify to the fact that rampant plague was a very real, and very prevalent, part of Shakespeare's daily life. But what were the concerns about plague that Shakespeare was considering when he wrote these works that refer to the disease? For Shakespeare and his contemporaries, there was a real plague culture in England that impacted the entertainment industry including theater, literature, and even music. Here today to help us unpack what we can learn about plague for Shakespeare’s lifetime is an expert on this subject, Rebecca Totaro professor of literature and culture of early modern England at Florida Gulf Coast University and author of several books on plague including The Plague in Print. joins us today to discuss her book, Plague in Print, a work that examines plague literature, and what surviving documents written about the experiences of living with plague can teach about the life of William Shakespeare.
Apr 29 2019
Rank #2: Episode 45: Natalie Grueninger on Tudor Bathing
While many of the castles and great homes of the monarch in England already contained luxurious bathrooms, it would be Henry VIII--in a style true to his flamboyant reputation, that would create elaborately accessorized bathrooms for palaces like Whitehall and Hampton Court. While these bathrooms were used by the monarchy in Shakespeare’s life, such as Queen Elizabeth, the average Tudor, and Shakespeare himself, had a much simpler version of bathing, not to mention a variety of myths and legends to accompany popular opinion of keeping clean. Here to walk us through a brief history of soaps, bathing, and the act of cleanliness in Shakespeare’s lifetime is Natalie Grueniger. Natalie is the host of the Talking Tudors podcast, as well as the author of the blog “On the Tudor Trail.” I’ve asked Natalie to visit with us today to talk with us about two excellent blog articles she wrote specifically about Tudor bathing, examining the common practices, methods of making soap, and the inside details about those bathrooms in Whitehall Palace.
Feb 25 2019
The Hurly Burly Shakespeare Show!
The State of Shakespeare
Let's Talk Shakespeare
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Podcasts – Sheldrake on Shakespeare
Will@Warwick - insights into the work of William Shakespeare
The Tudor History & Travel Show
No Holds Bard
Such Stuff: The Shakespeare's Globe Podcast
Rethinking Shakespeare in the Social Depths of Politics
Shakespeare: A critical analysis - for iPad/Mac/PC
The Pendant Shakespeare audio drama anthology
The Bodleian Libraries (BODcasts)
Shakespeare Sundays with Chop Bard
Rank #3: Ep 71: Interview With Emma Smith on The Bodleian Library
illiam Shakespeare was living, and writing at the start of the Golden Age of Libraries. In a world where the written word was considered a luxury item, and private libraries were amassed in castles, mansions, or other private residencies of the wealthy as a sign of their status and intelligence, The Bodleian Library changed the culture of education, and access to knowledge, when they opened their doors in 1602 as the first public library in the world. In 1602, William Shakespeare was 38 years old and writing plays like Troilus and Cressida and even Hamlet, which was registered for publication in the summer of that year. One of the founders of the original library, Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester, who was the younger brother of Henry V, is a major character in two of Shakespeare’s plays, and a minor character in two more. Appearing across four of Shakespeare’s plays is unique enough, but to also portray him positively throughout, leaves us wondering what was William Shakespeare’s opinion of libraries, and would he have gone to the Bodleian?
Here today to share with us the Shakespearean history of the Bodleian Library, is our guest Dr. Emma Smith
Aug 26 2019
Rank #4: Episode 65: Who were Shakespeare's Siblings? with David Kathman
William Shakespeare grew up functioning as the oldest of his five siblings, with his parents losing two children before William was born. The stories of his brothers and sisters are brief, but as you might expect from the life of William Shakespeare, they are full of intrigue, mystery, and mirth. Here today to share with us the stories of Shakespeare siblings is our guest, David Kathman.
Jul 15 2019
Most Popular Podcasts
Rank #5: Episode 64: Elisa Tersigni and The History of Cookery, Kitchens, and Food in Shakespeare's Plays
When it comes to Food in Shakespeare's England, there were superstitions, recipes, kitchens, and even cooking methods attached to the metaphors Shakespeare intended when he used food references in his works.
All of this effusive history behind food in early modern England is at the heart of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s latest project caled Before Farm to Table. Our guest this week Elisa Tersigni, the Digital Research Fellow for "Before 'Farm to Table': Early Modern Foodways and Cultures", and she joins us today to share what’s going on at The Folger with this new project, and how we can better understand Shakespeare as a result of what they discovered.
Jul 08 2019
Rank #6: Episode 58: Natalie Elliot & Shakespeare's Philosophy of Science
With all of the major advances that have taken place since the The Scientific Revolution, it can be easy to forget how impactful and, indeed, revolutionary the time period was for playwrights like William Shakespeare. The bard was being influenced by high level mathematics, and a very Renaissance minded way of thinking that spills off the page into his productions. Here to help us explore some of the places in Shakespeare’s plays where we can see the bard’s education in germ theory, atomism, and even algebra, is our very special guest, Dr. Natalie Elliot.
