Breaking Bard: A Ripe Good Scholar Podcast
Antony and Cleopatra Source Material

Antony and Cleopatra Source Material

September 10, 2020

“Now Antonius was made so subject to a woman’s will, that though he was a great deal stronger by land, yet for Clepatra’s sake he would needs have this battle tried by sea.” - Plutarch in Parallel Lives

We cannot underestimate the role Shakespeare played in establishing Antony and Cleopatra as one of the world’s most infamous tragic couples. Their story is a unique and powerful one. They were two of the ancient world’s most powerful people and when they came together, they should have been a force to be reckoned with. However, their love destroyed them both in an epic way. Their lives had the makings of an amazing story, which is probably why Shakespeare decided to put his own spin on it. 

Today Eli and I will be discussing the source material Shakespeare used when he wrote Antony and Cleopatra, so strap on your sandals. We’re heading to Ancient Rome.

 

Teller of Tales by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4467-teller-of-the-tales

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

 

Minstrel Guild by KevinMacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4056-minstrel-guild

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Diagnosing Lady MacBeth

Diagnosing Lady MacBeth

August 25, 2020

I thought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more! Macbeth is murdering sleep.” Innocent sleep. Sleep that soothes away all our worries. Sleep that puts each day to rest. Sleep that relieves the weary laborer and heals hurt minds. Sleep, the main course in life’s feast, and the most nourishing.

  • MacBeth Act 2 Scene 2

There can be no doubt that Macbeth is a tragedy. It is filled with ominous prophecy and - above all else - death. The key plot point is the murder of King Duncan committed by the MacBeths to secure their power. From that murder, all others seem to flow. Murder and violence seems to haunt the Macbeths. Lady MacBeth in particular loses all touch with reality and ultimately ends her own life. She seems to suffer the most from the trauma.

And that is what Dr. Lisa Grogan and I will be discussing today. We will examine the psychological symptoms displayed by Lady MacBeth and discuss how accurately they represent the trauma response. There is discussion of trauma, PTSD, and suicide in this episode, so if that will bother you, it may be best to skip this episode. With that out of the way, let’s dive into the dark depths of Lady MacBeth.

 

Teller of Tales by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4467-teller-of-the-tales

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

 

Minstrel Guild by KevinMacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4056-minstrel-guild

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Hamnet Shakespeare

Hamnet Shakespeare

July 13, 2020

Trigger Warning: Child Loss

 

“If William Shakespeare wrote about his son’s death at all, he concealed it in the lines of his late sonnets and plays that reveal a depth of understanding about grief.” - Vanessa Thorpe, Alas, Poor Hamnet, The Guardian

Because there is so little known about Shakespeare’s private life, we are left to speculate. We no nothing of his private life and his relationship with his family. All we know is what is contained within the surviving records. We know he had three children: two daughters and one son. We also know that his only son died at the age of eleven. That is all we know of Hamnet Shakespeare. The rest is left to speculation.

Hamnet seems to be a particular focus of speculation because his name reminds us of Hamlet, one of Shakespeare’s most tragic characters. The similarity is not lost on us, so it is easy to assume it was not lost on Shakespeare. We don’t have any of Shakespeare’s personal writings, so we don’t have any personal testimonies as a grieving father. However, we can look to his writing for hints of the long lost Hamnet and what he meant to Shakespeare.

Fair warning, this episode is a little more somber than usual.

 

Sources:

The Death of Hamnet and the Making of Hamlet by Stephen Greenblatt

Alas Poor Hamnet: spotlight falls on Shakespeare’s tragic only son by Vanessa Thorpe in The Gaurdian

Teller of Tales by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4467-teller-of-the-tales

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

 

Minstrel Guild by KevinMacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4056-minstrel-guild

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Does It All End Well?

Does It All End Well?

July 7, 2020

“Shakespeare’s unpleasant young men are numerous. Bertram, as a vacuity, is authentically noxious.” - Harold Bloom in Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

As I reached the end of All’s Well That Ends Well, I found myself asking: but does it all end well? Helena, by all accounts a wonderful woman, ends up married to the man of her dreams, who - as it turns out - is an all around terrible person. She fought long and hard with many ingenious plots to win Bertram. We’re left wondering why though. She is beautiful, intelligent, and kind. Bertram is a selfish, lying snob. Yay for Helena, I guess?

