(No, not that one.) This weekend is the 399th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway, and to commemorate the occasion we talk to Dr. Katherine Scheil, author of Imagining Shakespeare’s Wife: The Afterlife of Anne Hathaway. Dr. Scheil discusses what drew her to Hathaway as a subject for study; how Hathaway is almost always portrayed in relationship to Shakespeare; what to make of the “second best bed” she received in Shakespeare’s will; the wonderful democratization and liberating opportunities of biofiction; how sex is frequently the default source of Shakespeare’s “inspiration;” a discussion of the relative merits of the films Shakespeare In Love and All Is True, the TV series Upstart Crow, and the novel Hamnet; and ultimately, how biofiction can be a more insightful way of understanding historical figures, and even how sitcoms can reveal greater story and character nuance than drama. (Length 25:59)
Gaps in the historical record are treasure troves for playwrights and novelists, and this week we talk to novelist Louis Bayard (Mr. Timothy, Courting Mr. Lincoln) about two of his historical novels, The School of Night and The Pale Blue Eye. Lou discusses how he stumbles into these historical gaps and how he excavates what he does or doesn’t find there, and he reveals the pain of eliminating unnecessary characters; the difficulty in finding the heart of your mystery; meditations on both Dupin and Lupin; fan fiction about artists, scientists, and thinkers; the delight of dropping Easter eggs; the rewards of going on Google crawls; finding the balance in his promiscuous mix of fact and fiction; and what’s coming next down the Bayard pipeline. (Length 23:30)
It’s William Shakespeare’s Birthday Week! On this milestone 750th episode (!), Nicole Galland discusses the fun and intimidating challenge of making Shakespeare a character in her new novel Master of the Revels, and the chutzpah required to put words in the great poet and playwright’s mouth. Nicole shares which parts of the novel are autobiographical (and to what degree), and how even a genius like Shakespeare had gatekeepers; how Edmund Tilney (Queen Elizabeth I’s master of the revels) was both censor and showman; understanding metrics of success (and then ignoring them); how even the greatest writers — maybe especially the greatest writers — walk around in a daze, lost in thought, figuring out story elements and language choices; and how her novel is, ultimately, a celebration of the countless unsung behind-the-scenes champions of playwrights and artists. PLUS: A special appearance by Gary Andrews, author of Finding Joy, and the artist behind the extraordinary portrait above.
Shakespeare’s Birthday Month continues with Part Two with our conversation with Dr Edel Semple from University College in Cork, Ireland, and Dr. Ronan Hatfull from the University of Warwick, talking about Shakespearean Biofiction onstage, screen, and this week on the page, too. We share love for both Hamnet the novel by Maggie O’Farrell and Hamnet the play (by Irish companies Dead Centre and the Abbey Theatre); brushes with greatness (in the forms of playwright Edward Bond and comedian Eddie Izzard); and we discuss all the big questions: how intimidating it can be putting words into Shakespeare’s mouth; how biofiction can speculate realistically or fantastically about where Shakespeare’s genius comes from; whether Shakespeare is, in fact, worth it; how Shakespeare compares to Leontes in The Winter’s Tale; how we can avoid spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier; what’s amazing about Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will; and, amazingly, the good things in Roland Emmerich’s film Anonymous. (Pictured, clockwise from top left: Laurie Davidson as the title character in the miniseries Will; Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell; Austin Tichenor as Richard Burbage in Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will at Northlight Theatre, photo by Liz Lauren; and Kenneth Branagh as William Shakespeare in All Is True.) (Length 22:31)
Dr Edel Semple (bottom right, above) from University College in Cork, Ireland, and Dr. Ronan Hatfull (bottom left) from the University of Warwick convened a seminar entitled “Shakespearean Biofiction on the Stage and Screen” for this year’s annual conference of the Shakespeare Association of America, where we discussed the how and why of, among other things, we made William Shakespeare a character in William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged). Edel and Ronan discuss how the seminar went and talk about the similarities between academic seminars and RSC performances; how incredible planning goes into making things casual and relaxed; what red leather pants really signifies (in both their American or British meaning); how adaptation is also a form of biofiction; shout-outs to all the contributors; layers of irony; what our version of Shakespeare might look like as played by teenagers; how the Shakespeare in Ben Elton’s Upstart Crow is and isn’t like Homer Simpson; climbing up on high horses; and, as always — the importance of the craic! (Length 28:57)