Natalie Elliot is a writer and college professor at St. John’s College, where she teaches cross-disciplinary courses in classics, history of science, mathematics, literature, philosophy, and music. She writes about the many ways that scientific theories, experiments, and technologies shape what it means to be human. In addition to her appointment at St. John’s, Elliot has held research and teaching positions at The Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions, Indiana University’s Hutton Honors College, and Southern Methodist University. She lives in Santa Fe, NM and New York.
She joins us today from her sabbatical in beautiful Montana where she is working on her latest book, and she’s here now to be our exclusive tour guide into some of the research she recently completed for her work, Shakespeare’s Theater of the Universe, where she examines the intersection of math, science, literature, art, and theater that makes William Shakespeare a true Renaissance man.
May 27 2019
Rank #7: Episode 59: John Taplin and The Story of New Place
After William Shakespeare made his name in London, established himself as a gentleman at home, he returned to Stratford Upon Avon to seek his status as a gentleman, acquiring not only a coat of arms, but the second largest house in town. New Place was brought with considerable legal wrangling, however, and the story of how Shakespeare came to own his famous house is filled with fights, suspicion, murder, and even a few ghosts. It’s a tale fit for a playwright and here to share this story with us is the man who wrote the book on the Shakespeare history of Stratford Upon Avon, the author of Shakespeare’s Country Families, Mr. John Taplin.
John’s book represents over a decade worth of what he calls “sifting through many a quiet archive shelf” combing over documents, records, and legal language to piece together the story of Shakespeare’s life from the little details a shrewd historical investigator like John can uncover with enough patience to sort it out.
John began working Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 2002, where his inspiration for this project first began. Now also a successful author about Shakespeare, John regularly contributes articles and scholarly research to the Shakespeare history community. We are delighted he has agreed to share some of his time with us today.
Jun 03 2019
Rank #8: Episode 55: Sean Flynt, Swordmaker, & the Weapons of Shakespeare's Life
From rapiers to broadswords, weapons fly in Shakespeare's plays, but how many of these dramatic weapons were an established part of daily life for the bard? Did people really carry around rapiers and daggers in the streets of London or at home in Stratford upon Avon? Find out when we talk with author and professional sword maker, Sean Flynt, as he introduces us to the weapons of Shakespeare's life.
May 06 2019
Rank #9: Episode 53: Happy Birthday, Shakespeare! Let's Talk Coat of Arms with Paul Edmondson
We are celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday this week by taking a look at how Shakespeare became a gentleman. One of the ways William Shakespeare achieved the status of a gentleman was in the procurement of the family Coat of Arms. This process was something of a mystery because history shows us that Shakespeare’s father had been eligible for a coat of arms, but never received it. Later, his son William would successfully acquire the arms for the family, presumably a source of pride for his father, as well as a firm establishment of respect and status in the community. This week we are happy to welcome back to the show for his second time as a guest here at That Shakespeare Life, the distinguished Dr. Paul Edmondson, Head of Research and Knowledge at Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who joins us to be our guide into the history of Shakespeare’s coat of arms, heraldry, and the Shakespeare family.
Apr 22 2019
Rank #10: Episode 68: Interview with Eric Rasmussen on Shakespeare's Collaborations
While Shakespeare is name is the most well known of the playwrights from Renaissance England, he was hardly the only famous artist working during that time period. Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, John Fletcher, and John Lyly are just a few of the names we can mention of excellent theater practitioners working alongside the bard, and it turns out, William Shakespeare apparently had at least a high professional respect for these gentlemen personally, as he is known to have collaborated with several of them on plays like Pericles, Henry VIII, and Timon of Athens.
But knowing that Shakespeare collaborated with fellow playwrights, even with members of rival playing companies, brings up some questions about the practicality of collaborating in the Renaissance. Who owned the plays that they wrote? Why weren’t the collaborative plays published with all of the contributing authors? There are so many questions about what collaboration looked like for William Shakespeare, and this week we have the man who literally wrote the book on Shakespeare’s Collaborative Works, Dr. Eric Rasmussen, here to walk us through 16th century playhouses and the world of collaborative Renaissance theater.
Aug 05 2019
Rank #11: Ep70: Interview with James Loxley on the Rise of James VI/I
When James VI of Scotland became James I of England, he did so as the son of Mary Queen of Scots, and brought with him a tumultous history and risk for civil war. In an example of the King’s extraordinary gift at diplomacy and unification, he also brought into England his ability to stabilize conflict and unite warring parties around his position as King.
