All The World's a Stage: Celebrating Shakespeare

This year, April 23rd marked 400 years since William Shakespeare’s death.  In memory of the great playwright, the BBC hosted a unique opportunity to celebrate the world’s most famous bard, launching The BBC Shakespeare Festival.

Shakespeare’s plays are still performed every single day. As you’re reading this, a Shakespeare play is being performed somewhere in the world (plus the theatre in London well known for staging Shakespeare’s plays is called ‘The Globe’). Some of you probably don’t care about Shakespeare and that’s fine, but I’m sure many of you, like me, are OBSESSED with him. I will read his plays over and over forever and forever until I’m as old as him.

Can you tell I’m an English student? The BBC states that their ambition is to get everyone to love Shakespeare, including a new generation, hence the programmes broadcast on CBeebies. BBC Director-General Tony Hall said: ‘Shakespeare’s in our DNA. For 90 years, we’ve been broadcasting his works to successive generation, but we’ve never done anything as daring, as adventurous as we’re doing now… we’re bringing to life my vision of what the BBC’s about - using all our services to make Shakespeare irresistible to everybody.’

Gregory Doran, Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), said: ‘Shakespeare is for everyone, so we want as many people as possible to have a chance to experience his work this year. We are thrilled to collaborate with the BBC in a fantastic initiative to bring Shakespeare’s legacy to audiences all over the UK.’ You may have seen  the RSC’s ‘Shakespeare Live!’ broadcast on the 23rd of April. There was opera, ballet, hip–hop and screenings of iconic theatre performances, including the 1979 production of Macbeth starring Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian Mckellen, all to celebrate the man himself and all he has done for our cultural heritage.

The BBC Shakespeare Festival 2016 is billed as ‘the most-far reaching celebrations of Shakespeare’s work ever broadcast.’ In all honesty, I can’t remember a time when Shakespeare was EVERYWHERE, with his image even featured on the covers of  popular television magazines. I nearly had a fit of excitement when I spotted them whilst buying Pringles at the corner shop, much to my boyfriend’s horror (he pretended he didn’t know me).

The BBC currently have, available to watch online, a special Countryfile episode with John Craven and Dame Judi Dench, traveling the length and breadth of the country in search of the landscapes that inspired Shakespeare and his greatest works, and where he first took to the stage. Horrible Histories have also jumped on board the Shakespeare train, and an episode is also available online documenting why the Bard is so popular abroad. Why is he so popular abroad? Well, really, Shakespeare’s work is universal. His quotes get confused with the Bible, and some actually claim his plays are even more influential. In a recent episode of The Big Questions, our very own Jem Bloomfield joined a panel of experts to discuss this. Whilst I don’t really know the answer myself, I do know that I am always quoting/reading/watching Shakespeare and it’s certainly held my interest more than the bible ever did. If you never have read Shakespeare, watched one of his plays, or just generally don’t care (seriously?) then 2016 is definitely the perfect time to start. I know that as soon as I have finished my essays (luckily one is about Shakespeare), I will be scrolling down the BBC Shakespeare Festival page for days.

Then I'll also be normal and get drunk in the evening.


Edited by Sarah Holmes

Image sources: