Welcome to Episode #005 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.

Dr. Menzer joins us today to discuss the history behind his book, Anecdotal Shakespeare, to talk about superstitions in Shakespeare's plays. More specifically: why they are included, if there's any relationship between textual superstitions of the plays themselves and the Scottish Play, as well as what, if anything, the role of witches, magic, and superstition in the plays can tell us about life in Elizabethan/Jacobean England.

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Paul Menzer is a professor and the director of the Mary Baldwin University MLitt/MFA Shakespeare and Performance graduate program. He is the editor of Inside Shakespeare: Essays on the Blackfriars Stage (2006), author of The Hamlets: Cues, Q’s, and Remembered Texts (2008), Anecdotal Shakespeare: a New Performance History (2015), which is the foundation of our conversation today. Dr. Menzer is President of the Marlowe Society of America and co-editor of The Hare, an online journal of brief essays and untimely reviews. He is also a practicing playwright and his plays Anonymous, The Brats of Clarence, and Shakespeare on Ice have appeared on the Blackfriars stage and elsewhere. His most recent play, Invisible Inc., premiered at the Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin, Texas in early 2013.
IIn this episode, I’ll be asking Dr. Menzer about :

  • Macbeth and why The Scottish Play became such an important theater legend.
  • We’ll talk about Cymbeline and why smaller plays lack such strong anecdotes, and
  • you’ll hear a story about Richard Burbage which has spanned the centuries attaching itself to actors playing Richard III for centuries.

Resources mentioned in today's episode:

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Want to see Shakespeare's Trip to London?

This historically illutrated map shows one possible path between London and Stratford Upon Avon that William Shakespeare could have travelled by foot to get from his home to his workplace in London. Using primary documents and quotes from Shakespeare's plays that reference specific inns and taverns along this path, the map pinpoints where the inns were located (including the one owned by the Davenant family, where it is believed Shakespeare frequently stopped when passing by.)

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