It probably won’t surprise you that I am not the only one who felt this way. Many, many scholars see Bertram the same way. Some try to make excuses for him, but none do so successfully in my opinion. Bertram abandons his awesome wife and tries to sleep with another woman, Diana, lying about his intentions the whole time. Once he thinks Helena is dead, he returns to marry a totally different woman. When he’s caught in one of his many lies he tries to lie his way out and calls Diana a whore. He does nothing redeeming in the entire play, but still ends up happily married.

Join Eli and I as we discuss whether it does really all end well. Trigger warning: there is a brief discussion about rape. And with that, on with the show…

 

Sources:

Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare by Isaac Asimov

Shakespeare After All by Marjorie Gerber

Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom

 

Teller of Tales by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4467-teller-of-the-tales

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

 

Minstrel Guild by KevinMacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4056-minstrel-guild

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Shakespeare and Plague

Shakespeare and Plague

May 28, 2020

I could draw forth a catalogue of many poore wretches, that in fields, in ditches, in common Cages, and under stalls (being either thrust by cruell maisters out of doores, or wanting all worldly succor but the common benefit of earth and aire) have most miserably perished.” 

-Thomas Dekker “The Wonderful Year”

 

The bubonic plague was a regular part of Shakespeare’s life. He lived through several large outbreaks, and even when there wasn’t an outbreak, the threat always loomed. With each wave significant portions of the population died. Death was everywhere and the ringing of the church bells served as a grim reminder. Shakespeare, as a man of the theater, was particularly susceptible to the effects of plague because an outbreak meant the theaters closed, which meant he received no pay. 

 

So, what did Shakespeare do with his time? Well, he most likely wrote. In his early years, it was poetry to be published. In his later years, he probably wrote plays. Today we will be exploring how the bubonic plague affected Shakespeare and his writing. Strap on your plague masks and join me and Eli as we discuss plague shutdowns in Shakespeare’s England.

 

Sources:

The Guardian

The Folger Shakespeare Library

 

Teller of Tales by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4467-teller-of-the-tales

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

 

Minstrel Guild by KevinMacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4056-minstrel-guild

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The Truth About Prince Hal

The Truth About Prince Hal

May 4, 2020

“From his father’s usurpation of Richard II’s throne in 1399, when Henry was but twelve, he was active in the government of England. [...] Henry V came to the throne extensively experienced in politics, administration, and warfare: few kings have been so well trained for their job.”  - Peter Saccio in Shakespeare’s English Kings

Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 are some of the least historically accurate of all of Shakespeare’s history, and that is saying something. This is largely due to the fact that he focused so much of the play on Prince Hal, the future Henry V. Shakespeare was working with what the Tudor chroniclers provided him, which was an inaccurate portrayal of the young prince. They painted Prince Hal as a lecherous youth that drank too much, was friends with the wrong sorts of people, and even committed a few crimes.

This picture, according to contemporary records of the time, is almost certainly wrong. From a very young age, Hal was participating in battles and leading armies. For years before his father’s death, he dominated the council and essentially ruled for a period of time. That is not to say that everything about Shakespeare was wrong. There was a certain amount of tension between father and son over Henry IV’s fear of being usurped by his own son. 

In the end, we have a complicated picture of a complicated prince, so what exactly is wrong and right about Shakespeare’s portrayal? That is what Eli and I will be exploring today, so grab your sack and let’s spend some time with Prince Hal.

 

Sources:

Shakespeare’s English Kings by Peter Saccio

Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare by Isaac Asimov

Foundations: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors by Peter Ackroyd

This Realm of England Vol. 2 1399 to 1688 by Lacey Baldwin Smithrddddd

 

Teller of Tales by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4467-teller-of-the-tales

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

 

Minstrel Guild by KevinMacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4056-minstrel-guild

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Hamlet and Grief

Hamlet and Grief

April 20, 2020

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Breaking Bard, I’m your host Sara. You may have noticed a distinct lack of a cold open. That is because this episode is very long and my fluff was deemed unnecessary...by me. On today’s episode I am joined by Dr. Lisa Grogan, a clinical psychologist and close friend. I am also joined by Sara Clark with the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. She was casted to play Hamlet in a production that was cancelled as of our recording. However, since recording, they have announced that Hamlet will kick off their 2020-2021 season in August. I for one, am pumped. Please enjoy as I discuss Hamlet and grief with these two intelligent women.

