Explaining Shakespeare one podcast at a time

A podcast about Shakespeare performances in Boston.

Episode 24 - NTL's Julius Caesar

Here, finally is the episode covering the last two productions of Julius Caesar. Emma and I talk about the NTL production that we just saw and ASP's production from last Fall. Here's the NTL trailer which you should really watch:

You can also see press photos in this article by The StandardAlso mentioned, Julius Caesar in text messages.

Check out these shows, this is the last week for Midsummer.

Episode 23 - Winter's Tale in DC

Photo of the stage at the Folger

Photo of the stage at the Folger

I went to Washington DC and visited the Folger Shakespeare Library on Shakespeare's birthday and while I was there caught a production of The Winter's Tale with my friend Ed. 

In the episode we discuss if actual bears might have been used for the famous stage direction "Exit, pursued by a bear." There's a tumblr thread that covers the basics,'s a tumblr thread and I wanted to go a bit deeper. Turns out, the primary evidence for this is a 2001 article by a scholar named Teresa Grant (GRANT, TERESA. (2001). White bears in Mucedorus, the Winter's Tale, and Oberon, the Fairy Prince. Notes and Queries. 48. 10.1093/nq/48.3.311-b.). I wasn't able to get ahold of this article BUT Grant weighed in on a minor flame war in the London Review of Books which you can read online here: Basically, another scholar wrote a book about Elizabethan Romances, got reviewed and was criticized fore her bear-skepticism. She responded with the anti-bear argument and then Teresa Grant added her two cents. Unfortunately, I'm not convinced the bears were used in this play, but it sounds like bears were a meme to 1610 Londoners and they were willing to accept them popping up wherever. 

Here also is the Washington Post review I mention in the episode.

Episode 21 - Romeo & Juliet and Bennie & the Jets

This episode is about the annual pop music and Shakespeare mashup put on by the Harvard comedy group Satire V. It's frequently good and always hilarious. This year's combo was Romeo & Juliet with the music of Elton John. At one point in the show, they projected an image of a book about Harvard Business School and we had a debate about which book it was. Turns out, there are two by the same guy, both listed below. 



Act 1

  • Circle of Life

  • Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting

  • Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting (reprise)

  • Philadelphia Freedom

  • Bennie and the Jets

  • Crocodile Rock

  • Your Song

  • Don't Go Breaking My Heart

  • Can You Feel the Love Tonight

Act 2

  • I'm Still Standing

  • I'm Still Standing (reprise)

  • Rocket Man

  • I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues

  • Philadelphia Freedom (reprise)

  • Candle in the Wind

  • Rocket Man (Reprise)

  • The Bitch is Back

  • Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me

  • Circle of Life (reprise)

Upcoming Shakespeare events:

Episode 20 - ASP's Richard III

This is the Actor's Shakespeare Project's third production of the 2017-18 season. A nice, traditional Richard III, which is a favorite play of mine and the last Shakespeare play I was in, back in middle/high school. I mention a couple of books including Sharon Kay Penman's novel about Richard III and the book by archeological team that found Richard's body. 

Episode 19 - Redskirts: The Conscience of the King

Back in October, I was on the Star Trek rewatch podcast Redskirts to talk about the episode "The Conscience of the King" which features a troupe of Shakespearian actors in space. 

Shakesplaining will be back next month with new episodes so be sure to subscribe in Apple Podcasts or Google Play. While you're at it, subscribe to Redskirts too and leave us ratings and reviews. 

Episode 18 - RSC's Titus Andronicus

The latest installment in the RSC's Rome season. It's also the best so far. See more details and extras on the RSC's website: The RSC had some live and cinema audience members wear heart rate monitors, the results of that study will be published in November (New York Times). I was wearing my Fitbit while watching, so here's a graph of my heart rate from 7-10pm that day, which is roughly when we saw the show. I'm not sure what the spike right before 9pm was, but it was too early for killing of Tamora's sons and too late for Titus's hand being cut off:

My heart rate while watching  Titus Andronicus

My heart rate while watching Titus Andronicus

And here's a link to the infographic of deaths in Titus Andronicus via

This is the last episode in the season of Shakesplaining. I'll return in March, but you should subscribe now so you'll get some bonus content during the winter months.

Episode 16 - Delaware Shakespeare's Henry V

Earlier this summer I visited my parents in Delaware and caught an outdoor performance of Henry V. This show had a female lead and was performed in the round. Also, we went on the day of the competitive picnicking event in which different groups competed to have have the best Shakespeare or Henry V themed picnic. Here are some links and images of the performance

News Journal article about the gender-blind casting.

