Episode 169: Shakespeare Documented

William Shakespeare is widely considered to be the most important writer in the history of the English language, but relatively little is known about his personal life. The desire to know more about the ‘Bard of Avon’ has led to much speculation and conjecture over the centuries. In this episode, we try to separate fact from fiction as we look at the surviving documentation to determine what we actually know about the poet from Stratford-upon-Avon.


6 thoughts on “Episode 169: Shakespeare Documented

  1. The elephant in the room with this podcast are the depictions of Shakespeare (and the Elizabethan world) in popular media.

    While there is a lot to criticise in films like ‘Shakespeare in Love’, I’m more curious as to what the directors & screenwriters got right. What is there in these films that we should bear in mind as useful & worthwhile in our appreciation of the Elizabethan world?

    I’m also curious about how educated the person on the street was and what knowledge they had of the outside world. Many sailors had been abroad and seen foreign lands. When Shakespeare wrote of, say, Verona, was that as distant as the Elizabethans as Coruscant is to us?

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed that last episode. On the “Authorship Question” I would just like to throw in my opinion that whoever wrote the plays must have been an actor; the plays are too well crafted towards performance to have been written by somebody who was not familiar with an actor’s craft. I should state my position that I believe that the plays were written by the actor William Shakespeare although, as you pointed out, some of them (possibly Henry VIII) were co-written with someone else.
    There is some (albeit circumstantial) evidence that during the “missing years” Shakespeare worked as a tutor in some of the great Catholic manor houses in Lancashire although as with all matters relating to the Bard it is frustratingly imprecise.
    I found the episode very well put together and dealt with the evidence on a very balanced basis. Thank you again for all your hard work.

  3. Re: the authorship controversy. In autumn of 1967, I was a freshman at Carnegie Mellon University. The University’s amateur theater group, Scotch ‘n’ Soda, performed two one-act musicals. The first was an opera by Steven Schwartz of subsequent Broadway fame (Godspell, Wicked, …). The second was “All’s Well That Ends”, a farce about Shakespeare’s early years in London by David Sheridan Spangler. The McGuffin was that Queen Elizabeth was Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady” and that she wrote his plays.

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