Welcome to Episode #018 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.

One of the people whose life helps us understand some key facts about William Shakespeare is the life of Dr. John Hall, the husband of Shakespeare’s oldest daughter, Susanna. John Hall was a physician, who mostly set up shop in Stratford Upon Avon and declared himself the town doctor since he was never formally educated in the field. Despite a lack of formal education, his practice thrived, and his surviving medical casebooks give us a unique look into the life of William Shakespeare, whose family (and likely Shakespeare himself) were patients of Dr. Hall.

Dr. Sara Read is a specialist in early modern health and medicine. Her early work focused on the reproductive health of women in the 16th century, while most recently she has co-authored a popular book on the history of 16-17th century disease and illness called Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health and Healing, 1540-1740. Sara joins us today to focus on one of the topics covered in her book: the life and practices of Shakespeare’s son in law, Dr. John Hall, and what studying his life can tell us about William Shakespeare.

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Dr. Sara Read is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University and is a specialist in early modern health and medicine. Her first academic monograph along with her history publication from 2015 focused on the reproductive health of women in the 16th century, while most recently she has co-authored a popular book on the history of 16-17th century disease and illness called Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health and Healing, 1540-1740. Sara and her co author were featured in Shakespeare Magazine’s 13th Issue, which came out this year, sharing some of the more bizarre medical practices which were common in Shakespeare’s lifetime.
In this episode, I’ll be asking Sara about :

  • Did John Hall and Shakespeare know each other personally? Did they spend time together?
  • How did John Hall’s religion impact his relationship with his father in law? Wasn’t he a Puritan? Puritans were the cause of the closing of theaters in 1642, was John Hall opposed to his father in law’s profession?
  • Can you tell us about the bust of Shakespeare that is at Holy Trinity Church? Wasn’t it John and Susanna who had that made of Shakespeare?
  • …and more!

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