What is a picnicking contest? From the Del Shakes website.

Henry V delivers her St. Crispin's Day speech in the round

Henry V delivers her St. Crispin's Day speech in the round

Episode 15 - Shakespeare on the Common

This year's Shakespeare on the Common put on by Commonwealth Shakespeare was Romeo and Juliet. Performances are free and run through August 6th. 

Some media that is mentioned in the episode:

The choose-your-own-adventure version of Romeo and Juliet is Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North: There's an online, crowdsourced play/read-through here:

The movie Dangerous Beauty:

And a couple of the scholarly articles I skimmed about fencing in the play:

Holmer, Joan Ozark. “‘Draw, If You Be Men’: Saviolo's Significance for Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 45, no. 2, 1994, pp. 163–189. JSTOR,

Soens, Adolph L. “Tybalt's Spanish Fencing in Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 2, 1969, pp. 121–127. JSTOR,

Episode 14 - RSC's Antony & Cleopatra

The RSC brings us back to Rome for Antony & Cleopatra. Featuring the music of Laura Mvula ( Directed by Iqbal Khan.

Free Shakespeare on the Common, presented by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company starts tonight at 8pm. I'll be there tonight and again on the 29th. If you go, don't forget to bring a blanket to sit on (and a trash bag or tarp to protect from wet grass), something to eat, and cash to make a donation and/or get Ben & Jerry's ice cream. 

Episode 13 - Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Much Ado

I finally managed to go see Sh!t-faced Shakespeare and it was not bad. There are shows running all summer (year?) at the Waterfront Westin (Laugh Boston) and the Rockwell in Davis Square.

Don't forget to check out the Calendar for details on upcoming shows like Marina: Princess of Tyre and Shakespeare on the Common: Romeo & Juliet. I also mention two small acting troupes: It's a Fiasco and Praxis Stage who do free performances in City of Cambridge Parks. You should like them on Facebook and go to their shows this summer. 

Episode 12 - RSC's Julius Caesar

If I'd thought about it more, I would have saved this for episode 15...but here it is: the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Julius Caesar.

The Royal Shakespeare Company has a ton of extras on their website for this production including a video of Mark Antony's funeral oration, production photos, and information on previous productions at the RSC.

Here is the Metro article I read the day after seeing this show about the controversial Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park production. And the interview the Boston Globe did with the Actors' Shakespeare Project's executive director, Kimberly Dawson about the Public Theater production. ASP is planning an all-female Julius Caesar for this fall. 

Episode 11 - ASP's Midsummer

Sorry this episode's a bit late, and that the sound is slightly different. This was my first attempt at "field recording" and it was a bit windy outside after the play. 

Regarding the "dog in the moon" question raised at the end of the episode, some preliminary research suggests that the man in the moon is Cain and the dog belongs to him. I'll dig into that a bit more and hopefully have an update for you next time. 

There are still tickets left to see this show, go to for details. The last show is Saturday night! You can also subscribe to next year's season. 

Episode 9 - Twelfth Night, part 1

After a hiatus we're back talking about various Twelfth Night performances including the 2014 Commonwealth Shakespeare production, the Globe Theatre's all male production staring Stephen Fry (also 2014), the RSC's 2001 production, the 1996 movie staring Helena Bonham Carter, and a coda featuring the the 2016 Bedlam production at Central Square. Next week, I'll have an in depth look at National Theatre Live's Twelfth Night that showed at the Coolidge Corner Theater in April 6th.

No calender in this episode, but upcoming shows include:

  • ASP's A Midsummer Night's Dream, now playing through June 4th at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center 
  • Youthquake's As You Like It on June 16-18th
  • Commonwealth Shakespeare is doing Romeo and Juliet starting sometime in mid-July
  • Bedlam is performing Hamlet and Saint Joan at ArtsEmerson in March 2018

Hiatus Explained

Hello everyone,

You've probably been wondering if I was ever going to update this podcast again. The good news is, I am...but not until mid-May. So don't delete this feed yet, I've got a meta episode about Twelfth Night and one on ASP's Midsummer coming up.


Episode 7 - RSC's King Lear

Lear Quarto, 1608

Here's a photo of the 1608 quarto of the True Chronicle History of the life and death of King Lear. Some modern texts rely solely on this first quarto while others combine it with the First Folio text (1623). This picture is of the Harvard Houghton Library's copy.