269 Shakespeare and the Generation of Genius (with Robin Lithgow)

Robin Lithgow spent her life immersed in the performing arts, including a childhood in the theater and decades spent as an educator and arts administrator. But it wasn’t until she read a little-known work by Erasmus that she fully realized the importance that performance had on Shakespeare and his generation–which mirrored the experiences she had had as an English and drama teacher in inner-city schools in Los Angeles. In this special episode, Robin joins Jacke to talk about her life in the theater, her epiphanies regarding Shakespeare’s education, and the centrality of the performing arts in a child’s development.

ROBIN LITHGOW was the first Theatre Adviser, and eventually the Director, of the Arts Education Branch of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the United States. Before becoming an arts administrator, she was a teacher for twenty-one years, teaching every grade level from kindergarten through senior high school and ending her classroom tenure as an English and drama teacher. And before that, she was the daughter of Arthur Lithgow, a theater impresario who developed Shakespeare festivals all over Ohio, which meant that Robin and her younger brother John Lithgow, the acclaimed actor, grew up traveling from place to place, watching rehearsals and performances, as their father mounted productions of every play in the Shakespearean canon.

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The History of Literature Podcast is a member of Lit Hub Radio and the Podglomerate Network. Learn more at www.thepodglomerate.com/historyofliterature.

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70 Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

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.

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).

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53 Romeo and Juliet

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).

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A Jacke Wilson Holiday (RM10)

Jacke offers some holiday thoughts on loneliness, his failures with women and the theater, and a teary trip to the Nutcracker.

Visit the show’s main page [www.historyofliterature.com] and author page [www.jackewilson.com] for more.

Happy Holidays!

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7 Greek Comedy – Aristophanes

Author Jacke Wilson examines the life and works of Aristophanes, whose comic plays included The Clouds, which pokes fun at philosophers such as Socrates, and Lysistrata, where the females of Athens and Sparta go on a sex strike in an attempt to end the war.

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