Revisit the top five Shakespeare Unlimited podcast episodes of 2015

l-r: Rex Daugherty (Tybalt), Aaron Bliden (Benvolio), and Brad Koed (Mercutio) in Romeo and Juliet, directed by Aaron Posner, Folger Theatre (2013). Photo by Teresa Wood.
l-r: Rex Daugherty (Tybalt), Aaron Bliden (Benvolio), and Brad Koed (Mercutio) in Romeo and Juliet, directed by Aaron Posner, Folger Theatre (2013). Photo by Teresa Wood.

We covered a lot in our podcast about Shakespeare this year, from the popular William Shakespeare’s Star Wars adaptation to the Bard’s legacy in Hong Kong and the Caribbean to the evolution of stage design for Shakespeare’s plays. Here are the top five Shakespeare Unlimited podcast episodes from 2015, ranked by number of listens:

1. Myths About Shakespeare

Even if you’re not a Shakespeare scholar, there are things you have learned about Shakespeare and his plays throughout your life – that it’s bad luck to say the name of “the Scottish play” or that Shakespeare hated his wife. Are any of these stories true?  And whether they are or not, what do they tell us about previous eras, and our own?

2. Elizabethan Street Fighting

From the duels in Romeo and Juliet to a brutal mob in Julius Caesar, street fighting transforms several of Shakespeare’s plays. How much, though, does it reflect (or differ from) the mean streets of his day?

3. Music for Shakespeare’s Lyrics

The majority of Shakespeare’s plays call for singing — sometimes it’s part of the action, sometimes it seems to spring out of nowhere.  And while the lyrics to the songs appear to have always been a part of the text, the musical notes for those lyrics have been lost over the years. Over four centuries of staging Shakespeare, directors have explored different approaches to filling in these musical gaps.

4. Recounting Shakespeare’s Life

What do we know about Shakespeare’s life? The answer: Not as much as we would like to. As much or as little, in other words, as we would about any middle-class Englishman of his time. This episode considers not only that question, but two others: During the past four centuries, when and how did biographers learn about Shakespeare’s life? And does knowing about any writer’s biography, including Shakespeare’s, make any difference in responding to their work?

5. The Year of Lear

1606 was a critical year for Shakespeare’s creative career. It was the year in which he wrote King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. It was also a time in which the king of England, James I, faced internal political challenges that threatened to tear the nation apart. James Shapiro’s new book, The Year of Lear, examines how the events of 1606 touched Shakespeare’s life and whether they are reflected in his work.

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