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TudorCast #11
April 2007


Welcome to Tudor Cast, a podcast dedicated to Tudor History.

Hello, and welcome to Tudor Cast for April 2007. I’m your host, Lara Eakins owner of tudorhistory.org and the TudorTalk email list at YahooGroups.

Let’s get started with a recap of some of the Tudor news since the last podcast.

A lot of the news in the past few weeks was about the Showtime series “The Tudors”, which premiered on April 1st, although preview showings of the first two episodes had been available online and on several cable and satellite services. With the successful start to the series, Showtime officially announced that it had ordered a second season, which isn’t too surprising given that the first season doesn’t go to the point of Anne Boleyn’s execution. It was also announced that the BBC2 had picked up the series and it will air in Britain in the autumn.

One other bit of entertainment news, the release dates for “The Golden Age”, the sequel to “Elizabeth”, starring Cate Blanchett, is due to be released in October in the US and November in the UK. Links to all the release dates, so far, are on the news blog. I also have a link to the movie trailer there.

In yet more “I need to be independently wealthy so I can buy cool Tudor things” news, Rochford Hall, which belonged to the Boleyn family, is up for sale. The asking price is £1.3 million, or about $2.5 million US. For about £1,000,000, you could own Queen Elizabeth I’s teapot, which sold at auction for that amount earlier this month. The pot was one of the first pieces of Imperial Chinese porcelain seen in England.

For links to source articles and other past Tudor news, please see the archives of the news blog at tudorhistory.org/blog

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In this segment, I look at websites that explore aspects of Medieval, Tudor, Elizabethan or Renaissance history in depth.

This month is one that I specifically saved for April, site of The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. at www.folger.edu

The site contains a section on the life and works of Shakespeare, with different areas geared towards different audiences including kids and teachers. There is also a listing of exhibitions, lectures and events at the Folger for those of you who live near or will be visiting Washington DC. The site also has a nice archive of the online pages for the various exhibitions that have been on display in the library’s Great Hall. They even had the pages for the exhibition on Shakespeare’s Unruly Women that I saw in my first visit to the library in 1997. Also, be sure to look for information on the First Folio edition that the library owns.

There are lots of sections to explore on the site, but before you finish browsing, be sure to visit the gift shop (yes, I know, I always have to mention the gift shops). They have lots of fun Shakespearean and Elizabethan products.

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And now for This Month in Tudor History, where I feature some well known and maybe not as well known events that took place during this month.

On April 26th, 1564, in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, William, son of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, was baptized. His actual birth date isn’t known for sure, but it is usually assumed that he was born on the 23rd of April, and that is the date that is traditionally celebrated. It is also possible he was born on the 21st or 22nd. In 1616, this time definitely on the 23rd of April, Shakespeare died and was buried two days later in the same church where he had been baptized 52 years before.

Young William grew up in Stratford, attended the town’s grammar school and in 1582 married Anne Hathaway, who was already several months pregnant and 8 years Shakespeare’s senior. The  child, Susanna, was born the following May. In February 1585, Anne gave birth to twins, Hamnet and Judith. Hamnet died in August 1596, but both Susanna and Judith lived to adulthood, married and had children of their own.

At some point in the late 1580s William left Stratford for London. By the early 1590s, after some time as an actor, we know that Shakespeare had also begun to author plays because he was attacked by playwright Robert Greene for having the temerity to be an actor who also wrote blank verse drama.

In 1593 Shakespeare became a published poet, with the publication of Venus and Adonis, followed by The Rape of Lucrece the next year. These were both written during a time when the playhouses in London had been closed during an outbreak of the plague. When the theaters re-opened in 1594, Shakespeare continued his work as actor and playwright, but also became a shareholder in his acting company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (who were later renamed the King’s Men). In 1599, the Globe Theatre was built in Southwark, along the south bank of the Thames opposite St. Paul’s Cathedral. This was to be the playhouse for the company for the next 14 years, until the theatre burned down during a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. Sir Henry Wotton described the disaster like this:

“Certain cannons being shot off, some of the paper or other stuff wherewith one of them was stopped, did light on the thatch, where being thought at first but an idle smoke, and their eyes more attentive to the show, it kindled inwardly, and ran round like a train, consuming within less than an hour the whole house to the very ground… wherein yet nothing did perish but wood and straw, and  a few forsaken cloaks, only one man had his breeches set on fire, that would perhaps have broiled him, if he had not, by the benefit of a provident wit, put it out with bottle ale.”

