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Shakespeare: The King’s Man

Series Description

“Excellent” —The Guardian (U.K.)

Shakespeare’s life and work are sometimes romanticized as a product of the golden age of Elizabeth I. But the bard produced some of his finest plays after the Virgin Queen’s death. In this illuminating BBC series, American scholar James Shapiro examines the plays Shakespeare wrote during the turbulent reign of her successor, King James I.

One of the new king’s first official acts was to name Shakespeare a “king’s man.” Overnight, the dramatist attained security, prestige, and an up-close view of the Jacobean court. Shapiro convincingly argues that the dark, complex plays of Shakespeare’s last decade—King Lear, Macbeth, and The Tempest, among others—mirrored both royal life and the era’s profound social changes.

Visiting sites that Shakespeare would have known, scouring archives, and consulting leading historians, literary experts, and directors, Shapiro reveals a Shakespeare we’ve never seen.


BBC’s 1983 production of Macbeth (148 min.)


About the Host

“As accomplished a storyteller as he is a scholar” (Radio Times, U.K.), James Shapiro has been a professor of English at Columbia University since 1985. He is the author of the acclaimed books 1599 and Contested Will.