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Shakespeare Unlimited podcast

Jonathan Bate on the Classics and Shakespeare

Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 146

Every artist needs inspiration. In this episode, we talk to Sir Jonathan Bate. His book How the Classics Made Shakespeare, published by Princeton University Press in 2019, explores the Greek and Roman authors, narratives, and ideas that suffuse Shakespeare’s works. He was interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

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FolgerShakespeareLibrary · Jonathan Bate on the Classics and Shakespeare

Sir Jonathan Bate is Foundation Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University, and a senior research fellow at Oxford University, where he was formerly provost of Worcester College.

Sir Jonathan’s 1997 book, The Genius of Shakespeare was called “The best book about Shakespeare for a generation” by The Times of London. His newest book, Radical Wordsworth: The Poet Who Changed the World, was just published in 2020 by Yale University Press.

From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast. Published June 9, 2020. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This podcast episode, “An Ancient Tale New Told,” was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the web producer.

Previous: Sandra Newman on The Heavens | Next: The King’s Men


Shakespeare and Folktales
Listen to our interview with Charlotte Artese about another of Shakespeare’s sources: folktales

The History of Shakespeare in American Schools
Find out how Shakespeare’s plays became a mainstay in American school curricula and a tool for teaching rhetoric in this interview with Joseph Haughey


MICHAEL WITMORE: Every artist needs inspiration. Every artist. Even the greatest.

From the Folger Shakespeare Library, this is Shakespeare Unlimited. I’m Michael Witmore, the Folger’s director. Finding the sources of  Shakespeare’s inspiration is something we’ve done a number of times on this podcast, and it’s been surprising to learn some of the books, folktales, and ancient stories that came into full flower as the plays we’ve all come to love. They seem to offer us a look inside the mind of Shakespeare, or at the very least, a picture of him at work, reading, listening, and learning.

Looking inside Shakespeare’s mind is not an unfamiliar pastime for Sir Jonathan Bate. His 1997 book, The Genius of Shakespeare, exploring Shakespeare’s life, including questions of authorship and autobiography, was called “The best book about Shakespeare for a generation” by The Times in London.

22 years later, he continued that journey with the book we’ll be talking about with him today: How the Classics Made Shakespeare. The book looks at the classical Greek and Roman authors and stories that populate Shakespeare’s work.

We caught up with Sir Jonathan in his home in Tempe, where he is a professor at Arizona State University. If his audio quality (or mine, for that matter) is something less than what you’ve come to expect from us, we hope you’ll understand given the circumstances.

We call this podcast episode “An Ancient Tale New Told.” Jonathan Bate is interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

BARBARA BOGAEV: Now, every Shakespeare fan knows that Shakespeare drew from classical texts and rhetorical techniques, and scholars have explored it. What made you want to examine this more deeply now?

JONATHAN BATE: Well, the initial impulse was that I was invited by the Warburg Institute in the University of London to give a public lecture series. The Warburg Institute is a fascinating institution founded by Jewish, German, Austrian scholars who escaped from Nazi Germany with a great library of books on the subject of the classical tradition.

The Warburg tradition—that idea of the classical tradition as something that has shaped the Western mind—it’s a very powerful idea that has endured for centuries. The basis of Shakespeare’s education was that tradition of the classics. And as that is disappearing, is there a sense in which the studia humanitatis—as it was then called, the study of the humanities—are we going to lose a key dimension of Shakespeare’s mind and Shakespeare’s art?

We think about Shakespeare and the classics, and we immediately think of Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, the famous Roman plays. But many of his other plays are also based in the time of classical antiquity; 13 out of Shakespeare’s 40 or so works. And even the ones that aren’t, are full of classical references.

Then the more I delved into it, the more I read up on the scholarship, I did find some surprising gaps. Two in particular. Cicero, the great political thinker of ancient Rome.

[CLIP from Arkangel Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part II. Jamie Glover is Clifford]

Methinks already in this civil broil
I see them lording it in London streets.

[CLIP from Arkangel Shakespeare’s Henry V. Jamie Glover is King Henry V]

Now beshrew my father’s ambition! He was thinking of
civil wars when he got me.

[CLIP from Arkangel Shakespeare’s Richard II. Rupert Graves is King Richard II]

And for our eyes do hate the dire aspect
Of civil wounds plowed up with neighbor’s sword.

