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Lunchtime Talk - Notorious kings and Yorkshire tragedies

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Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, Parkinson Court

University of Leeds

Woodhouse Lane

Leeds, United Kingdom

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From cautionary tales to opportunistic gossip, find out how English history was used - and abused - by early modern writers.

For the people of early modern England, history wasn’t dead and gone. Historical events were sure to repeat themselves, and reading history provided lessons for the present and future. Chronicles and history plays were directly relevant to everyday life, and pamphlets arguing over the interpretation of historical events flew thick and fast during political crises. Even recent events were fair game: when a Calverley squire brutally murdered two of his children in 1605, opportunistic writers seized upon the story to write pamphlets, ballads and plays, each with their own agenda.

Lifting the lid on some of the objects in the “For All Time: Shakespeare in Yorkshire” exhibition, and drawing on his PhD research into the story of Edward II, Kit Heyam will reveal how English history was used – and abused – by writers in Shakespeare’s era. How did Shakespeare’s Wars of the Roses plays walk the difficult line between teaching compelling political lessons and dangerously offending the Tudors? How did people on opposite sides of the English Civil War and the 1680s Exclusion Crisis both manage to twist the same piece of history to support their own arguments? How could one medieval king’s name become a byword for sexual slander? And what happened if – despite your best efforts – you fell foul of the authorities by publishing the history of the wrong king at the wrong time?

This is a free talk but spaces are limited so booking is a essential.

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Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, Parkinson Court

University of Leeds

Woodhouse Lane

Leeds, United Kingdom

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