Traditionally Shakespeare’s Birthday is celebrated on the 22 and 23 April. This year also marks the launch of the World Shakespeare Festival, part of the London 2012 Festival, this will be the biggest celebration of Shakespeare the world has ever seen. The events will showcase the best of what Britain has to offer in terms of literature. Earlier this year there were many literary celebrations to commemorate 200 Years Of Dickens and now, beginning in April the BBC in conjunction with the Royal Shakespeare Company unveil a season of theatre events, documentaries relating to and productions of, the bard’s plays that will span stage, screen and radio. There will be something for everyone – for complete beginners who want to learn about his life and work, through to experienced scholars who wish to see new stagings of his most famous plays.
The whole season starts with “Shakespeare Unlocked” which is a digital project produced by both the RSC and BBC Learning. This web based resource will go live on Shakespeare’s Birthday, 23rd April 2012 and marks the start of the whole event.
Shakespeare is very often seen by many as “too difficult” to understand or “boring”. This event will try its best to dispel all these myths and bring the joy of our greatest playwright to the fore once again.
Why Bother With Shakespeare?
Simply, along with Geoffrey Chaucer he was our greatest ever writer. In total he produced some thirty eight plays – comedies, tragedies and histories and also wrote one hundred and fifty four sonnets. Even now, almost four hundred years after his death his works are still performed in theatres all over the world and studied in schools and colleges. He is attributed to introducing more words and phrases into common parlance than any other writer alive or dead and without knowing it you probably use them on a daily basis! When was the last time you said “A sorry sight”, “Alls well that ends well”, “As cold as stone”, “As pure as the driven snow”? All phrases that Shakespeare used in his works to great effect and words we use in everyday conversation without thinking!
Shakespeare’s historical plays will feature strongly in the line up of adaptations – with some of our best known and loved actors taking starring roles. Richard II, Henry IV (parts one and two) and Henry V will headline on BBC2. A perfect excuse to relax on the sofa or chaise sectional and watch some compelling drama. On BBC4 a new screen version of Julius Caesar will feature. A brand new adaptation of Richard II will star up and coming actor Ben Wishaw as young King Richard, with Rory Kinnear as Bolingbroke. Patrick Stewart will star as John of Gaunt, and David Morrissey as Northumberland. David Suchet will appear as the Duke of York. Meanwhile, Julie Walters will play Mistress Quickly in parts one and two of Henry IV, with Jeremy Irons as Henry and Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal. BBC Radio 3 will broadcast new radio productions of Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest and Twelfth Night.
If you’d like to know more about the bard’s life and work as much as seeing the BBC breathe new life into his plays there will be a whole host of documentaries to accompany the season. “Shakespeare and Us” will be hosted by Simon Schama and be broadcast on BBC2. There will be two specials on how the bard is viewed in other countries with the programmes “Shakespeare In Italy” and Shakespeare, India And Me”. BBC4 will broadcast Shakespeare – The King’s Man, presented by the author James Shapiro. This programme will focus on Shakespeare’s work in the first decade of the Jacobean era. Shapiro promises to look at Macbeth and King Lear in a new light and offer fresh insights into the works. Over on Radio 4, “Shakespeare’s Restless World” will be presented by Neil MacGregor who will use objects from the Jacobean era to explore what the plays would have meant to the British public when they were first performed.
Books and Recommended Reading
Why not use our library to take you on a journey of language and discovery with Shakespeare? Take the plunge and read some of his plays or his sonnets – or if you’d like more biographical work take a look at some recommended reading to whet your appetite for the upcoming season on the BBC:
From Romeo and Juliet to Macbeth you can download all each of the Shakespeare plays and sonnets in e.book format. To do this login to the login to the Library Catalogue and click on ‘online resources’, then ‘public library online’.
We hope that you will join us on World Book Night to enjoy a performance from the pop-up Shakespeare theatre and entertainment from comedienne Angie Le Mar