At 39 years old, when William Shakespeare was at the height of his career as a playwright in London, the new King would officially patronize Shakespeare’s company, and include the bard, the Burbages, and The Lord Chamberlain’s Men in his campaign to win the heart of England and unify the three nations.
Here to help us explore the story of what it was like for William Shakespeare when Elizabeth died and King James came to the throne, as well as the religious reformations that defined the cultures of these nations, and divided the Scottish Kirk from the Church of England ideologically, is our special guest Dr. James Loxley.
James Loxley is Professor of Early Modern Literature in the department of English Literature at Edinburgh. He has written widely on renaissance poetry and drama, with a particular focus on Ben Jonson and Andrew Marvell, and on the literature, politics and culture of the civil war period. His current research focuses on a collaborative project digitally mapping Edinburgh's literary cityscape, and a cultural history of the relations between England and Scotland in the early seventeenth century.
We are delighted to have him visit with us today to share with us the moment in Shakespeare’s life when he found himself finally under the official patronage of the English monarchy.
Aug 19 2019
Rank #12: Episode 60: Brigitte Webster and the Tudor Knot Garden
William Shakespeare uses Tudor Knot Gardens in his plays, most notably in Love’s Labour’s Lost, but also with a mention in Richard II. These iconic symbols of Tudor history are as intricate in design as they are in their history and folklore.
Here to help us explore exactly why Shakespeare would have invoked the reputation of a Tudor Knot Garden for his plays, as well as the history of the design, purpose, and flowers inside these specialty gardens is our guest, returning to visit with us for the second time here at That Shakespeare Life, the delightful Brigitte Webster.
Jun 10 2019
Rank #13: Episode 56: 17th century Blackface Makeup with Andrea Stevens
For William Shakespeare’s London, multiple races were commonplace on the streets near The Globe theater where plays like Othello and Merchant of Venice boldy portrayed blackness and multiple ethnicities in performance, but what was the 16th century perspective on race when they saw various ethnicities on stage? Othello was first portrayed by Richard Burbage, who was a white man, so did Shakespeare use blackface makeup? Was that costume technique offensive to his audience the way it would be in a modern theater?
Here to help us explore the role of race on stage, and the cultural understanding of ethnicities for people like William Shakespeare is our guest, Andrea Stevens.
Andrea Stevens is Associate Professor of English, Theatre, and Medieval Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign specializing in the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. She is the author of Invention of the Skin, which explores costumes, makeup, and representations of race on stage in Shakespeare’s lifetime, and the role of blackface makeup in performance on stage for 16th century theater.
May 13 2019
Rank #14: John Fletcher, the man who took over The King's Men when Shakespeare died
John Fletcher was a prominent playwright during William Shakespeare’s lifetime, whose work came close to eclipsing that of the bard during the height of his popularity in early modern England. Friends, as well as colleagues with The King’s Men, Shakespeare and Fletcher collaborated on several key plays of Shakespeare like Henry VIII as well as Two Noble Kinsmen. John Fletcher was so prominent and important during the life of the bard that after Shakespeare’s death in 1616, it would be John Fletcher who took over the healm of the King’s Men to run the playing company under James I. Understanding the life of John Fletcher provides a unique window into the life and times of William Shakespeare and our guest today has done an extensive amount of research into John Fletcher as well as his relationship to Shakespeare. We are delighted to welcome Lucy Munro as our guide into the life of John Fletcher and his friendship with William Shakespeare. Lucy Munro, is a professor of early modern literature at King’s College London, and author of an entire chapter on John Fletcher in the recent book The Shakespeare Circle.
Mar 04 2019
Rank #15: Episode 44: Paul Edmondson Talks Heminges and Condell
If the saying is true that you are the sum of your five closest friends, then one great way to get to know William Shakespeare is to take a look at the lives of his closest friends. John Heminges and Henry Condell helped form the foundation of the shareholder agreement Shakespeare made at The Globe and the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. They would remain loyal to Shakespeare from Elizabethan England into Jacobean England as the company became the King’s Men under James I. Acting in plays together, writing plays, surviving the Globe’s famous fire, and watching each other get married, have children, and grow old together is a stronger definition of friendship than many people ever get to experience, and by all historical accounts, Heminges and Condell were just such strong friends for William Shakespeare not just until his death in 1616, but through the publication of the 1623 First Folio, and continuing ever after.
As our guest this week, we are delighted to have Paul Edmondson, the Head of Research at Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and the author of one chapter about Heminges and Condell that appeared in the recent book he edited called The Shakespeare Circle. We welcome Paul today to discuss his chapter on Heminges and Condell and help us get to know Shakespeare’s extraordinary friends.