BATE: And Horace, the great lyric poet of ancient Rome.

[CLIP from Arkangel Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part III. David Tennant is King Henry VI]

Methinks it were a happy life
To be no better than a homely swain,
To sit upon a hill as I do now,
To carve out dials quaintly, point by point.

BATE: They were figures who was so influential on Elizabethan culture, and yet hardly anybody had written at any length about Shakespeare and Cicero or Shakespeare and Horace.

BOGAEV: I want to hone in on this idea that Shakespeare’s deep inspiration and a key to his imagination comes from the classics, because I’m thinking at different times in history, people haven’t necessarily copped to that. The Folger’s director, Mike Witmore, has often said that at times, Shakespeare has been seen as existing in the isolation chamber of the genius. It makes me wonder whether readers and theatergoers throughout history have always understood that Shakespeare borrowed his stories from other sources.

BATE: That’s a very good question. I think we can be pretty sure in his own time that his more educated audience members did know that. What is interesting is that at precisely the time when that idea of Shakespeare isolated in the chamber of genius began to emerge—which was the late 18th, early 19th century—that actually was also the period when people began to work seriously on the question of whether Shakespeare was learned or not.

Because exactly the moment you have an image of Shakespeare as sort of native genius, then you don’t really, in a sense, want him to be reliant on an inherited body of knowledge. So this was something that scholars started debating, especially once a rather wonderful scholar and novelist called Charlotte Lennox became the first person to gather together all Shakespeare’s sources.

BOGAEV: Yeah. And the importance of the classics and Shakespeare’s relationship to them—surely it’s followed trends, as I think you’re saying. But I guess one thing that doesn’t change that much and one of the truisms about Shakespeare is that while we know a lot about his life, there’s so much more that we don’t know or we don’t know for sure. You include Shakespearian biography in your book. But what is it about Shakespeare’s life or his work that makes you as confident as you are when it comes to listing his influences?
BATE: Well, one of the things is the way in which one can map his knowledge of the classics so closely onto the education he received at the grammar school in Stratford-upon-Avon.

BOGAEV: But do we really know the curriculum?

BATE: Well, we don’t know the precise curriculum at the Stratford-upon-Avon grammar school, but the curricula of other grammar schools survive. One of the other things I found was… I thought it was important to give a wider sense of the pervasiveness of the classical inheritance in Shakespeare’s London. It’s something that he received, I think not only from his reading, but also from his acting and his looking.

Buildings, monuments were in the classical style. And, equally, we have firm evidence that Shakespeare was an actor. And that, for example, he acted in Ben Jonson’s plays, Sejanus, one of the most classically learned plays of the time. So he was absorbing this knowledge of the classics from all sorts of different sources, as well as from reading.

BOGAEV: Right, and you talk about tapestries. Even tapestries were based on classical myth.

BATE: That’s right. I mean, very early in Shakespeare’s career, there’s this wonderful scene in the beginning of the Taming of the Shrew.

[CLIP from Arkangel Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew]

Dost thou love pictures?

BATE: Where Christopher Sly gets taken into an upper class household. And we’re told that he’s going to be shown all these pictures of erotic scenes from the classics.

[Clip continues]

We’ll show thee Io as she was a maid
And how she was beguiled and surprised,
As lively painted as the deed was done.

Or Daphne roaming through a thorny wood,
Scratching her legs that one shall swear she bleeds,
And at that sight shall sad Apollo weep.

BATE: People were then asked the question, “Well, how did Shakespeare know about paintings of Venus and Adonis, or Actaeon and Diana? Did he have to go to Italy to see the Renaissance masters?” And the answer is no, he didn’t, because tapestries, chimney pieces, all kinds of domestic decoration used those scenes.

BOGAEV: Could you lay out for us the things that you think of… you say are incontestable as far as what kind of a thinker Shakespeare was, what kind of classical thinker he was?

BATE: I think, one, he knew a huge array of the stories, both historical and mythological, that came from ancient Rome and, via Rome, from ancient Greece. We know this because of the many allusions and references in his plays.

