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It was 400 years ago this month that Eng­land’s best-known writer breathed his last. The an­niver­sary of Shake­speare’s death will see a plethora of cul­tural events take place across the coun­try, ac­com­pa­nied by a range of ex­cit­ing new pro­grammes on BBC tele­vi­sion and ra­dio. But though his works have been end­lessly an­a­lysed over the cen­turies, there is al­ways more to dis­cover about a man who had a huge im­pact on pop­u­lar his­tory as well as lit­er­a­ture.

In this is­sue, his­to­rian Jerry Brot­ton of­fers a dif­fer­ent perspective on Shake­speare’s plays, show­ing how the his­tor­i­cal events and char­ac­ters about which he wrote fre­quently mir­rored those of his own life­time. How much, for ex­am­ple, did Shake­speare’s Richard II hint at the de­cline of Queen El­iz­a­beth I? Can we also see echoes of the gun­pow­der plot in the tale of Mac­beth? Turn to page 40 for the be­gin­ning of our Shake­speare cov­er­age, which also in­cludes a panel dis­cus­sion about some of the big mys­ter­ies of the play­wright’s life.

One of Shake­speare’s pre­oc­cu­pa­tions was, of course, an­cient Rome and that’s a topic that we’re also cov­er­ing in de­tail this month. Ahead of an upcoming BBC TV se­ries, Mary Beard ex­plains how Rome was able to forge such a pow­er­ful em­pire (page 32), while on page 26 Ali­son Coo­ley takes us on a world tour with the wall-builder, Hadrian.

If that’s not enough to whet your his­tor­i­cal ap­petite this month, we also have ar­ti­cles on Cather­ine Howard (page 22), An­glo- Saxon king Ed­mund Ironside (page 59) and the dis­so­lu­tion of the monas­ter­ies (page 80).

Rob At­tar Ed­i­tor BSME Ed­i­tor of the Year 2015, Spe­cial In­ter­est Brand

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