Shakespeare and beyond

Last Saturday’s Shakespeare celebrations saw the BBC getting back to what it does best with its Shakespeare Live (BBC2) broadcast. Thankfully they couldn’t cut it short for some depressing news report or bore us to death with yet more football. The wealth of talent really made the show, plus a great mix of music, performance and dance gave a good insight into Shakespeare’s influences. My two particular favourites were the Horrible Histories take on the Bard and a sketch where several of our best known actors explain to Paapa Essiedu where the emphasis should be in Hamlet’s famous soliloquy ‘To be or not to be’. Contradictions abound with the final word being left to Prince Charles!

For anyone wanting to dig deeper into Shakespeare,  I can highly recommend the FutureLearn course Shakespeare and His World which kicked off on April 18. This is a 10 week course consisting of videos, articles, play readings etc. Don’t be put off by the time – you get out what you put in – and the first week is a basic intro, so it’s easy to catch up. This week’s play is The Merry Wives of Windsor. This is one play I’ve neither read, nor seen, and having started on the opening scene I’m not surprised, but I’ll persevere. A great resource among the hundreds of books on offer is Bill Bryson’s  Shakespeare (Harper Collins): a biographical romp full of fascinating facts interspersed with Bryson’s trademark humour.

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