In Our Time: General Shakespeare Episodes
Melvyn Bragg examines what we know about the life of William Shakespeare. Charles Dickens said of the deeply enigmatic Shakespeare, “It is a great comfort…that so little is known concerning the poet. The life of William Shakespeare is a fine mystery and I tremble every day lest something should turn up”.
The mystery may have been a pleasure to Dickens but for forgers, conspiracy theorists and Shakespeare scholars it is a tantalising conundrum that has exercised minds since the day the playwright died. How was the low born son of an illiterate craftsman, with a meagre education, able to write with such skill and erudition? How did a provincial man manage to become so attuned to the politics of kings? And how do we know that the plays that we have are the right plays, written by the right man and published in the form they were written?
With Katherine Duncan-Jones, Professor of English at Somerville College, Oxford; John Sutherland; Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English at University College, London and textual scholar Grace Ioppolo, lecturer in English at the University of Reading
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the work of William Shakespeare. He was nominated as the Man of the last Millennium and he steps into this one - on film, on stage, in academia, in schools, in private passions, probably in song and dance as well - every bit as briskly as he did in 1600. He's been called our greatest living playwright. We are told he taught us how to be modern. That he is the true Bible of our times. We are also told that his work is irrelevant to a massive percentage of the population, sandbanked by critics, neutered by establishments and, above all, embalmed in a cargo of language increasingly out of reach and ken of those who might heave him up the next century.
William Shakespeare 'was not of an age, but for all time' according to Ben Johnson. That was in the seventeenth century and it's a claim that has often been repeated since, but is it really true? Is what we see in theatre and increasingly at the cinema the work of a playwright whose works live on, or are we merely watching historical reconstructions - museum pieces - with any contemporary meaning obscured by the reverence we pay to the author?
And if Shakespeare is for all time, what is it about him that makes him so eternally special?
With Professor Sir Frank Kermode, literary critic and author of Shakespeare's Language; Michael Bogdanov, theatre, television, opera and film director and a founder member of the English Shakespeare Company; Germaine Greer, Professor of English and Comparative Studies, Warwick University
Shakespeare & Literary Criticism:
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the enduring popular and academic appeal of Shakespeare. Did he invent the human personality as we inhabit it now? Professor Harold Bloom claims:
“Shakespeare is universal. Shakespeare is the true multicultural author. One has to ask the biblical question “Where shall wisdom be found? And I suppose for me the answer is: wisdom is to be found in Shakespeare provided you get at it in the right way.”
But why does Shakespeare still hold the popular and indeed academic imagination in the twentieth century? Should we read him above all others as Harold Bloom suggests in the way he suggests? And what does this say about the state of literary criticism today?
With Harold Bloom, literary critic, Professor of Humanities, Yale University and Berg Professor of English, New York University; Jacqueline Rose, literary critic and Professor of English, University of London.