Then the other thing we know for sure is that he was educated in this technique known as rhetoric. The reason they were taught Latin was to teach them skills in thinking, speaking, argument, debating. The purpose of that, sort of politically and socially, was to sort of train up people who were going to serve this emergent nation state. But, of course, what happened along the way is that a lot of the boys of strong imagination got fascinated by the delights of poets such as Ovid, and that was really what led them to develop what we would now call an entertainment industry.

I think another thing that is incontestable is that Shakespeare was fascinated by the creative powers of the imagination and the process of making theater. But there we need to remember that within the Christian tradition, the more extreme Protestants, they were very suspicious of the theater, but also of the very idea of imagination—making images. And one of the things that I think the classics really helped to hone for Shakespeare is what I would describe as a defense of the imagination. A defense of a theater. Defensive ideas of love and magic against the strictures of Puritans.

BOGAEV: Well, that is a big bite there and I want to break it down into pieces. Can we go back to thinking—to the idea of what kind of thinker Shakespeare was? You describe him in your book as a fluid thinker, because of the training that he had in the classics. What do you mean by that? And by that do you mean he was a philosopher?

BATE: It’s hard to work out whether he was a philosopher. He doesn’t use the term “philosopher” or “philosophy” very often in his plays. The moments when he does are rather interesting. The one character who is explicitly a philosopher is this very cynical fellow, Apemantus, in Timon of Athens.

[CLIP from Arkangel Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. Norman Rodway is Apemantus]

Immortal gods, I crave no pelf.
I pray for no man but myself.
Grant I may never prove so fond
To trust man on his oath or bond.

BATE: Indeed, I develop in the course of the book an argument that there was an interest on Shakespeare’s part in the philosophy that goes back to the ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus. Epicurus was a philosopher who said, “In the end, there’s an awful lot we can’t know. We can’t really be sure about the gods, the meaning of life. The important thing is to be content with our lives, to cultivate happiness.” And he suggested that friendship and gardening, reading, were things that enabled us to cultivate happiness.

[CLIP from Arkangel Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Paterson Joseph is Feste.]

What is love? ‘Tis not hereafter.
Present mirth hath present laughter.
What’s to come is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty,
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty.
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

BATE: And also, Epicurus suggests that we should acknowledge our bodies. Philosophers are always thinking about the mind. Shakespeare was definitely interested in the philosophy known as Stoicism, which was very much about developing the mind. But while there are definitely moments in his plays where philosophical sentiments, Epicurean ones in particular, come across. People often think of The Tempest as Shakespeare’s last play, but it wasn’t. His last play was another classical play called The Two Noble Kinsmen, again set in the Athens of Theseus. And at the very, very end of that play, perhaps the last speech for the stage that Shakespeare ever wrote, Theseus says, “Oh, you heavenly charmers,” referring to the gods. “What things you make of us.”

[CLIP from Arkangel Shakespeare’s The Two Noble Kinsmen. Geoffrey Whitehead is Theseus]

For what we lack
We laugh, for what we have are sorry, still
Are children in some kind.

BATE: “Let us be thankful for that which is, and with you”—you, the gods—”leave dispute that are above our question.”

[Clip continues]

Let’s go off
And bear us like the time.

BATE: And I think in many ways that is Shakespeare’s philosophy. There’s a lot we don’t know. We are in some ways like children. Let’s leave the big questions aside, be thankful for what we have. Leave aside disputes that are above our question.

Question is a great Shakespearian word, isn’t it? To be or not to be. That is the question. Shakespeare loves to raise the questions. And as a dramatist, he loves to bring forward different characters who put forward different points of view, different answers, different questions. But Shakespeare never really gives you the answer. And that’s why he’s so endlessly rewarding to keep on watching, keep on reading.

BOGAEV: That’s what people find so magical about it. You can always find a way to read your own interpretation into different scenes, into the plays, and also to adapt them. Shakespeare never seems to be telling anyone what they should think. Although you seem to imply something kind of interesting in the book, that when Shakespeare is not using the art of rhetoric—of the classic presenting different positions and arguing him them out—that you can catch glimpses of Shakespeare being neutral, which is really a way of revealing his own biases or beliefs. Is that right? Did I sum that up?

BATE: This is interesting, isn’t it? That he’s very careful when it comes to political or theological debates. Had to be careful about theological debates, of course, because there were laws against trying—you know, you couldn’t show God onstage, and halfway through his career, of course, you couldn’t use the name of God on stage. He’s very careful not to get too much into religious debate.

