Welcome to Episode #004 of That Shakespeare Life, the podcast that takes you behind the curtain and into the life of William Shakespeare.

I believe that if you want to understand Shakespeare’s plays, then understanding the life of William Shakespeare, the man, is essential. This podcast is designed to help you explore early modern England as Shakespeare would have lived it by interviewing the historians, performers, authors, and experts that know him best.

This week we are talking with Dr. Bart Van Es about Shakespeare’s best friend, greatest actor, and leading man: Richard Burbage. Bart van Es is an author, historian, and Professor in English at the University of Oxford. He joins us this week to give us an introduction to Richard Burbage, the man who was first to bring to life iconic characters like Hamlet, King Lear, and Othello. 

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Bart van Es is an author, historian, and Professor in English at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of St Catherine’s College. He has previously written books on Edmund Spenser and has a special interest in the writing of history in the Renaissance. His book, Shakespeare in Company, is the only available account of the real lives and acting styles of members of Shakespeare’s acting company. His book was praised by The New Criterion, and Renaissance Quarterly for it’s detail, study, and research into the innovative business style and collaborative format of Shakespeare’s acting troupe. His latest book, Shakespeare’s Comedies: a Very Short Introduction came out in 2016.
Inside this episode, I ask Dr. Van Es about:

  • What did Richard Burbage look like?
  • Do you think he painted the Chandos portrait?
  • What was Burbage’s role in William Shakespeare’s success?
  • How do we reconcile the myth of players being disreputable with the large and powerful reputation Richard Burbage held?

Bart’s Latest Project:

Dr. Van Es’ latest work focuses on the place of children in Renaissance literary culture, both in drama and in non-dramatic verse. In addition to research on children, publications in progress include 6 Ways of Thinking in Renaissance Literature and a book of creative non-fiction on the Netherlands during occupation in World War II. You can follow some of Bart Van Es’ work in the Times Higher Education as well as The Spenser Review.

Books Bart Recommends:

Tiffany Stern Rehearsal: From Shakespeare to Sheridan

Documents for Performance by Tiffany Stern

James Shapiro’s 1599

Rival Playwrights by James Shapiro

1608 by James Shapiro

Resources mentioned in today’s episode:

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Want to learn more about Richard Burbage?

Download this free fact file with 10 Incredible Facts on Shakespeare's leading man.