historical consulting

on creative projects

Historical consulting are 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 help avoid 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

What did Shakespeare's London look like?  

 

This 3D rendering shows what London looked like in the 17th century, before the Great Fire burned nearly half the city to the ground in 1666. Designed by DMU Game Art Design Students under the name Pudding Lane Productions, their design (deservingly) won Crytek's Off the Map contest in 2013. From East Cheap, to the cattle markets, to Traitor's Gate, we see a dark, dingy, close-set London. The ramshackle houses, the open fires, the public gallows, the starving people in the street, the close thin alleyways where Jack the Ripper killed many years later.

 

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 (and were generally frowned upon). The church thought that food was wasted on pets and should instead be given to the poor. The Bible states that animals were created to work for man, and to be eaten— not for company.

 

Cats and dogs were seen as disease-carrying vermin for a long time. When there were outbreaks of plague in London, people routinely killed all the cats thinking that they (as consorts of witches and satan) maybe carried the plague. 

So Dorothy being a cat lover / owner would make her a bit of a trailblazer in this area. I think it could be made to work, but it’s something to remember that it’s hard to imagine now how concerned people really were with witches back then, and realistically it would be addressed.

 

"Malkin" -  Since this cat stays with Dorothy throughout her voyage,  might you be open to changing the name of the cat (if there’s not a particular plot-related reason for him to be called Malkin). The time period was highly religious and superstitious—many people believed in witches (including King James). Witches were believed to have spirit animals or “familiars” which often took the form of cats. Grimalkin (also “Grey Malkin”) is a well-known evil spirit that takes the form of a cat. To my knowledge, this wasn’t incredibly esoteric stuff, but pretty mainstream. Commoners and upper classes alike would have been familiar with evil spirits like Grimalkin, Flibbertigibbet and others. Since your story is centered around particularly religious people, a cat named Grimalkin would have really been in immediate danger of being tossed overboard the Mayflower. (Probably along with Dorothy.)

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

"some nice clothes" - This likely wouldn’t come from the mouth of your typical Puritan, whose 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 handmade by the woman herself.

"Right down Whitechapel Road" - Is Whitechapel Rd. on the opposite side of the river from Rotherhithe? Let's check the map.

"you don't have to call me 'sir'" - Likely a notion that would not have occurred to a man in this society.

 

 

 

these are notes that the author can take or leave, depending on their vision for the project and how historically accurate they want the dialogue to be.

what was it like?

What was life like in Shakespeare's London? How did Elizabethan and Jacobean London differ from our own time? If you're a novelist, screenwriter, or producer working on a historical project, you're going to want answers. 

 

Novels

Writing novels requires historical fact-checking. Bodice ripper when bodices were not worn in that era. 

 

Screenplays

When we get wrapped up in the drama, it's easy to let our imaginations run away with us. But if you're writing an era-based screenplay, you don't want inconsistencies taking your audience out of the moment. You don't want a Puritan priest tipping a bar girl two pounds in a bar. Two pounds would be a years' wages for a serving girl.

 

Acting

Depending on your level of knowledge and expertise in the subject, you may only want a session or two on a specific speech. Or you might want to take a deep dive into Shakespeare's works. Either way, I am happy to work with you to take your understanding of the lines to a deeper level. As an actor, you want to inhabit the character. It's hard to do that if the language is foreign. 

 

Producing

How to coach your actors. Understanding the character's give you a better understanding of who to cast, and what you should be bringing out in your cast.


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