The History of Literature #193 – Macbeth

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It’s been called “the great Shakespearean play of stage superstition and uncanniness.” It’s also one of Shakespeare’s four major tragedies, and for more than four hundred years it’s proved horrifying to audiences and captivating to scholars. And it’s a perfect play for October, with witches and prophesies, murder and mayhem, and a madly ambitious would-be king and his fiendish paramour. In this special Halloween episode, host Jacke Wilson takes a look at Shakespeare’s Macbeth: its origins, its inspirations, and the moments of what Dr. Johnson called Shakespeare’s “touches of judgment and genius.”

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

The History of Literature #156 – The Sonnet

“A sonnet,” said the poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “is a moment’s monument.” But who invented the sonnet? Who brought it to prominence? How has it changed over the years? And why does this form continue to be so compelling? In this episode of the History of Literature, we take a brief look at one of literature’s most enduring forms, from its invention in a Sicilian court to the wordless sonnet and other innovative uses.

Professor Bill walked us through a sonnet by Robert Hayden in Episode 97 – Dad Poetry (with Professor Bill).

One of the world’s great sonneteers, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, had her moment in Episode 95 – The Runaway Poets – The Triumphant Love Story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the lovers whose first words to one another magically form a perfect sonnet, found one another in Episode 53 – Romeo and Juliet.

Support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

The History of Literature #148 – Great Literary Hoaxes

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What can we count on? What do we know is true? In this episode, host Jacke Wilson takes a look at a motley crew of inventive liars who set out to fool the literary world – and often did, at least for a while. From the ancient pseudo-Sappho to the escapee from a debauched convent, from the treasure trove of Shakespeare’s lost works to the balloon fraud of Edgar Allen Poe, writers have been generating bogus works for centuries – and an gullible public has gobbled them up and come back for more.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC.

History of Literature #114 – Christopher Marlowe – What Happened and What If?

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In 1921, T.S. Eliot wrote, “When Shakespeare borrowed from him, which was pretty often at the beginning, Shakespeare either made something inferior or something different.” He was talking about Shakespeare’s near-contemporary Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), whose literary career was cut short by his murder at the age of 29, though not before he established himself as one of the most accomplished and innovative poets who ever lived. A scholar, a spy, a poet, a tragedian, a counterfeiter, an influencer of Shakespeare – wrestling with Marlowe’s interests and ambiguities could fill a hundred novels. Theories have long abounded: was his death ordered by the Crown? Or perhaps it was staged – paving the way for Marlowe, in hiding, to continue to write plays under the name William Shakespeare. But assuming that he did die in that tavern brawl, the questions are no less appealing: what would he have done, had he lived? How might he have continued to influence Shakespeare – and how might Shakespeare have influenced him? Host Jacke Wilson takes a look at the life and works of the extraordinary Christopher Marlowe.

Learn more about the show at historyofliterature.com. Support the show at patreon.com/literature. Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

The History of Literature #104 – King Lear

We all know that Shakespeare’s King Lear is one of the greatest tragedies ever written. But was it too tragic? Dr. Johnson thought it might be. Leo Tolstoy thought it was just a bad play – causing George Orwell to come valiantly to Shakespeare’s defense. Jacke Wilson takes a look at the play that starts with a famous nothingand ends with a horrible something, moving from fairy tale to something far darker.

Do you love literature and the arts?  Are you looking for a way to express your support for the History of Literature Podcast? Please visit patreon.com/literature and consider making a modest monthly donation, which will help to keep the show up and running. Your generous contribution is greatly appreciated!

Show Notes: 

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/historyofliterature.

You can follow Jacke Wilson at his Twitter account @WriterJacke. You can also follow Mike and the Literature Supporters Club (and receive daily book recommendations) by looking for @literatureSC.

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

History of Literature #91 – In Which John Donne Decides to Write a Poem About a Flea

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John Donne (1572-1631) may have been the most wildly inventive poet who ever lived. But that doesn’t mean he was the most successful. Dr. Johnson, writing a hundred years later, objected to Donne and the other Metaphysical Poets for the way in which they “yoked together with violence” heterogenous ideas. T.S. Eliot found something much richer in the poems, but even his analysis leaves us with the central burning question: can a poem about a flea be any good? Jacke Wilson considers the question.

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Show Notes: 

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/historyofliterature.

You can follow Jacke Wilson at his Twitter account @WriterJacke. You can also follow Mike and the Literature Supporters Club (and receive daily book recommendations) by looking for @literatureSC.

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Dance Macabre,” “Hero Theme,” and “NewsSting” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.

History of Literature #83 – Overrated! Top 10 Books You Don’t Need to Read

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Life is short, and books are many. How many great books have you read? How many more have you NOT read? How to choose? Mike Palindrome, President of the Literature Supporters Club, joins Jacke for a discussion of overrated classics and the pleasures of shortening one’s list of must-reads.

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History of Literature #70 – Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

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Just after World War II, the poet and critic W.H. Auden said that Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (ca. 1959) is “of great relevance to our time, though it is gloomier, because it is about a society that is doomed.  We are not doomed, but in such immense danger that the relevance is great. [Rome] was a society not doomed by the evil passions of selfish individuals…but by an intellectual and spiritual failure of nerve that made the society incapable of coping with its situation.”  Why is Julius Caesar so continually important to those living in a liberal democracy? What does it tell us about the relationship of an individual to society and the state? And as the citizens of a republic lose their faith in institutions, how do we reconcile the noble ambition of a Caesar with the high-minded (but bloody) principles of the assassin Brutus?

In this episode, host Jacke Wilson takes a look at Shakespeare’s play, the portrayals of Brutus (James Mason) and Mark Antony (Marlon Brando) in the 1953 film, the fraught morality of assassination, the surprising links between John Wilkes Booth and the play, and an essay from The Journal of Democracy describing the declining faith in liberal democracies in 2016.

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Show Notes: 

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/historyofliterature.

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

History of Literature #53 – Romeo and Juliet

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In 1964, the Oxford professor John Barrington Wain wrote: “…Romeo and Juliet is as perfectly achieved as anything in Shakespeare’s work. It is a flawless little jewel of a play. It has the clear, bright colours, the blend of freshness and formality, of an illuminated manuscript.”

First produced in 1594, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet became an immediate sensation, and the story of the star-crossed lovers has been a core part of Western civilization ever since. Why is the play so popular? What does it tell us about falling in love – and how does that differ from being in love? And what does any of this have to do with George Carlin?

Show Notes: 

Brand new! Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/historyofliterature.

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

The History of Literature #50: Othello

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One of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies, The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice (ca. 1603) is perhaps the most difficult of them to watch. The malevolent Iago, viewed by some as evil incarnate, has been infuriating audiences for centuries – legend has it that at one performance in the Old West, a cowboy in the audience was so offended by Iago’s machinations he pulled out his pistol and shot him. And theater professionals are well accustomed to the gasps, cries, and occasional screams from the audience as they view the horrendous scene, in which the jealous lead character is finally driven to kill his wife, the innocent Desdemona. What motivates Iago? Why is Othello so susceptible? And what themes in Othello still resonate today?

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Show Notes: 

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).