Within a year, the Globe was rebuilt, this time with a tiled roof. It was closed in 1642 by the Puritans and demolished a few years later. The current replica of the Globe, completed in 1997, is just a few yards from the original location and has the first thatched roof built in London after they were outlawed following the Great Fire of 1666.

At some point between 1610 and 1613, Shakespeare retired to Stratford-upon-Avon to New Place, the house where he died in 1616. As mentioned above, William Shakespeare was buried in Holy Trinity Church, where his grave can be visited. The memorable inscription on the gave reads:

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forebeare

To digg the dust enclosed heare;

Bleste be the man that spares thes stones,

And curst be he that moves my bones

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And now for a page from the Tudor History glossary. This month we’re up to D, for debasement, as in debasement of the coinage. Debasement means mixing more of a common metal with the precious metal (usually gold or silver) that gave the coins its worth, while maintaining the face value of the coin. The reasoning behind debasing the coinage was to be able to make more coins and therefore create more money. However, the side effect was inflation and people hoarding the older coins that contained more of the precious metals.

In Tudor times, the first major effort to debase the coinage was instituted by Cardinal Wolsey in 1526. In the last few years of Henry’s reign the coinage was repeatedly debased and the practice continued into the reign of Edward VI. By 1551 the coinage was worth one fourth to one-sixth what it had been before Henry VIII began debasements to pay for wars against Scotland and France. Eventually the layer of silver had become so thin that it would wear off revealing the copper below. This happened particularly on Henry VIII’s nose on his image on the coin, giving him the nickname “Old Coppernose”.

In the reign of Edward VI under the leadership of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, reforms were begun, but they were not completed until the 1560 in the reign of Elizabeth I. The reform involved bringing in all the debased coins and re-issuing new ones with the proper amount of precious metal.

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Now it’s time for a segment where I feature a text from the Tudor period.

Continuing with the Shakespeare theme, I thought I would read just a few things of Shakespeare.

First up is my favorite sonnet:

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.


Next a couple of excerpts from a few plays. I really can’t do these proper justice with dramatic flair, but I’ll have a go anyway. First up is:


Richard II, Act II, Scene 1

John of Gaunt:
(who by the way, is a Tudor ancestor through the Beaufort line)

This royal throne of kings, this scept'red isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands;
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England…


One of the reasons I like this one is that it was on the inside cover of a picture book of England that I loved to look through as a kid.


Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


These were probably cliché enough without me doing the “To Be Or Not To Be” from Hamlet but that is another one of my favorites, as is the speech by the king before the Battle of Agincourt in Henry V.

In addition to everyday quotes and phrases that have their origin in Shakespeare’s plays there are hundreds of words that first appear in his works. Here are just a few:

accused, addiction, alligator, amazement, anchovies, assassination, bandit, bedroom, bump, courtship, critic, dawn, design, discontent, embrace, employer, engagements, exposure, eyeball, fixture, glow, gust, hint, immediacy, investments, leapfrog, luggage, manager, mimic, misgiving, mountaineer, ode, outbreak, pageantry, questioning, reinforcement, retirement, rumination, savagery, switch, watchdog, wormhole, and, a word I love, zany.

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And now for some closing comments…

I wanted to announce two changes that I’m planning to make to the format of the podcast hopefully starting next month. I thought I’d add a segment where I address a Frequently Asked Question in Tudor History. Notice that I didn’t say “answer”, since  think a lot of these questions are frequently asked because they don’t really have a definitive answer. I decided to add this section for the same reason I added the Glossary one… to make me work on it a little each month so I can add it to the website. I’ve been compiling notes on some of these questions for ages but I haven’t sat down and worked through all the notes and put them into a coherent form, so I’m hoping this will force me to do that. We'll see!

Also, I think going to move the website of the month to the end of the podcast. I haven’t had a whole lot in the wrap ups so this will give me something more to talk about.

I  have continued to receive some wonderful feedback and I want to again thank you all for your kind words. A lot of the podcasts that I listen to read some of their feedback, but I would get totally embarrassed if I tried to do it.

If you want to comment on this podcast, you can do so at tudorhistory.org/podcast or send me an email at lara@tudorhistory.org A transcript of this and previous podcasts are also available at the website as well as links to mp3s of all the episodes.

Logon to magnatune.com to listen to and purchase music from the artists that you heard featured in this podcast. I’ll have a complete rundown of which albums I used in the podcast notes.

Until next month, fare the well!