The BBC is marking the 400-year anniversary of the publication of William Shakespeare’s First Folio with a new three-part boxset from 72 Films for BBC Two and iPlayer.

To accompany the series, BBC Four will be showing a selection of performances of his plays and there will also be a collection of resources for primary and secondary schools on BBC Teach.

The new series shines fresh light on the life story of our greatest writer – the place and time he inhabited, and the work he produced. Told like a thriller, it will reveal how a young boy, born into a sleepy English town in the iron grip of an epidemic, finds his way to London and the midst of a cultural revolution, to become the world’s most famous and enduring playwright.

The three-parter follows 72 Films other BBC series, including Rise of the Nazis and Elizabeth’s Secret Agents. Shakespeare takes us on a journey into Tudor England, bringing to life a world filled with murder, treason, political and religious intrigue, fraud, theft and beheadings, that sparked Shakespeare’s creative genius.

Portraying Shakespeare, his friends and associates, we will meet some of Britain’s finest actors alongside experts and historians who will illuminate the real-life dramas, events and upheavals that inspired Shakespeare and defined the Elizabethan period.

Complementing the series, BBC Four will be showing a number of acclaimed performances of Shakespeare’s greatest plays including the Tragedy of Macbeth from the Almeida starring James McArdle and Saoirse Ronan; Hamlet from the Bristol Old Vic featuring rising star Billy Howle in the title role; Henry V from Shakespeare’s Globe; the RSC’s Henry VI Part 1 with Sir Antony Sher in the role of Falstaff; the RSC’s Much Ado About Nothing; and Emma Rice’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream from Shakespeare’s Globe. BBC Four’s innovative literary programme The Read will turn its attention to Shakespeare as exciting talent perform a collection of sonnets in a fresh and innovative way.

In addition, BBC Teach will publish a collated collection of resources for primary and secondary schools to mark the anniversary. This will include animated adaptations of some of Shakespeare’s most well-loved plays for primary schools, and explorations of Shakespeare’s most widely studied plays with actors and directors at the Royal Shakespeare Company for secondary schools.

Shakespeare (3×60) was commissioned by Suzy Klein, Head of Arts & Classical Music. It is being made by 72 Films where the executive producer is David Glover. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Mark Bell.





Pippa Considine

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