While working on “The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry that Forged the Medieval World,” Shelley Puhak stumbled across a connection between her subjects and Shakespeare. Her book is a dual biography of Brunhild and Fredegund, two queens who, as long-term regents for their underage male relatives, ruled over most of sixth-century Western Europe. Fredegund was born a slave; Brunhild was a Visigoth princess. Despite their vastly different backgrounds, they ended up as sisters-in-law and political rivals who negotiated with emperors and popes, revitalized cities, revamped tax policy, and conducted a decades-long civil war—against each other. Echoes of one conflict in that war, the 593 Battle of Droizy, have been preserved in Macbeth’s final act, when Birnam Wood arrives at Dunsinane.
Posts By: Shakespeare & Beyond
Shakespeare’s comedies and romances are full of lovers. See if you can match each pair of lovers with the Shakespeare play in which they appear.
Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe may not be as famous as his contemporary William Shakespeare, but his death at age 29 was far more dramatic — an argument over a bill that led to a stabbing, with the killer successfully pleading self-defense. But there’s something fishy about it all. Were the witnesses telling the truth? Did… Continue Reading »
In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, much of the comedic conflict derives from the application of the nectar of a magic flower. Under its influence, the queen of the fairies (Titania) becomes enamored of a donkey, and, through a bit of a mix-up, a spurned woman (Helena) suddenly finds herself desired by the man who… Continue Reading »
Italy is the setting most associated with Shakespeare’s comedies, providing layers of dramatic potential that Kent Cartwright explores in an excerpt from Shakespeare and the Comedy of Enchantment. “‘Italy,’ as an imagined construct, contains heightened civility yet also volatility and danger; at its best it facilitates new possibilities for the self and for human relations,”… Continue Reading »
Shakespeare’s plays are full of brothers and sisters. Test your knowledge by seeing if you can correctly identify these characters’ siblings. Siblings in Shakespeare’s Plays Shakespeare’s plays are full of brothers and sisters. Can you correctly identify these characters’ siblings? In Twelfth Night, Viola’s twin brother is separated from her by a shipwreck, but by… Continue Reading »
Calling all book lovers! Some of our most popular #FolgerFinds posts on Instagram this year featured beautiful bindings of Shakespeare’s collected works or early editions of Shakespeare plays that may have slightly different plot elements than the versions we’ve come to see as standard. One of these quartos, an early edition of A Midsummer Night’s… Continue Reading »
What were the most popular stories this year on the Shakespeare & Beyond blog? Posts about love, coffee, and Ian McKellen made the top five.
Our top Shakespeare Unlimited podcast episodes from 2021 explore the British royal family, a Shakespeare-inspired novel, lost plays, and more. Happy listening! How We Hear Shakespeare’s Plays, with Carla Della Gatta In Shakespeare’s time, people talked about going to hear a play and going to see one in equal measure. So what exactly do we… Continue Reading »
Picking up where Shakespeare’s King Lear ends, a new novel imagines the life of Lear’s wife, who in this telling has been banished for 15 years when she receives word of her family members’ deaths. Learwife by J.R. Thorp gives voice to a character who is notably absent from Shakespeare’s tragedy, which focuses on the… Continue Reading »