Posted 29.05.2017 : In Our Time - Purgatory (see mp3 audio file above): Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the flourishing of the idea of Purgatory from C12th, when it was imagined as a place alongside Hell and Heaven in which the souls of sinners would be purged of those sins by fire. In the West, there were new systems put in place to pray for the souls of the dead, on a greater scale, with opportunities to buy pardons to shorten time in Purgatory. The idea was enriched with visions, some religious and some literary; Dante imagined Purgatory as a mountain in the southern hemisphere, others such as Marie de France told of The Legend of the Purgatory of Saint Patrick, in which the entrance was on Station Island in County Donegal. This idea of purification by fire had appalled the Eastern Orthodox Church and was one of the factors in the split from Rome in 1054, but flourished in the West up to the reformations of C16th when it was again particularly divisive. A reading list to accompany the programme is available at :http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08qxfrb .
Posted 28.02.2017: The works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries are 'littered' with references to disembodied parts of the human body. Below is an essay by Jonathan Sawday in which he explores the subject of anatomy and the dissection of the human body in Renaissance culture.
Posted 02.08.2016: Rotten Stuff: The Musical : Musical Entertainment with a Shakespeare Theme: “Something Rotten”
“This mash-up of 16th Century Shakespeare and 21st Century Broadway tells the story of brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom, two playwrights stuck in the shadow of that Renaissance rockstar Will Shakespeare. When a soothsayer foretells the next big thing in theatre, the Bottom brothers set out to write the world's very first MUSICAL! With the most singing, the most dancing and the most gut-busting laughs on Broadway, it's something wonderful... something for everyone... It'sSOMETHING ROTTEN!, "the funniest musical comedy in at least 400 years" (Time Out New York)!”
Posted 01.08.2016: The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) : above is a complete performance by the RSC (Reduced Shakespeare Company) of this highly successful comic 'take' on Shakespeare's works. The performance lasts for just under 1 hr 30 mins.
A special welcome to Molly Parker and the young members of her book club in upstate New York who have contributed the very useful resource link below:
Below is the English translation (1598) of Jorge de Montemayor'spastoral romance,Diana. Shakespeare's principal source for The Two Gentlemen of Verona which Shakespeare probably knew from the French translation (1578).
Below is an In Our Time programme on the physician//surgeon//philosopher GALEN:Galen was the most celebrated doctor in the ancient world. Greek by birth, he spent most of his career in Rome, where he was personal physician to three Emperors. Acclaimed in his own lifetime, he was regarded as the preeminent medical authority for centuries after his death, both in the Arab world and in medieval Europe.
Shakespeare's Will. The file (above) has the third page of Shakespeare's will (held in the National Archive) together with a transcript of the will in its entirety.
Erasmus, the 'father of Humanism: Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 16th century humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus, almost universally recognised as the greatest classical scholar of his age. An important religious writer, he was also an outspoken critic of the Church, but when the Reformation began Erasmus chose to remain a member of the Catholic Church rather than side with Martin Luther and the reformers. The programme (BBC R4 IOT broadcast 09.02.2012) can be heard via the link above.
Below you can listen to the In Our Time programme (Radio4) broadcast 27.01.2011 on the subject of Aristotle's Poetics. This seminal work is generally accepted as the very first treatise of literary criticism and was hugely influential in the English literary Renaissance.
The Times has marked the beginning of the 400th anniversary of the year of the publication of the King James Bible with the article below. Remember to left click the mouse over the text in order to magnify it. Members may also be interested in the King James Bible Trust website: www.kingjamesbibletrust.org . David Crystal's Begat: The King James Bible & the English Language (OUP, 2010) will be available in the Book Box from the beginning of the Spring term 2011. See also this related article from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12205084 .
During our discussions reference has often been made to the Elizabethan Sumptuary Laws which attempted to limit extravagant expenditure on imported fabrics and, of course, to prevent any blurring of the divisions between the various 'degrees' of society. Further information about this subect - and the texts of the relevant statutes can be accessed at the following site: http://elizabethan.org/sumptuary/index.html#statutes .
John Foxe's Book of Martyrs or - to give it its full title - The Acts and Monuments of Matters Happening to the Church was a seminal work in the Age of Shakespeare. It was first published in English in 1563. By the second edition of 1570 - revised and enlarged to some 2,500 pages and covering the history of persecution from the early church on - it was ordered to be displayed in every church, common hall, and college and had become part of the national myth. The In Our Time programme on Radio4, introduced by Melvyn Bragg, broadcast a discussion of the book on 18.11.2010 and this can be accessed via the link below:
Above is a woodcut from the Book of Martyrs of the martyrdom in 1417 of the Lollard leader, Sir John Oldcastle who has been widely - though not indisputably - claimed as the original of Shakespeare's character, Falstaff. This is the link to a portal that will give access to the full texts of Foxe's Book of Martyrs in the 1563, 1570, 1576 and 1583 editions: http://www.johnfoxe.org/ .
Members may find the following link useful. It will take you to 'Searching for Shakespeare', a substantial project from Warwick University where you will find a number of short videos and podcasts devoted to different aspects of Shakespeare's life and works: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/news/shakespeare .
Below is a link to the Radio 4 In Our Time programme on The Four Humours. To access the podcast simply left click the forward arrow. For best results use headphones.
Below is a link to the Radio 4 In Our Time programme on the Divine Right of Kings. To access the podcast simply left click the forward arrow. For best results use headphones.
Below is a link to an audio podcast - Speaking Shakespeare - taken from an academic seminar held at Warwick University. It features Ben Crystal, an acknowledged expert in all aspects of the English Language. To access the podcast simply left click the 'forward' arrow below. For best results use headphones.