Ep 103: Corn Famine & Coriolanus with Lauren Shook

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By Cassidy Cash. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

As William Shakespeare sat down to write Coriolanus, the Corn Famine of 1608 was in full swing. While the King, James I, took actions to combat the shortage of corn in England, theater seems to have played a role in communicating the citizens unrest and unhappiness over the famine. Not only was Shakespeare writing Coriolanus, where Roman citizens face a similar fate to the Londoners viewing the story at The Globe, but Church pastors all over England were writing, and in some cases performing, dramatic sermons imploring the people to share their corn, and admonishing those who hoarded grain as being evil, or possibly risking their souls. From the pulpits to the stage, theatrical presentations took aim at the poor conditions, loudly protesting the leadership of King James, and in many cases coming dangerously close to treason. Shakespeare’s Coriolanus is famous today for being a great Roman play. The battles, and as well as the pride, bravery, yet ultimate downfall of the glorious warrior Coriolanus, captivate audiences throughout the centuries. Yet, as our guest this week is here to share, the play was likely not purely a Roman tale for William Shakespeare, as it appears he wrote it intentionally as a direct response to an event which occured in real life.

Lauren Shook is here this week to help us explore this part of Shakespeare’s history, and explain how the corn famine started, what James did specifically to try and combat it, how the Bible played a role in combating the famine, and why Shakespeare wasn’t tried for treason for writing such a direct political commentary in 1608.

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