Mary, Countess of Pembroke: poetry, patronage and power

This is, more or less, the text of the talk I gave earlier this month at the Wilton History Festival. Mary, Countess of Pembroke, and her sons William and Philip, were the most influential patrons of the Elizabethan and Jacobean era. Let’s begin with a story to illustrate that assertion. For the moment, we will … Continue reading Mary, Countess of Pembroke: poetry, patronage and power

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Of God and Jonson: theatre history, new things and non-events

I was fortunate to be able to attend some of the superb Before Shakespeare conference at Roehampton last week. I came away with a range of thoughts and ideas, some of which I hope to pursue in one form or another. Perhaps the thing that struck me most, however, was Bill Ingram’s opening talk. Ingram … Continue reading Of God and Jonson: theatre history, new things and non-events

The Massacre At Paris: Kit Marlowe, the Rose Playhouse and me

As some friends may know, I spent last week acting in the final six performances of The Dolphin’s Back production of Christopher Marlowe’s The Massacre at Paris at the Rose Playhouse on London’s South Bank. The offer to do so came out of the blue, so much so that - as much out of surprise … Continue reading The Massacre At Paris: Kit Marlowe, the Rose Playhouse and me

History Today column: How chances it they travel?

One of the many criticisms leveled at Michael Gove’s revision of the history curriculum was that is would reduce lessons to little more than the recitation and memorializing of facts, to what Sir Philip Sidney called ‘the bare was of history. But the simpler a statement of fact is, the more it deceives us of … Continue reading History Today column: How chances it they travel?

Street theatre and survivals of the ritual year in Shakespeare’s Stratford

The Guild Hall was the principal venue in Stratford for visiting troupes of players, who would perform beneath the room where Shakespeare and his fellow schoolboys laboured. But at many Elizabethan schools, performing plays formed part of the curriculum. It was true of prestigious schools such as Westminster, where Ben Jonson studied, Merchant Taylors in … Continue reading Street theatre and survivals of the ritual year in Shakespeare’s Stratford

Shakespeare, England and me: a blog for Shakespeare’s birthday

To mark the 2012 anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, I have written a post exploring my  interest in Shakespeare and trying to define what I am looking for when writing about him. It is necessarily more personal, in parts, than my other posts; forgive me if it seems indulgently so. One of the great 20th Shakespearean … Continue reading Shakespeare, England and me: a blog for Shakespeare’s birthday

Shakespeare, the lost years and the London stage

It is usually said that Shakespeare re-emerges from ‘the lost years’ with Robert Greene’s flighted asides in Groatsworth of Wit, published in 1592 (and possibly the work of its editor, Henry Chettle), and which I quoted in an earlier post. Although it has sometimes been argued that Greene may not be having at Shakespeare here, … Continue reading Shakespeare, the lost years and the London stage