The Birth of Elizabethan Theater: Simon Shama’s Shakespeare BBC 2


With the Olympic games ramping up in London, the Brits are also promoting their cultural achievements; including William Shakespeare. The RSC is producing the World Shakespeare Festival. As part of the festival, the Globe is staging 37 of Shakespeare’s plays performed by theatre companies from around the world, in just six weeks. And BBC 2 is running a series called “Simon Schama’s Shakespeare,” which is quite good.

Schama argues that it is impossible to understand how Shakespeare came to belong ‘to all time’ without understanding just how much he was of his time. The series does a good job of placing the author — whoever it might be — within the historical context of England’s transformation from a Medieval to Renaissance state. The most recent episode ( see link below) focuses on the birth of Elizabethan theater amidst the tempestuous years, 1580 – 1600.

In 1564, the year traditionalists  claim Shakespeare was born, London did not have a single theater. In fact no public theater had existed anywhere in Europe since the days of the Roman Empire. Yet a mere thirty years later London could boast numerous public theaters with attendance over 50,000 people a week.  The forces that brought about this surge not only in public theater but also in the human imagination are a big part of the story surrounding authorship.  The more we know about the flowering of Elizabethan theatre, the more able we are to understand the mysteries of the Bard.

You can find out more about the BBC 2 Series at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00qqm7l
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