Feb 18 2019
Rank #16: Ep 49: Shakespeare's Sheep with Lizzy Dobbin
Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford Upon Avon sits just outside the famous Cotswolds Hills, where wool was the primary industry. It’s even thought that shepherds in the area taking care of their sheep are responsible for the first discovery of graphite that would go on to be used in pencils. In Shakespeare’s plays, there are references to sheep, lambs, fleeces, wool, and shepherds in almost all of his works, leading us to wonder how personally connected to sheep and the wool industry William Shakespeare might have been.
Here as our guest this week to help us explore Shakespeare’s history with sheep is the person in charge of the actual living sheep kept in Shakespeare’s name, and a representative part of his history at Mary Arden’s Farm in Stratford Upon Avon, is Lizzy Dobbin [Assistant Farm Manager at Mary Arden’s Farm], at Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Mar 25 2019
Rank #17: Episode 69: Interview with William Massena on 16th Century Clocks
One of my absolute favorite quotes from Shakespeare comes from Henry IV Part 1 when Henry V says
Unless hours were cups of sack and minutes
capons and clocks the tongues of bawds and dials the
signs of leaping-houses and the blessed sun himself
a fair hot wench in flame-coloured taffeta, I see no
reason why thou shouldst be so superfluous to demand
the time of the day.
It’s hilarious today, particularly to consider Falstaff parading around in flame coloured taffeta, but the history buried in the hilarity is the question of time. Obviously, Henry V seems to think asking about the time of day is superfluous. In a 21st century world where things arrive on time, and we keep our time in our pockets or on our wrists, what was William Shakespeare’s understanding of keeping of time? It is William Shakespeare who is credited with being the first to pen the phrase “watch the clock”, but did he have a clock?
Here to take us back to the world of sundials, hourglasses, pocket watches, and clock towers all of which were in motion and taking part in a flourish of clockmaking that took off in europe in the 15th adn 16th century is our very special guest, William Massena.
William Massena is the Founder and CEO of Massena LAB, a collaboration with independent watchmakers to make unique timepieces. He is the Managing Director of TimeZone.com, the world’s largest watch discussion forum on the Internet. William, who has been with TimeZone.com since its founding in 1995, has been a passionate collector of watches from an early age and an active participant in the world of horology as a collector, consultant and auctioneer. Previously, he was the Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director of Antiquorum SA, a leading Horological Auction House. William Massena holds a BS and master’s degree from New York University Stern School of Business. He is a jury member of the GPHG since 2013, a member of the cultural council of the Foundation of Haute Horology and a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. In addition, William Massena is a Trustee of the Horological Society of New York.
Aug 12 2019
Rank #18: Ep 50 Globe v Blackfriars with Sarah Dustagheer
When William Shakespeare was writing The Tempest was he considering the light bouncing off the walls of his playhouse? When he directed Feste to be fond of singing in Twelfth Night, did Shakespeare know the people in the back would be able to hear him?
We don’t often think about Shakespeare’s plays in context of where they were originally performed, but this week our guest Sarah Dustagheer has written an entire book exploring that very question. Turns out, many of Shakespeare’s lines were written for the location where they were first to be performed. Sarah is a Senior Lecturer in Early Modern Literature at The University of Kent, and author of her latest book, Shakespeare’s Playhouses: Repertory and Theatre Space at the Globe and the Blackfriars, 1599-1613
Apr 01 2019
Rank #19: Episode 67: Groatsworth of Wit with Dr. Lois Potter
Robert Greene’s A Groatsworth of Wit was written as a small pamphlet, and told a moralistic tale which was partly autobiographical. The story includes many characters, songs, fables, and perhaps most famously--sharply barbed criticism that takes aim at his contemporary playwrights and actors. The most famous criticism for which Greene’s work is most remembered is that this document is where Shakespeare is called and Upstart Crow. Here to help us take a detailed look at Robert Greene, the history of A Groatsworth of Wit, and what these famous insults tell us about the life of William Shakespeare is our guest, Dr. Lois Potter.
Jul 29 2019
Rank #20: The Elizabethan Jig with Lucie Skeaping
Many times when Shakespeare would perform a play, there would be a bawdy and comical song and dance show performed after the play, even if the play was a tragedy or something more serious. A traditional part of Elizabethan theater, the jig was a not only an expected part of playhouse performances but they represent a slice of culture from Shakespeare’s liftime. Many of the song and dance routines performed were inspired by, or examples of, Elizabethan pop culture. The tunes were a kind of street music, and the stories represented popular tales that would influence playwrights like William Shakespeare. Here to share with us the history of broadside ballads and the Elizabethan jigs is our distinguished guest, Lucie Skeaping
Mar 11 2019