Then similarly with politics, that does seem to me there are moments where you can detect Shakespeare himself coming out from behind his mask. Just going back to the point about philosophy, very often what happens in Shakespeare is a character makes a big philosophical claim. The gods are just, say, King Lear. But then all of a sudden something of the action happens that undermines that claim. But the one claim that it seems to me that is always endorsed, rather than undermined by the action, is the claim that we are all players. Life is a kind of theater.

BOGAEV: You talk about another interesting concept from classical rhetoric, and maybe it fits in here, I think, and that is of enargia and energia. Before I mess that up completely, why don’t you explain what those are for us and why you say… because you say that Shakespeare’s great effect is his gift of combining these two concepts; of conjuring the allusion of movement in a still image.

BATE: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, these are terms that come from classical rhetoric. They did sometimes get sort of confused or elided.

BOGAEV: Understandably so. Just one letter difference.

BATE: Understandably. One letter difference, precisely. Yeah. So enargia, the one with the “A”, is the idea of the ability of the creative artist to create visual images. Clearly that’s something that Shakespeare does through his power of imagery. And when we start teaching Shakespeare, we often say, “Look, look at the images. Look at how he uses metaphor to create visual images.”

But then there was this other rhetorical figure, energia, which is the idea of what… Sir Philip Sidney speaks of it in terms of the forcibleness of great writing. It’s particularly seen in this idea of conjuring up motion, energy.

It seems to me what Shakespeare does is precisely to combine those two things. He gives you these visual images to come alive in your imagination in a very sort of painterly way, but always in motion. There’s always that sense of energy within his works.

BOGAEV: Yeah. You say that at least enargia will make the audience feel that they’re not so much hearing as witnessing the actual scene.

BATE: Yeah.

BOGAEV: Living it, being in front of it, inside of it, maybe. Which is really…

BATE: And that’s particularly important, of course, because, you know, he’s writing for a bare stage. Sometimes if we see modern productions with, you know, elaborate stage sets. The work of the visualization of the world is done for us. That’s not the case on Shakespeare’s bare stage. There’s a few props that occasionally get brought on. You know, they wheel on a bower for Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But on the whole, he’s reliant on the image making power to create pictures in our mind.

BOGAEV: Can you think of an example that really drives this home?

BATE: Well, I got particularly interested in the images of running, for example. We actually see this in his poetry, as well as in the plays. Venus and Adonis. It’s there that he, for the benefit of the reader, creates this fantastic sense of motion. One particular stanza in Venus and Adonis is almost like Botticelli’s great painting of The Birth of Venus, but it’s brought into motion.

Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear,
Or like a fairy trip upon the green,
Or like a nymph, with long disheveled hair,
Dance on the sands, and yet no footing seen.
Love is a spirit all compact of fire,
Not gross to sink, but light, and will aspire.

Incredible image, a nymph with long, disheveled hair, “dance on the sands, and yet no footing seen.” The idea of dancing with such a light tread that there isn’t a footprint left in the sand. I mean, you just… to read that, you can immediately have the image in your head.

BOGAEV: Oh, that was lovely. I could listen to you all day.

BATE: Oh, thank you.

BOGAEV: Now we tripped kind of lightly over the main idea, which is that Shakespeare of course borrows heavily from classical history and from myth. But I would like you to run down for us, outside of the plays set in Greece and Rome, what are some concrete examples of places where we see these classical influences show up?

BATE: Yeah. Let me give two examples that I think are really interesting, really strong. Hamlet, set relatively contemporary, feels a very contemporary play. But you remember, the players arrive.

[CLIP from the Folger Audio edition of Hamlet. Zach Appelman is Hamlet and Todd Scofield is the Player]

I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was never acted, or, if it was, not above once.

BATE: And that can be crucial to the plot because it’s by means of the play that Hamlet is going to establish Claudius’s guilt. First thing Hamlet does when the players arrive is he asks the leading player to recite a speech.

[Clip continues]

One speech in’t I chiefly loved. ‘Twas Aeneas’ tale to Dido, and
thereabout of it especially when he speaks of Priam’s slaughter.

