In addition to highlighting books from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Special Collections, the panel will discuss different cultural influences in Renaissance England, including insights into possible inspiration for one of Shakespeare’s characters (in the person of a Spanish author and courtesan whose book we own in our Special Collections). Panelists will highlight how religion impacted the society in which Shakespeare lived through music and prayer books; what opportunities were available to women of different social classes from Queen to milkmaid; how books were sold and published in his day; and how courtly intrigue and international espionage impacted the literary lives of writers of this era. The program will relate to the advancement of broader education at Illinois State University by informing the audience of the cultural milieu of Renaissance England while exploring issues of gender, economy, and religion in the context of historical events and literary trends of the time period.
It could be argued that no single writer has had more influence on Western literature than William Shakespeare. That his plays are still performed—annually, no less—over four hundred years after their publication (even here in central Illinois!) speaks volumes to his impact. The exploration of what influences impacted his writing is intriguing and will be intellectually illuminating.