Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Bard Bits: Elizabethan History 101

To understand Shakespeare means it’s important to understand the historical period. Shakespeare wrote his plays knowing well the historical and cultural temperature of the day. He understood that the English people knew their history and traced it through the monarchy. Shakespeare’s plays included in his repertoire what are known as the Historicals: the Henrys, the Richards, along with Julius Caesar, King Lear, and company. Shakespeare based his plays on the history known, but of course, being a writer, he no doubt embellished the history–he had to sell tickets, after all. Funny thing, often what he wrote became better known than actual history. Take Julius Caesar, for instance. The famous line, “Et tu, Brute?” is a Shakespeare addition. No one actually knows what Caesar said when he was being stabbed by the toga team, but he sold tickets with that line and still does today.

Shakespeare knew his kingly characters had already made history, plus they were trapped by it. He couldn’t change their deeds too much. The Elizabethans were aware of their past and Shakespeare’s history plays helped them understand where they came from and where they were headed. All the pageantry was both entertainment and a lesson.

That’s what makes Shakespeare last through the years. Teachers tend to have a lasting impression.

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7 thoughts on “Bard Bits: Elizabethan History 101

  1. I think Shakespeare continues through the ages because English teachers keep him alive. 😉

  2. Personally, I think Caesar said “OW!”

  3. Along with, “I get the point.”

  4. I heard Julius got stabbed by the statue but I am sure it was really a man that did it.

  5. Stabbed by the statue—the Bard must have missed it.

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