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Welcome to Episode #186 of That Shakespeare Life, the podcast that takes you behind the curtain and into the life of William Shakespeare.
In 1588, William Shakespeare turned 24 years old. This year is part of what we call “Shakespeare’s Lost Years” because we don’t know precisely what Shakepeare was doing at this time. Many speculations have been made that Shakespeare hopped a ride with one of the touring companies that visited his hometown of Stratford Upon Avon to make his fortunes in London. Of course, the details are not known for sure, but our guest this week brings new evidence to the discussion by investigating one major flood event that struck Stratford Upon Avon in 1588. Prior to this significant disaster, Shakespeare’s hometown was a major stop of the route of travelling playing companies across England, and after this disaster, the town seems to drop off of the itinerary, leading some to speculate that the damage and subsequent fall from its’ status as a tourist destination may have played a role in William Shakespeare leaving for London.
This week we welcome our guest, Laurie Johnson to the show to share his research into the flood of 1588 to tell us what may have happened to the town of Stratford Upon Avon that led to the departure of the bard.
Laurie Johnson is Professor of English and Cultural Studies at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. He is the current President of the Australian and New Zealand Shakespeare Association (since 2016) and a member of the editorial board of the journal Shakespeare. Laurie’s books include Shakespeare’s Lost Playhouse: Eleven Days at Newington Butts (2018), The Tain of Hamlet (2013), and the Wolf Man’s Burden (2001), and he is co-editor of two essay collections, Embodied Cognition and Shakespeare’s Theatre: The Early Modern Body-Mind (with John Sutton and Evelyn Tribble, 2014) and Rapt in Secret Studies: Emerging Shakespeares (2010). He has also published over 50 articles and book chapters, and is currently working on a book on the Earl of Leicester’s Men, which he hopes to complete later this year, and is developing an international project to examine the impact of climate shift in Sixteenth-Century Britain on the rise of the playhouse industry.
Books & Resources Recommended by Laurie Johnson:
Minutes and Accounts of the Corporation of Stratford-upon-Avon and Other Records, 1553-1620. Transcribed by Richard Savage. Ed. Edgar I. Fripp (London: The Dugdale Society, 1929) [I used the copies at the Folger Shakespeare Library while on a fellowship in 2019. The Shakespeare Documented site contains a few nice reproductions of selected pages of the original accounts, such as = https://shakespearedocumented.folger.edu/resource/document/chamberlain-s-account-presented-stratford-upon-avon-corporation-including-first
Some really excellent reading to be had in Ronnie Mulryne’s book on Shakespeare’s Stratford = https://www.routledge.com/The-Guild-and-Guild-Buildings-of-Shakespeares-Stratford-Society-Religion/Mulryne/p/book/9781409417668
And on British climate and weather of the period, the best summary is currently the Weatherweb site = https://premium.weatherweb.net/weather-in-history-1500-to-1599-ad/
(But part of my project will involve significantly expanding this list of weather events and climate indicators)
Keep up with Laurie to see his forthcoming work.
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Use our collection of activity kits to can cook, play, and create your way through the life of William Shakespeare with recipes, games, and crafts straight from Shakespeare's lifetime (and mentioned in his plays!) It's the most fun way to explore history.
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