historical consulting

for creative projects

Historical consulting is an invaluable tool for writers and filmmakers. If you're working on a novel or screenplay set in a specific time period, consulting with a subject matter expert can steer you away from inaccuracies, as well as ensure faithfulness to the spirit of an era, conveying a sense of realism in matters of speech, dress, lifestyle, mores, and politics.

 

Importantly for actors, historical consulting can help contextualize characters and events. Especially if language is dated, a deep dive into the language of the period can make a world of difference. [For this type of support for actors, visit the "coaching" section of Shakespeare Rabbit.]

expertise

Shakespeare; Early-modern English

Elizabethan era (1558 - 1603)

Jacobean era (1603 - 1625)

New England; early Puritan colonies

 

Some generalized knowledge of Georgian and Victorian eras.

 


Example

As an example of what an author can expect from a historical consult, I've put an outtake from a screenplay draft and included one page of notes based on a reading of the client's entire script. 

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notes

"her cat"  Some people in this time period kept cats (taverns would keep cats in order to "mouse"), but companionship animals weren't a popular concept. Cats and dogs were generally viewed as vermin, and, being an incredibly superstitious society, when there were outbreaks of plague in London, people routinely rounded up and killed cats, thinking that they perhaps carried the plague. 

 

For Dorothy, being a cat lover / owner would make her quite a trailblazer in this area. It could be made to work as long as it's dealt with in the plot, but it’s not something that would realistically be taken for granted at the time as it would be today.

 

"Malkin" Witches were believed to have spirit animals or “familiars” and Grimalkin (also “Grey Malkin”) is the name of a well-known evil spirit that takes the form of a cat. It's my understanding that a reference to Grimalkin in the time of King James would not have been incredibly esoteric, but rather mainstream enough to raise eyebrows among commoners and upper classes alike. Since your story centers around particularly religious people, a cat named Grimalkin and its owner would have been in immediate danger of being tossed overboard the Mayflower.

 

"three pounds"  £3 is a very high sum to give a maid servant up front — equivalent to at least a year's wages for Dorothy.

 

"some nice clothes"  A typical Puritan's official stance on dressing expensively and giving gifts is that these are satanic practices. A Puritan male would expect women to dress modestly and for women to have plain, simple, and few outfits (preferably sewn by the woman herself, not bought at a shop, which would be considered indulgent).

 

"Right down Whitechapel Road"  Let's double check the map. Whitechapel Rd. could be on the opposite side of the river from Rotherhithe.

 

"you don't have to call me 'sir'"  Likely a notion that would not have occurred to a man in this society. Sir is likely formal enough for Dorothy to use to address Carver, but "Master Carver" is also appropriate, especially if she is entering his service.

 

**these are notes that the author can use or not use, depending on their vision for the project.