BATE: A moment at the climax of the story of the Trojan War, the moment where the Greeks have stormed the city of Troy. The figure of Pyrrhus, who is the son of Achilles, confronts King Priam, the old King of Troy. Priam is the father of Hector. Hector has slain Achilles, the father of Pyrrhus. So Pyrrhus wants revenge for his father’s death.

[CLIP continues]

Anon he finds him
Striking too short at Greeks.

BATE: And the player goes into this speech describing the moment in particular; the moment when Pyrrhus holds his sword above Priam’s head.

[Clip continues]

Unequal matched,
Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage strikes wide;
But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
Th’ unnervèd father falls.

BATE: Now, two things really interesting about that. One, the language of it is very much based on the language of Virgil’s Aeneid, the great epic poem of ancient Rome. So there’s an example where, for the audience to fully understand what is going on, they need the classical knowledge that Pyrrhus is a son avenging his father’s death.

But then the second thing about it is the contrast, because what Hamlet says is, “Here’s an example of dramatic action, but I am stifled by inaction.” And there’s a fantastic echo whereby at a key moment in that Virgilian speech of the player, Pyrrhus pauses for a moment, then he brings down the sword.

Very soon after, the players act out their play for Hamlet. There is the moment when Hamlet has the opportunity to do the same. He comes up behind Claudius while he’s praying, he raises his weapon, but it doesn’t fall, and there’s a clear contrast there. So Shakespeare is not only relying on his audience’s knowledge of Pyrrhus, but he’s also using it as a dramatic device for the characterization of Hamlet.

A second idea where a theme from the classics plays out in works that don’t have a classical setting is an idea that was very widely written and thought about in Shakespeare’s England. The great example of it was the poet, Horace. Horace was a political poet, but he also had a farm outside of Rome. One of his great themes is the contrast between the slippery world of court rivalry and the peace of a rural retreat. And that of course becomes a major theme in Shakespeare.

Whether we’re thinking of As You Like It—that begins with court intrigue and then moves to the forest of Arden—or even in the history plays…Happy the man,” Horace says, “Who just is cultivating his garden in the country.” We see such a man actually in Henry VI, Part II, a man called Alexander Iden.

[CLIP from Arkangel Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part II.]

Lord, who would live turmoiled in the court
And may enjoy such quiet walks as these?
This small inheritance my father left me
Contenteth me, and worth a monarchy.
I see not to wax great by others’ waning,
Or gather wealth, I care not with what envy.
Sufficeth that I have maintains my state
And sends the poor well pleased from my gate.

BATE: He again has a speech, is very, very Horatian, that would have been recognized by any educated theatergoer in Shakespeare’s time, as picking up on that theme.

BOGAEV: There is one way though that Shakespeare deviates or pushes back against the classics. The way you put it is that you say he feminized the classical male Roman world, which seems a big point. What do you mean exactly by that?

BATE: I was really thinking mainly about that in relation to Antony and Cleopatra.

[CLIP from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2017 production of Antony and Cleopatra. Josette Simon is Cleopatra and Antony Byrne is Antony]

The sides of nature
Will not sustain it.

Now, my dearest queen—

Pray you stand farther from me.

What’s the matter?

I know by that same eye there’s some good news.

BATE: Antony and Cleopatra, the main source—there are moments in it where he’s simply turning into verse what he reads in Plutarch’s Life of Mark Antony. But what is very striking about Plutarch’s narrative is that it’s all from the point of view of the man—of the Roman soldier. Cleopatra is seen as a distraction from male imperial and political duty. But of course in Shakespeare’s play she has a magnificent voice.

[Clip continues]

I have no power upon you. Hers you are.

The gods best know—

O, never was there queen
So mightily betrayed! Yet at the first
I saw the treasons planted.


Why should I think you can be mine, and true—
Though you in swearing shake the thronèd gods—
Who have been false to Fulvia? Riotous madness,
To be entangled with those mouth-made vows
Which break themselves in swearing!

Most sweet queen—

Nay, pray you seek no color for your going,
But bid farewell and go.

BATE: The female characters, they so often seem more grown up and often more intellectually astute. And that’s a very, very un-Roman idea.

[CLIP from the 2012 BBC World Shakespeare Festival production of Julius Caesar at the Royal Shakespeare Festival. Adjoa Andoh is Portia and Paterson Joseph is Brutus]

Dear my lord,
Make me acquainted with your cause of grief.

I am not well in health, and that is all.

