Recounting Shakespeare's Life

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Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 22

"Her father loved me, oft invited me,
Still questioned me the story of my life
From year to year—the battles, sieges, fortunes
That I have passed." 
Othello (1.3.149–152)
 
What do we know about Shakespeare's life? The answer: Not as much as we would like to. As much or as little, in other words, as we would about any middle-class Englishman of his time. 
 
This episode of Shakespeare Unlimited considers not only that question, but two others: During the past four centuries, when and how did biographers learn about Shakespeare's life? And does knowing about any writer's biography, including Shakespeare's, make any difference in responding to their work?
 
To tackle those big, and intriguing, questions, Rebecca Sheir talks with Brian Cummings, Anniversary Professor of English at the University of York. Cummings delivered the 2014 Shakespeare's Birthday Lecture on "Shakespeare, Biography, and Anti-Biography" at the Folger Shakespeare Library; the lecture also opened the Folger Institute's NEH-funded collaborative research conference, Shakespeare and the Problem of Biography, which Cummings co-organized.
 
 

 
From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published April 8, 2015. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved.  
 
Produced for the Folger Shakespeare Library by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. Edited by Gail Kern Paster and Esther Ferington.
 
With help from Lisa Burch and Chris Robins at the University of York.

 

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Want more? Browse our full list of Shakespeare Unlimited episodes. Listen on SoundCloud, iTunes, Google Play, and NPR One.