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      John Aubrey, an antiquary and biographer, wrote a series of short biographies between 1669 and 1696. They were published with the title Brief Lives and are a mixture of speculation, gossipy anecdotes and interesting observations. One of his biographies was based on what gossip he could find out about Shakespeare: I have heard Sir […]Continue reading

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    Shakespeare may have been inspired by the visit of the Moroccan ambassador to Elizabeth I as he created the ‘noble Moor’ in Othello. The Moroccan king’s ambassador, Abd al-Wahid bin Messaoud bin Mohammed al-Annuri, and his party arrived in Dover on this day in 1600. They travelled to the queen’s court in London and stayed […]Continue reading

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      Lord Burghley, Secretary of State under Elizabeth I, wrote a short manual for his son as he set off on his youthful travels to France. It was titled Memorial for Thomas Cecil (1561) and was full of detailed advice regarding his spiritual welfare, his clothing and his behaviour: If you offend in forgetting of […]Continue reading

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      A range of stage properties and special effects were used to add spectacle to performances in early modern playhouses. Gunpowder was often used for special effects, most memorably on the day the Globe burned down. Wadding had been used along with the gunpowder in the small canon which was fired. Although no cannon balls were […]Continue reading

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    Bear-baiting was a popular form of entertainment in London in the sixteenth century. The bear-baiting pits on the south bank of the Thames frequently attracted large crowds to watch the blood-sport. The Bear Garden was one of the amphitheatres that staged the blood-thirsty spectacle of a chained bear defending itself against the mastiff dogs trained […]Continue reading

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      Elizabeth I’s physician-in-chief, Rodrigo Lopez, was executed in 1594 for allegedly conspiring to poison the queen. Lopez was born in Portugal to parents of Jewish descent. He was raised a Catholic before he moved to London in 1599 and became the queen’s physician-in-chief in 1581. Unfortunately, he mortally offended some of Elizabeth I’s courtiers, […]Continue reading

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