The BBC is celebrating the 400th anniversary the ‘First Folio’ publication with a season of content across TV, Radio, BBC iPlayer & BBC Sounds.

The season will include new documentaries, performance, music, drama, comedy, news coverage and the best of the BBC archive, as well as special items on flagship BBC shows.

A three part boxset for BBC Two and iPlayer made by 72 Films, Shakespeare: Rise of a Genius, will have an A-list cast of actors, including Dame Judi Dench, Dame Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Adrian Lester, Lolita Chakrabarti, Martin Freeman and Jessie Buckley, alongside academics and writers including James Shapiro and Jeanette Winterson, “bringing fresh insights into the story of our greatest writer.”  The series is narrated by Juliet Stevenson.

BBC Four will feature a selection of archive performances throughout October with specially filmed introductions from David Tennant, Sir Richard Eyre, Sir Simon Russell Beale, Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Janet Suzman, Gregory Doran, Russell T Davies, Dame Helen Mirren, Steven Berkoff and Hugh Quarshie; a brand new performance of Hamlet from the Bristol Old Vic with rising star Billy Howle in the title role; and Shakespeare’s Sonnets, A Modern Love Story includes performances from Rose Ayling Ellis, Eloka Ivo, Eben Figueiredo and Ioanna Kimbook.

Shakespeare content will also run on flagship BBC shows including Bargain Hunt, EastEnders and The One Show and across radio.

Suzy Klein, Head of BBC Arts and Classical TV, says: “Shakespeare lived in a dangerous age of plague, violence, vicious rivalries and political assassinations and his very survival is something of a miracle. His work was almost lost to history, and without the First Folio being published in 1623, eighteen of his greatest plays would have been lost forever. We would have none of those immortal characters such as  Cleopatra and Marc Anthony, Macbeth or Malvolio, Prospero and Ariel. Shakespeare changed the way we talk, the words we use, our films, books, catchphrases and memes, the very way we think – and yet we know very little about him. This major new season pieces together the clues from his life and work to reveal the driving forces behind the glover’s son from Stratford upon Avon who became the greatest writer that ever lived. ”

Charlotte Moore, BBC Chief Content Officer, says: “The BBC has a rich history of showcasing Shakespeare and bringing his works alive to successive generations. The 400th anniversary of the publication of the First Folio is an important opportunity to build on this legacy with an ambitious array of programming across the BBC celebrating the genius of our greatest writer. With documentaries, performance, music, drama, comedy and educational content as well as the very best of the BBC’s extraordinary archive, this season demonstrates our commitment to offering audiences programming they wouldn’t find anywhere else.


Jon Creamer

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