The King And The Playwright: A Jacobean History

Category: BBC Four; Factual
This new, critical three-part essay from world-renowned American scholar James Shapiro re-examines the work of the world’s greatest playwright during the troubled first decade of the reign of King James.

This is not the familiar Shakespeare of the time of Elizabeth, but the dark, complex Jacobean Shakespeare, at the height of his powers in truly turbulent times.

These 10 years mark an extraordinary “Jacobean moment”, argues Shapiro, a “lost” decade sandwiched between the high romance of Elizabeth and the cataclysm of the Civil War. Yet it produced many of the high points of English culture, from the masterworks of Jacobean theatre to the King James Bible to the work of John Donne. In government, science and finance, this was a decade that marked the beginnings of the modern British state, and saw Shakespeare’s countrymen sow the seeds of Empire.

Shapiro casts a fascinating new light on Shakespeare’s finest Jacobean works, including Measure For Measure, Macbeth, King Lear, Coriolanus and The Winter’s Tale.