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Welcome to Episode #179 of That Shakespeare Life, the podcast that takes you behind the curtain and into the life of William Shakespeare.

Sandals, boots, spurs, and cobbled shoes are all mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays, found in works like Alls Well That Ends Well, Coriolanus, and even Hamlet where the Danish Prince talks about his “raz’d shoes.” All this mention of footwear in the works of the bard has us wondering exactly what kind of shoes William Shakespeare might have worn during his lifetime. While portraits of the bard don’t extend down to his toes to provide us with a visual record of Shakespeare’s actual feet, we can explore the fashion of men’s shoes in Tudor England to examine the styles, materials, and commerce of men’s shoes. This week’s guest is intimately familiar with what is involved in making 15-16th century shoes because that’s exactly what he creates in his shop, NP Historical Shoes. We are delighted to welcome artisan and historical shoemaker, Juraj Matejik to the show this week to help us explore what kind of footwear Shakespeare might have had on his feet.

Join the conversation below.

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Juraj Matejik is a professional historical shoemaker at NP Historical Shoes. He research, designs and manufactures highly authentic, and original footwear along with leather accessories using old methods and techniques exclusively from natural and sustainable materials. All of his works are either detailed replicas or inspired by existing artifacts, which can be found either as archaeological findings in museum collections around the world, or are artistically depicted in manuscripts, paintings and exposed works of art in sacral buildings. Explore NP Historical Shoes here.

In this episode, I’ll be asking Juraj Matejik about :

  • When it comes to archaeological finds and shoes that survive from Shakespeare’s lifetime, are 16th century men’s shoes distinct from women’s shoes in their appearance?
  • In A Winter’s Tale, Autolycus [Aw-Taw-Lih-Kuss]  mentions a “shoe-tie” among a long list of his accessories and in As You Like It Rosalind talks about the appearance of an unkempt man including having one’s “Shoe untied” Act III Scene 2. Juraj, would Tudor shoes have had fasteners like laces, ties, or buttons?
  • In Hamlet Act III the Danish Prince talks about roses on his “raz’d shoes” and Falstaff mentions “high shoes” in Henry IV Part I. Juraj, both of these references sound like what we might call high heels today, but are these references suggesting men in Tudor England wore heels? 
  • … and more!

Book & Resources Juraj Matejik recommends:

A lean cheek, which you have not; a blue eye and sunken,
which you have not; an unquestionable spirit, which you have not;
a beard neglected, which you have not; but I pardon you for that,
for simply your having in beard is a younger brother’s revenue.
Then your hose should be ungarter’d, your bonnet unbanded, your
sleeve unbutton’d, your shoe untied, and every thing about you
demonstrating a careless desolation. But you are no such man; you
are rather point-device in your accoutrements, as loving yourself
than seeming the lover of any other.

Here’s what’s available for this episode:

  • Portrait of James I, 17th century
  • Portrait of Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset, 17th century
  • Image featuring the detail Patten shoes designed for outdoor protection.
  • The Arnolfini Portrait, 15th century
  • Photo of leather shoes that would have been worn by the sailors of Henry VIII’s, Mary Rose
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