Brutus is wise and, were he not in health,
He would embrace the means to come by it.

Why so I do. Good Portia, go to bed.

Is Brutus sick? And is it physical
To walk unbracèd and suck up the humors
Of the dank morning? What, is Brutus sick,
And will he steal out of his wholesome bed
To dare the vile contagion of the night
And tempt the rheumy and unpurgèd air
To add unto his sickness? No, my Brutus,
You have some sick offense within your mind,
Which by the right and virtue of my place
I ought to know of.

BOGAEV: Well, I’d love to think of Shakespeare as a feminist, but the cynic in me thinks he was just being a good playwright and a good impresario and a good dramatist. That he’s introducing more points of view and he’s including the other half of his audience—the women—into the plays and into the conflict. Introducing more conflict into his stories by giving women characters more of a voice.

And in a way, I think that might apply to some of the other things we were talking about as well. That if these stories are what everyone’s imagination is swimming in this soup in Shakespeare’s time then he’s being a great… he’s putting butts in seats. He’s making his plays accessible. This was the popular culture that they all share.

BATE: That’s certainly true. Although it is striking, if you contrast his plays with Christopher Marlowe’s. Marlowe does seem remarkably uninterested in female characters. Marlowe is not interested in getting under the skin of women in a way that Shakespeare clearly was.

BOGAEV: Hmm. So after thinking so much about this, after writing this book and diving into how the classics informed so much of Shakespeare, has it changed in any way how you think of Shakespeare’s legacy, or the quality of his imagination or craft?

BATE: What I got particularly interested in coming to the end of the work, was thinking about the very strong similarity between the way that Shakespeare used the classics and the way that we use Shakespeare. I actually end the book by looking at the origins of Shakespeare in education.

Mainstream education across Europe was absolutely based in the classics. People didn’t study English literature in Shakespeare’s time. They studied classical rhetoric. People didn’t study English literature in the 18th century. The schools for the elite, who were going to go on to Oxford and Cambridge through the 19th century, people didn’t study English literature.

But what happened towards the end of the 18th century was that new academies for lower-middle class boys and girls began to be established. It was in those academies in the late 18th century that Shakespeare began to be studied in school. That the arts of rhetoric that had been taught from the classics turned into teaching the art of speaking well, using language well, and this became a great engine of social mobility.

That to me is a fascinating history whereby studying the classics gave Shakespeare the intellectual and imaginative equipment to create all these worlds of such extraordinary richness and variety. But then in a later age, those worlds themselves became the raw material to allow people from diverse backgrounds to develop their own imaginations. And in that sense, you know, Shakespeare still has the function of being our classic.

The problem now is that the “our” has become so diverse, and the cultures around us have become so varied, and attention spans have perhaps become so short, that that rich sense of variety—what the great poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, called the “myriad minded” quality of Shakespeare—is something that I think is becoming harder to grasp.

BOGAEV: Well, I could talk to you all day. I just have enjoyed this so much, and we’re going to leave it here.  Thank you so much for the lovely recitation at a time when we can’t go to the theater. It was just a balm to hear your voice.

BATE: It’s been a pleasure, Barbara. Really, really good to talk to you, and warmest wishes to everybody at the Folger. May it reopen soon with all the great work that you do.

BOGAEV: Hear, hear.

WITMORE: Sir Jonathan Bate is Foundation Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University and a senior research fellow at Oxford University, where he was formerly provost of Worcester College.

His book, How the Classics Made Shakespeare, was published by Princeton University Press in 2019. Sir Jonathan has another book out—it’s called Radical Wordsworth: The Poet Who Changed the World and was just published in 2020 by Yale University Press. He was interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

Our podcast episode, “An Ancient Tale New Told,” was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the web producer. We had technical help from Andrew Feliciano and Paul Luke at Voice Trax West in Studio City, California.

We hope you’re enjoying Shakespeare Unlimited. If you are, please do us a favor: please rate and review the podcasts on whatever platform you get the podcast from. When you do that, it helps us get the word out to people who haven’t heard it yet. Thank you.

Shakespeare Unlimited comes to you from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the Folger is dedicated to advancing knowledge and the arts. You can find more about the Folger at our website,

Thanks for listening. For the Folger Shakespeare Library, I’m Folger Director Michael Witmore.