Welcome to Episode #010 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.

Hazel Forsyth, Senior Curator of the Medieval and Post-Medieval Collections at the Museum of London, joins us today to discuss a 2009 archeological find done by the Museum of London where they discovered, among other evidence of theater life in the 17th century, a set of period shoes near the site of the old Rose Theater, dating to within Shakespeare’s lifetime. While the shoes themselves have now been moved into the archives at the Museum of London, at the time they were displayed they were part of a small collection of shoes and artifacts like hazelnuts which were possibly worn by Shakespearean actors at The Rose, and the hazelnut shells have their own theater connection as well. The remarkable find is allowing archaeologists and historians to piece together some of the history of Shakespeare’s time period. 

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Hazel Forsyth is Senior Curator of the Medieval and Post-Medieval Collections at the Museum of London and curator of The Cheapside Hoard, the largest collection of Elizabethan and early Stuart jewelry in the world.  She is a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a freeman of the City of London, a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths’ and a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Pewterers’.

In this episode, I’ll be asking Hazel about :

  • Where were these shoes first discovered and why were they looking for them?
  • How is it possible that the shoes are still in relatively good condition after being in the ground over 400 years?
  • What aspects about the shoes make archeologists think they are actors shoes?
  • The archeologists also found hazelnuts? What were they used for? Why so many?
  • Would Shakespeare himself have worn something similar?
  • What do these shoes tell us about Shakespeare’s life in London?

Resources mentioned in today’s episode:

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