 

Teller of Tales by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4467-teller-of-the-tales

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

 

Minstrel Guild by KevinMacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4056-minstrel-guild

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Troilus & Cressida Sources

Troilus & Cressida Sources

April 15, 2020

“For now will I go straight to my matter,

In which you may the double sorrows hear

Of Troilus in loving of Criseyde,

And how that she forsook him ere she died.”

  • Troilus and Creseyde by Geoffrey Chaucer

 

Troilus and Cressida is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, and I kind of understand why. The ending is not the most satisfying. However, Shakespeare did not come up with this story. Chaucer did. Or at least, Chaucer wrote it down. Of course, Shakespeare adapted the story for the stage, but the core elements are there.

The key difference between Shakespeare’s version and Chaucer’s is that Chaucer was making a clear statement about courtly love. The idea that loving someone brought you closer to the divine. Shakespeare’s play does not have such a clear message. In fact, by shortening the timeline and making the characters more blunt, Shakespeare seems to have an almost nihilistic view of the situation. All the mushy love stuff is stripped away and we are left with harsh reality. 

Shakespeare adapting source material is nothing new, however, this example is notable because of what changed. Today, Eli and I will be discussing Troilus and Cressida, so strap on your armor, we’re heading to Troy.

 

Sources:

Bradbook, M.C. “What Shakespeare Did to Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde.” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 9, no. 3, 1958, pp. 311-319., doi:10.2307/2867331. Accessed April  2020.

Davis-Brown, Kris. “Shakespeare’s Use of Chaucer in ‘Troilus and Cressida’: ‘That the Will is Infinite and he Execution Confined.’” South Central Review, vol. 5, no. 2, 1988, pp. 15-34., doi:10.2307/3189567. Accessed April 2020.

 

Teller of Tales by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4467-teller-of-the-tales

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

 

Minstrel Guild by KevinMacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4056-minstrel-guild

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The Essex Rebellion and Shakespeare

The Essex Rebellion and Shakespeare

April 2, 2020

“The swooning lover crashed into Elizabeth’s chamber in his filthy travelling clothes ‘so full of dirt and mire that his very face was full of it’ to confront his fair mistress, barely out of bed, her wrinkles brutally exposed in the morning light and her wig off." - Lisa Hilton, The Renaissance Prince

The swooning lover here is Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and that wrinkled old woman is Queen Elizabeth I. Unsurprisingly, this incident marked the start of Essex’s downfall. Prior to this time, he was the Queen’s favorite. He benefited greatly from her favor and seemed to know how to keep it. She gave him money and power. He was a tireless flirt.

Success did not become him, however. He became arrogant and just generally unpleasant to be around. Elizabeth was fond of him though, so the other courtiers had to stay silent and wait. Fortunately for them, they didn’t have to wait long because he quickly wasted an opportunity. He should have kept in mind that Elizabeth regularly banished favorites from court for getting married without her permission. He didn’t though and his fall was spectacular. Spoiler alert, he gets executed.

Today, we’ll be discussing the Essex Rebellion and the role Shakespeare played.

 

Sources:

Elizabeth: Renaissance Prince by Lisa Hilton

Elizabeth’s Bedfellow by Anna Whitelock

 

Teller of Tales by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4467-teller-of-the-tales

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

 

Minstrel Guild by KevinMacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4056-minstrel-guild

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Romeo & Juliet: Love or Lust

Romeo & Juliet: Love or Lust

March 26, 2020

“Two households both alike in dignity,

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes

A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life;

Whose misadventured piteous overthrows

Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.”

-Prologue, Romeo and Juliet

Nearly everyone is familiar with the tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet, two teens in love separated by their warring families. These two teens are often put up on a pedestal as the perfect representation of love. There’s even a whole movie about it, Shakespeare in Love. But, are they?

They are young teens, who meet, fall in love, get married, and commit suicide in less than a week. On the surface, not exactly what one would aspire to emulate. And yet, here we are. It begs the question, is it possible that they were in love that quickly? The play is without a doubt full of beautiful, poetic language and packed full of emotion, but does it accurately represent love?

These are the questions Eli and I will be grappling with today as we discuss Romeo and Juliet.

 

Teller of Tales by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4467-teller-of-the-tales

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

 

Minstrel Guild by KevinMacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4056-minstrel-guild

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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