Breaking Bard: A Ripe Good Scholar Podcast
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/

Shakespeare’s Lost Years

Shakespeare’s Lost Years

February 25, 2020

“It has become a commonplace of Shakespearian biography that, from roughly his age of twenty to his age of twenty-eight, we encounter the ‘lost years.’ But no years are ever wholly lost. There may be a gap in chronology, but the pattern of a life may be discerned obliquely and indirectly.” - Peter Ackroyd in Shakespeare the Biography

From the birth of his twins to his arrival on the London theatre scene, we have no record of what Shakespeare was doing. This isn’t from a lack of trying, but if you weren’t getting baptised, married or buried, if you weren’t involved in a court case or a land purchase, and you weren’t a member of the nobility, you basically didn’t exist. If no one was writing about you, there would be no record. On top of that, Elizabethan record keeping wasn’t exactly top notch and there were quite a few fires thrown in there for good measure. 

What does this all mean? Well, it means we will never be able to say for 100% certainty what Shakespeare was doing during these years. We can make educated guesses and speculate, but until a magic document shows up, there’s no irrefutable proof. Not all hypotheses are created equal though, so it is worth examining the most prevalent theories and how likely or unlikely they are. Which is exactly what Eli and I will be doing today. Strap on your deductive reasoning caps and let’s explore Shakespeare’s lost years. 

 

Primary research sources:

Shakespeare: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

 

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/

Richard III

Richard III

February 10, 2020

“And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,

To entertain these fair well-spoken days,

I am determined to prove a villain

And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,

By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,

To set my brother Clarence and the king

In deadly hate the one against the other”

      • Richard III Act I, Scene 1

When I say, Richard III, images of a hunchback villain likely come to mind. One that is cruel and tyrannical to his core. A man obsessed with power and willing to go to almost any length to secure that power. This image is what the Tudors wanted us to believe. It was Henry Tudor, or Henry VII, that defeated Richard and brought a new era of peace to England. That’s not the whole story though. Henry Tudor had a pretty weak claim to the throne, so they had to use propaganda to secure the Tudor dynasty. This meant painting Richard as the villain, and they did that very effectively. The Tudor chroniclers bent the truth of what happened to provide nefarious motives that were not laid out by contemporaries.

It was the Tudor chroniclers that Shakespeare sourced from for his plays, namely Holinshed. This meant that Shakespeare dramatized history and in doing so, created one of the most memorable villains of all time. In terms of events, Shakespeare is largely accurate. He compresses timelines, of course, but overall what happened in Shakespeare happened in reality. Where the play deviates from reality appears to be with Richard’s character, so that is what Eli and I will be exploring today. It’s time to look past the Tudor myth and find out who the real Richard III was.

 

Key source material: Richard III by Chris Skidmore

 

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/

MacBeth Sources

MacBeth Sources

January 13, 2020

“But screw your courage to the sticking place and we’ll not fail” - Lady MacBeth Act I, Scene 7 of the Scottish Play

Many have heard of MacBeth, the tyrannical title character of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. Many more are unaware that MacBeth was a real Scottish King. Shakespeare however was completely aware because he relied heavily of Raphael Holinshed’s history of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Now, whether Holinshed was accurate to history is a whole different story, but Shakespeare borrowed heavily from the works of Holinshed while writing the Scottish Play.

But, just how much did Shakespeare borrow from Holinshed? Was he quote unquote true to the history of MacBeth, or did he pull from a few other places? That is what we will be discussing today and by the end of it, hopefully we will have answered these questions and much, much more. So, don your favorite kilt and let’s head off to Scotland.

 

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 Portia

Diagnosing Portia

January 1, 2020

A little disclaimer about this episode. Dr. Lisa Grogan and I are talking about Portia from Julius Caesar. There is a significant discussion about self-harm and suicide, so if those are subjects that bother you, you may want to skip this episode.

 

“I have made strong proof of my constancy, giving myself a voluntary wound here, in the thigh; can I bear that with patience and not my husband’s secrets?” Portia in Julius Caesar Act 2, Scene 1

Brutus’ wife, Portia, has a tiny part in Julius Caesar, but there is a lot to unpack there. We are introduced to Portia when she stabs herself in the leg to prove her loyalty to Brutus. Then, she has a clear panic attack when he goes to stab Caesar. Finally, we get the news that she committed suicide after being overwhelmed with anxiety about Brutus’ fate. 

See what I mean? There’s a lot there, so I decided this would be an excellent topic for me to discuss with my dear friend Dr. Grogan and see what treatment options would be available to Portia today. This gets a little heavy, but please join us as we dive into the psyche of Portia.

 

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/

Fairies

Fairies

December 16, 2019

“We fairies that do run.../ Following the darkness like a dream/ Now are frolic; not a mouse/ Shall disturb this hallowed house./ I am sent with broom before/ To sweep the dust behind the door” Midsummer Night’s Dream Act 5 Scene 1

Today when we hear the word fairy, a small winged creature probably comes to mind. A little glowing girl fluttering amongst the flowers. This, however, would not be the image that came to mind for most Elizabethan playgoers. They would have been picturing a wide variety of creatures that were all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some were benevolent and some were evil. One thing was for certain though, you did not want to anger a fairy.

Today we will be discussing fairy lore as Shakespeare’s audience would have understood them. There was a long held belief in fairies and so the lore behind them is plentiful. We do our best to sum up what a fairy was to Shakespeare and his audience, but there is so much more to talk about for those who are interested. So, sit back, relax, and come into the English countryside with us to learn all about the fairy folk.

Primary resource: "At the Bottom of the Garden" by Diane Purkiss

 

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/