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Welcome to Episode 156 of That Shakespeare Life, the show that takes you behind the curtain and into the real life and history of William Shakespeare.

In Elizabethan England, the Queen is immortalized in woodcuts that show her fondness for the sport of hawking. By the time James I comes to the throne in 1603, hawking is surpassed by a form of hunting called par force where animals like dogs and horses are used to round up prey. While the practical aspect of hunting animals for meat was utilized in these hunting expeditions, arguably the primary function of going hunting was to establish yourself as a member of a higher order of social status and to network with powerful political connections that might advance your station. In her paper, He Cannot Be a Gentleman Which Loveth Not Hawking and Hunting, our guest, Karen Kaiser Lee writes about the popularity of hunting par force under James I and explores the specific hunting treatises that were written during his reign to both define the methods of hunting as well as regulate the kinds of people who would be permitted to participate in this exclusive sport. Karen joins us today to take us inside the world of early modern hunting to look at who was allowed to hunt, what they used for this purpose, and how it helped usher in a new era in English history where a person could move upward in society if they were disciplined enough at a new, and important, skill. 

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Karen Kaiser Lee is an Assistant Professor and the director of the writing program at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois, where she teaches writing courses such as Study of Rhetoric and Writing in Digital Environments. She began her study of renaissance hunting texts as part of her involvement in the Society for Creative Anachronism; her interest was piqued when the organization began incorporating dog coursing as an activity.

Graduate study in rhetoric allowed her to study these historic texts in depth; her master’s thesis describes how renaissance hunting manuals doubled as instructions to help the nouveau riche of the period enter the upper echelons of society. Her other research projects have included how English travel narratives describe women of other cultures. Karen has presented her research at the International Congress on Medieval Studies. Explore more about Karen’s work here.

In this episode, I’ll be asking Karen Kaiser Lee about :

  • Knowledge of hunting and correct hunting terms shows up in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost when Holofernes corrects Nathaniel on his identification of a deer. Karen, what does this scene tell us about the importance of being skilled in hunting for someone that wanted to advance their social status?
  • After someone met the necessary requirements socially, where did someone who wanted to hunt par force go to participate in this sport, were there specialized locations set aside for hunting? 
  • Karen writes that in a play contemporary to Shakespeare, The Roaring Girl, by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekkers staged around 1607, live water spaniels are called for by the stage directions and that the use of water spaniels, specifically, was due to regulations from the hunting treatises of the time period. Karen, were dogs also subject to a social order and ranking of best dogs for hunting?

… and more!

Here’s what’s available for this episode:

  • Woodcut of Queen Elizabeth Engaged in Hawking, 19th century
  • Image of A huntsman presenting Elizabeth I with the heart of a deer, 16th century
  • 15th Century Illuminated Manuscripts from Le Livre de chasse de Gaston Phébus (“The Hunting Book of Gaston Phebus”)
  • 18th century water color painting, Par force hunting in North Zealand, Denmark
  • Image of Elizabeth I’s Hunting Lodge
  • Image of Medieval Hounds
  • A 17th century painting of the Goddess Diana Deer Hunting
  • Image of forest landscape with deer hunting
  • Gribskov Map Detail
  • Kong Christian VII during a Par Force Hunt in North Zealand, Denmark, 18th Century
  • La Livre de Chaise, 1389. Gaston Phoebus, Medivial Hart Hunt
  • Hart Hunting,15th Century, from Le Livre de Chasse de Gaston Phébus
  • Diagram of Deer Scat, 16th century
  • Brief History of Wood-Engraving Wynkyn de Worde Fishing,1496
  • Book of St Albans, Circa 1488
  • The Booke of Hunting, 1576, “Force” hunting deer
  • Elizabeth Hunting Deer, From the Booke of Hunting, 1576, Tubervile’s Book
  • Kinds of Hunting Dogs, 1576, Tubervile’s Book
  • Photo of Feeding station in Kægersborg Dyrehave north of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Photo of Deer on a hunting landscape in Denmark
  • Picture from Livre de La Chasse by Gaston Phoebus, A Medieval Manuscript with Famous Illustrations
  • Image from the Book of St. Albans, 15th century print
  • Book of hawking, hunting, and blasing of arms, with pencil drawing in margin of St. Albans
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Books & Resources Karen Kaiser Lee Recommends

Online Version of Gaston Phoebus’ Manuscript is Here –

A copy of The Noble Art of Venery.

Gaston Phoebus’ Livre de Chasse, excerpt here:

The image with the deer poop on the breakfast table:

Tubervile’s Book of Hunting, 1576 (readable on Google Books here:)

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