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