A belated happy birthday to William Shakespeare, born 448 years ago yesterday. It seems an opportune moment to draw attention to Radio 4’s ‘Shakespeare’s Restless World’, a 20-part series of short programmes by British Museum Director Neil MacGregor which explores the world of Shakespeare’s first audiences through surviving objects from the period. Riding on the back of certain civic and sporting celebrations happening in the UK this year, Shakespeare is currently enjoying his own season on the BBC and we can look forward to an exhibition, Shakespeare: Staging the World, at the British Museum in the summer, as well as the World Shakespeare Festival.
In last night’s episode of ‘Shakespeare’s Restless World’, MacGregor went to Westminster Abbey to look at some of the tombs and relics of English monarchs which, as today, would have been popular tourist attractions in Shakespeare’s time. Jonathan Bate highlighted the important parallels between visiting the effigy of a famous king (and perhaps listening to a guide translate the Latin inscription on his tomb, telling of his achievements) and seeing Shakespeare’s incarnation of the same hero in action on the Elizabethan stage. I’ll be interested to hear what other material texts feature in this series! The programmes can be found on Radio 4 at 1.45 pm and 7.45 pm on weekdays, but are also available to listen again online.