Glass is used over 80 times in Shakespeare’s works, including to talk about specific kinds of glass like pilot’s glass in Alls Well That Ends Well, and “the glasses of my sight” in Coriolanus. We can see from the surviving Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford Upon Avon that window glass existed, and there was even an old glass house in the Blackfriars where the Blackfriars theater was located, but how was all this glass made? What other products might have been made from glass, and what colors of glass were most popular? To find out the answers to these questions and explore the history of glass for Shakespeare’s lifetime, we are delighted to welcome Allen Loomis to the show today.  

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Allen Loomis is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at Binghamton University. His work examines the confluence of the domestic sphere and public theater in Elizabethan and Jacobean England. Specializing in the transformative role of window glass technology during this period, he argues that shifts in window glass production changed how public theater participated in the discourse of the home as a cynosure and borrowed from windows in conceptualizing the so-called ‘fourth wall.’ His approach to examining the influence of material culture on theater has earned him grants from the Corning Museum of Glass and Harpur College at Binghamton University. 

I’ll be asking Allen Loomis about:

  • In Shakespeare’s play, As You Like It, Touchstone talks about pouring out of a cup into a glass. What type of glass products were available during the 16-17th century and what are some of the markers for identifying glass artifacts from Shakespeare’s lifetime? 
  • How prevalent was the use of glass in windows? How expensive was glass and did the cost of glass influence where it was used or by whom? 
  • What about the product known as Forest Glass? Who made the glass? How did these methods affect the appearance and quality of the glass? 
  • …and more!

Books and Resources Allen Loomis recommends:

English Window Glass: A Journey Through Early Modern History and Literature, Corning Museum of Glass Blog

The Rakow Research Library at the Corning Museum of Glass –   

Godfrey, Eleanor S., The Development of English Glassmaking 1560-1640 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975).  

Kalas, Rayna, Frame, Glass, Verse: The Technology of Poetic Invention in the English Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007). 

Jütte, Daniel, Transparency: The Material History of an Idea (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2023). 

Ng, Morgan, “Toward a Cultural Ecology of Architectural Glass in Early Modern Northern Europe,” Art History, v. 40, n. 3, 2017, 496-525. 

Robert J. Charleston. Author of English Glass and the Glass Used in Englandca 400–1940. Allen and Unwin, 1984.

Fleming, Juliet. Graffiti and the Writing Arts of Early Modern England. U Chicago Press, 2001 

A Few More Research Tidbits:

History of Glass

Glass as a Material in Renaissance Venice

A Brief History of Murano Glass

Glass Roots: Examining the Archaeology of Glass Making in England

The Rise of Venetian Glass Making

Beyond Venice: Glass in Venetian Style 1500-1750

Here’s what’s available for this episode:

  • Illustration of Venetian glass furnance
  • Example of Cristallo glass, 16thCentury
  • Links to archaeological reports on English forest glass from the 16th century (images included!)
  • Examples of Forest Glass from the Corning Museum of Glass
  • More research links to history of glass making furnaces
  • Picture of Kenilworth Castle showcasing the windows
  • Images of the windows at Hardwick Hall
  • Photo of the windows at Shakespeare’s Birthplace, taken from inside the birthplace
  • Photo of Hardwick Hall by Allen Loomis
  • Photo of Queen’s apartments at Kenilworth (and the glass windows) by Allen Loomis
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That’s it for this week! Thank you for listening! I’m Cassidy Cash and I hope you learn something new about the bard.

I’ll see you next time!