'Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be'
If you enjoyed BBC Radio 4’s ‘A History of the World in a Hundred Objects’, originally broadcast in 2010 and now enjoying a fruitful second life as a book, you should turn an ear to ‘Shakespeare’s Restless World’. In this twenty-part series Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, uses objects from Shakespeare’s time – ranging from a ‘sucket fork’ used for eating sweetmeats to the preserved eye of a Catholic martyr – to paint a rich and intriguing picture of his age.
Today’s episode (Tuesday 8 May) begins with a plague proclamation issued by King James I. While the arrival of the Black Death in fourteenth-century Europe, and London’s Great Plague of 1665, are all too familiar, we tend to forget that plague visited London several times during Shakespeare’s lifetime. MacGregor and a team of historians (including a minute or so of me, recorded at the BBC earlier this year) investigate the meaning of plague for Jacobean Londoners, contemporary ideas about what caused it and how to treat it, and how it changed the lives of Shakespeare’s audience at the Globe.
You can download all the programmes, and find out more about each object, from the series website. And all the original episodes of ‘A History of the World in a Hundred Objects’ are also available online.