Welcome to Episode #22 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.

Many British historians will recognize the Essex Rebellion as a famous event, but less well known is the almost pivotal role in that uprising that was played by William Shakespeare. Robert Devereux was the 2nd Earl of Essex and was, in addition to being the Queen’s favorite, also one of Shakespeare’s most notable patrons. After a ghastly display of disrespect to the Queen in public, along with many grievances Essex felt towards Elizabeth I, he found himself appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland which marked the beginning of what would become the famous Essex Rebellion of 1601. As a patron of Shakespeare and a friend of Shakespeare’s other famous patron, Henry Wriothesly, The Earl of Southampton, Essex used the theater and Shakespeare in particular as a weapon in his quest against the government. To help us explore what life was like for William Shakespeare during this time, as well as how the bard managed to escape his own execution for his involvement in the rebellion, our guest today is Clare Asquith, author of Shakespeare and the Resistance.  Clare joins us this week to explore the involvement of William Shakespeare and his theater performances in the Essex Rebellion. 

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Lady Clare Asquith is the author of Shakespeare and the Resistance, which is her latest book that came out in August of this year. Her book explores the life of Robert Devereux and his journey from the Queen’s favorite to executed traitor. She joins us today to be our guide as we look at the Essex Rebellion and its’ role in the life of William Shakespeare.

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

  • How was Devereaux able to afford to be a patron of Shakespeare’s theater during this time?
  • How was it possible for Shakespeare to avoid prosecution?
  • Was Shakespeare’s reputation at stake for being connected with Essex?
  • …and more!

Books Clare Recommends:

Shakespeare and the Resistance by Clare Asquith (Excellent Handbook guide to Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece)
Paul Hammer The Polarization of Elizabethan Politics
Alex Gajda The Earl of Essex and Late Elizabethan Culture
Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 8 Volume Set by Geoffrey Bullough

 

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