Our top Shakespeare Unlimited podcast episodes from 2020 explore Shakespeare’s sources, his sonnets, and the solace we take in his work.
Do you have a passage from Shakespeare that you return to in difficult times? Is there a sonnet or soliloquy you keep coming back to for comfort or wisdom? Our most popular episode from 2020 is all about the bits of Shakespeare that bring us solace, particularly fitting for a year like this one.
What if we told you that a number of Shakespeare’s plays draw inspiration from folktales, and that versions of those tales exist not only in England, but all over the world? Charlotte Artese discusses her book, Shakespeare and the Folktale, which anthologizes some of those folktales.
Did Shakespeare intend to publish his sonnets? For whom were they written? What can they reveal about their author? Jane Kingsley-Smith discusses her book, The Afterlife of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, a social history of the sonnets’ reception. This episode is actually part 1 of a two-part series; the second part looks at Shakespeare’s sonnets in the 18th century up until the present day.
Emma Smith writes in This Is Shakespeare that Shakespeare’s plays are characterized by gaps—unknowable elements and unanswered questions that require us to insert our own readings. These gaps, opened up by history, dramatic form, and Shakespeare’s tendencies as a writer, mean that these plays are much less tied up, spelled out, or clear cut than we like to think.
Every artist needs inspiration. Sir Jonathan Bate discusses his book How the Classics Made Shakespeare, which explores the Greek and Roman authors, narratives, and ideas that suffuse Shakespeare’s works.