Shakespeare’s Restless World: A Portrait of the Bard’s Era in 20 Podcasts


The BBC’s acclaimed pod­cast A His­to­ry of the World in 100 Objects brought us just that: the sto­ry of human civ­i­liza­tion as told through arti­facts from the Egypt­ian Mum­my of Horned­jitef to a Cre­tan stat­ue of a Minoan Bull-leaper to a Kore­an roof tile to a Chi­nese solar-pow­ered lamp. All those 100 items came from the for­mi­da­ble col­lec­tion held by the British Muse­um, and any ded­i­cat­ed lis­ten­er to that pod­cast will know the name of Neil Mac­Gre­gor, the insti­tu­tion’s direc­tor. Now, Mac­Gre­gor has returned with anoth­er series of his­tor­i­cal audio explo­rations, one much more focused both tem­po­ral­ly and geo­graph­i­cal­ly but no less deep than its pre­de­ces­sor. The ten-part Shake­speare’s Rest­less World “looks at the world through the eyes of Shake­speare’s audi­ence by explor­ing objects from that tur­bu­lent peri­od” — i.e., William Shake­speare’s life, which spanned the 1560s to the 1610s: a time of Venet­ian glass gob­lets, African sunken gold, chim­ing clocks, and hor­rif­ic relics of exe­cu­tion.

These trea­sures illu­mi­nate not only the Eng­lish but the glob­al affairs of Shake­speare’s day. The Bard lived dur­ing a time when mur­der­ers plot­ted against Eliz­a­beth I and James I, Eng­land expelled its Moors, Great Britain strug­gled to unite itself, human­i­ty gained an ever more pre­cise grasp on the keep­ing of time, and even “civ­i­lized” nations got spooked and slaugh­tered their own. Just as the study of Shake­speare’s plays reveals a world bal­anced on the tip­ping point between the mod­ern con­scious­ness and the long, slow awak­en­ing that came before, the study of Shake­speare’s time reveals a world that both retains sur­pris­ing­ly vivid ele­ments of its bru­tal past and has already begun incor­po­rat­ing sur­pris­ing­ly advanced ele­ments of the future to come. Even if you don’t give a hoot about the lit­er­ary mer­its of Richard III, Titus Andron­i­cus, or The Mer­chant of Venice, these real-life sto­ries of polit­i­cal intrigue, grue­some blood­shed, and, er, Venice will cer­tain­ly hold your atten­tion. You can start with the “tabloid his­to­ry of Shake­speare’s Eng­land” in the first episode of Shake­speare’s Rest­less World above, then con­tin­ue on either at the series’ site or on iTunes. And if you find your­self get­ting into the series, you can get Mac­Gre­gor’s com­pan­ion book, Shake­speare’s Rest­less World: Por­trait of an Era.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A His­to­ry of the World in 100 Objects

What Shake­speare Sound­ed Like to Shake­speare: Recon­struct­ing the Bard’s Orig­i­nal Pro­nun­ci­a­tion

Dis­cov­er What Shakespeare’s Hand­writ­ing Looked Like, and How It Solved a Mys­tery of Author­ship

Fol­ger Shake­speare Library Puts 80,000 Images of Lit­er­ary Art Online, and They’re All Free to Use

Read All of Shakespeare’s Plays Free Online, Cour­tesy of the Fol­ger Shake­speare Library

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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