A podcast exploring the works, life, and identity of William Shakespeare







July 2018
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Mysteries of the First Folio

The First Folio has been called “incomparably the most important work in the English language.”  Published in 1623, seven years after William Shakespeare’s death, and purportedly assembled by members of his theater company, the First Folio is the earliest collection of Shakespeare plays. Many of the plays had never before been in print. The book also provided a first glimpse at the face of the author, in the famous engraving by Martin Droeshout.

There are curiosities about the First Folio and its production that make some scholars wonder if it has another, secret, history. Katherine Chiljan, author of Shakespeare Suppressed: The Uncensored Truth about Shakespeare and his Works, joins us to investigate.


Direct download: TSU_07_Mysteries_of_First_Folio.mp3
Category:Literature -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

Poet Ape, A Plagiarist Among the Playwrights

Episode 6 with Sabrina Feldman

Ben Jonson and other writers of Shakespeare’s time satirized a social-climbing playwright-actor who stole their words and passed them off as his own.

In epigrams, stories, and plays they attacked this pretentious plagiarist, who made a lucrative career by patching together popular plays out of bits and pieces from their works.
These satires portray an uncultured, overdressed fellow who (as one of Jonson’s caricatures) acquires a coat of arms so he can be called a gentleman—mirroring a documented incident in William Shakespeare’s life.

The writers’ code of the era (plus fear of imprisonment) prevented these authors from naming the object of their satire, and possibly more than one playwright was targeted. Dr. Sabrina Feldman argues convincingly that most of the lampoons take aim at one highly successful playwright: the chief author of the Apocrypha.

In this episode, Allan Armstrong continues his interview (begun in Episode 4) with Sabrina Feldman, author of The Apocryphal William Shakespeare, to explore these hilarious and pointed parodies and to uncover the identity of their target.

Direct download: TSU_06_Poet_Ape.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:40pm EDT

Is Othello a comedy gone wrong? Richard Whalen reveals the surprising connections between Shakespeare's Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice and Commedia dell'Arte, the energetic, improvised street theater from 16th century Italy. Stock figures of Commedia dell'Arte bear more than a coincidental resemblance to the 7 main characters of Othello. The links between Othello and Commedia dell'Arte offer insights into such perplexities as Iago's extreme capacity for evil and Othello's curious gullibility.

What does it mean that Shakespeare used comic characters and situations as foundations for this bleak tragedy? And where did Shakespeare acquire his knowledge of Commedia dell'Arte, since it was not performed in England during his writing years?

Direct download: TSU_05_Comedy_of_Othello.mp3
Category:Literature -- posted at: 12:00am EDT

The Apocryphal William Shakespeare: Episode 4 with Sabrina Feldman

What are the Shakespeare Apocrypha? And how do we explain the close ties between some of these plays and the works universally accepted as Shakespeare’s? Dramas like LocrineThe London Prodigall, the superhit Mucedorus, and others were attributed to William Shakespeare during the 17th century, in several cases during the Stratford man’s lifetime.

In this episode, Allan Armstrong interviews Dr. Sabrina Feldman, author of The Apocryphal William Shakespeare, to discover the story behind these intriguing but nearly-forgotten plays that have been kicked out of the Shakespeare Canon. Once renowned crowd-pleasers, works like The Famous Victories of Henry the FifthFair Em, and The Troublesome Reign of King John now exist on the fringes of early modern drama. Scholars have largely ignored these works because they are considered vastly inferior to the accepted Shakespeare plays. Yet many were published with William Shakespeare’s name or initials on their title pages, and a half-dozen of them were included in the 1664 Third Folio of Shakespeare’s works.

In this podcast, we’ll hear excerpts from these plays that provide a taste of the distinctive and highly entertaining qualities that made them wildly popular in Elizabethan and Jacobean England.


Direct download: TSU_04_Apocryphal_William_Shakespeare.mp3
Category:Literature -- posted at: 9:01pm EDT

Could A Midsummer Night's Dream contain allegorical references that satirize Queen Elizabeth's long & melodramatic courtship with the Duc of Alencon?

Join Earl Showerman as we visit the court of Queen Elizabeth I in the 1570s. Statesmen, nobles, and perhaps even the queen herself are divided over whether or not Elizabeth should marry the younger brother of the King of France. Dramatics ensue onstage and off, in a surprisingly strange and significant episode of English history.

And what might be most surprising is that this colorful, contentious time might be preserved in all its absurdity and otherworldliness in one of Shakespeare's best known plays.

"And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays."

— Bottom, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Direct download: TSU_03_Midsummer_Monsieur.mp3
Category:Literature -- posted at: 1:09pm EDT

Themes of law in Hamlet and Shakespeare's other plays and poetry. Can the intricacies of Elizabethan Law shed new light on the tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark? In this fascinating interview with attorney Tom Regnier, we look at how Shakespeare uses the law in the plays and Sonnets, why scholars and lawyers have claimed that Shakespeare had legal training, and — surprisingly — how themes of English law run throughout the play Hamlet. The examination of early modern English law offers unexpected insights into Hamlet's madness, Ophelia's breakdown and burial, and the infamously tempestuous relationship between Hamlet and his mother, Queen Gertrude.

Direct download: TSU_02_Law_in_Hamlet.mp3
Category:Literature -- posted at: 4:11am EDT

A look at William Shakespeare's Last Will & Testament. What what can we learn about what he owned, who he remembered, what he cared about? 

The most personal document remaining from the life of William Shakespeare is his Last Will & Testament.  Researcher Bonner Miller Cutting looked at 3,000 wills from Shakespeare’s day, and in this interview she describes what she learned about the daily lives of people of that era and about Gentle Will from Stratford-upon-Avon.

Direct download: TSU_01_WillsWill.mp3
Category:Literature -- posted at: 4:36am EDT