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Shakespeare's Restless World

Making a selection of objects from the British Museum and collections across the UK, Neil MacGregor uncovers the stories they tell about Shakespeare's world.

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Snacking through Shakespeare

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, returns to Radio 4 with a new object-based history. Taking artefacts from William Shakespeare's time, he explores how Elizabethan and Jacobean playgoers made sense of the unstable and rapidly changing world in which they lived. With old certainties shifting around them, in a time of political and religious unrest and economic expansion, Neil asks what the plays would have meant to the public when they were first performed. He uses carefully selected objects to explore the great issues of the day that preoccupied the public and helped shape the works, and he considers what they can reveal about the concerns and beliefs of Shakespearean England. Programme 3. SNACKING THROUGH SHAKESPEARE - A luxury fork discovered on the site of the Rose theatre helps explain what people were nibbling on when they first heard: "Is this a dagger I see before me?"Producer: Paul Kobrak.

13mins

18 Apr 2012

Rank #1

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Life without Elizabeth

Radio 4 with a new object-based history. Taking artefacts from William Shakespeare's time, he explores how Elizabethan and Jacobean playgoers made sense of the unstable and rapidly changing world in which they lived. With old certainties shifting around them, in a time of political and religious unrest and economic expansion, Neil asks what the plays would have meant to the public when they were first performed. He uses carefully selected objects to explore the great issues of the day that preoccupied the public and helped shape the works, and he considers what they can reveal about the concerns and beliefs of Shakespearean England. Programme 4. LIFE WITHOUT ELIZABETH - Painted in 1571 to justify and celebrate Elizabeth I's position in the Tudor succession, by the 1590s, with no direct Tudor heir, this image had very different implications.Producer: Paul Kobrak.

13mins

19 Apr 2012

Rank #2

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Swordplay and Swagger

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, continues his new object-based history. Taking artefacts from William Shakespeare's time, he explores how Elizabethan and Jacobean playgoers made sense of the unstable and rapidly changing world in which they lived. With old certainties shifting around them, in a time of political and religious unrest and economic expansion, Neil asks what the plays would have meant to the public when they were first performed. He uses carefully selected objects to explore the great issues of the day that preoccupied the public and helped shape the works, and he considers what they can reveal about the concerns and beliefs of Shakespearean England. Programme 5. SWORDPLAY AND SWAGGER - The essential accoutrements of any self-respecting gentleman illustrate the extent of violence in Elizabethan London - both onstage and off. Producer: Paul Kobrak.

13mins

20 Apr 2012

Rank #3

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Europe: Triumphs of the Past

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, continues his new object-based history. Taking artefacts from William Shakespeare's time, he explores how Elizabethan and Jacobean playgoers made sense of the unstable and rapidly changing world in which they lived. With old certainties shifting around them, in a time of political and religious unrest and economic expansion, Neil asks what the plays would have meant to the public when they were first performed. He uses carefully selected objects to explore the great issues of the day that preoccupied the public and helped shape the works, and he considers what they can reveal about the concerns and beliefs of Shakespearean England. Programme 6. EUROPE: TRIUMPHS OF THE PAST - As a tourist attraction in Westminster Abbey, Henry V's instruments of battle reflect the view of English history as depicted on the Elizabeth stage.Producer: Paul Kobrak.

13mins

23 Apr 2012

Rank #4

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Sex and the City

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, continues his object-based history. Taking artefacts from William Shakespeare's time, he explores how Elizabethan and Jacobean playgoers made sense of the unstable and rapidly changing world in which they lived. With old certainties shifting around them, in a time of political and religious unrest and economic expansion, Neil asks what the plays would have meant to the public when they were first performed. He uses carefully selected objects to explore the great issues of the day that preoccupied the public and helped shape the works, and he considers what they can reveal about the concerns and beliefs of Shakespearean England. Programme 12. SEX & THE CITY - A delicate glass goblet reveals the twin seductions of Venice: its sought after luxuries and its equally sought after lecherous women. Producer: Paul Kobrak.

13mins

1 May 2012

Rank #5

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Toil and Trouble

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, continues his object-based history. Taking artefacts from William Shakespeare's time, he explores how Elizabethan and Jacobean playgoers made sense of the unstable and rapidly changing world in which they lived. With old certainties shifting around them, in a time of political and religious unrest and economic expansion, Neil asks what the plays would have meant to the public when they were first performed. He uses carefully selected objects to explore the great issues of the day that preoccupied the public and helped shape the works, and he considers what they can reveal about the concerns and beliefs of Shakespearean England. Programme 10. TOIL AND TROUBLE - The differences between Scottish and English witches are revealed by a model ship, made to be hung in a church. Producer: Paul Kobrak.

13mins

27 Apr 2012

Rank #6

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New Science, Old Magic

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, continues his new object-based history. Taking artefacts from William Shakespeare's time, he explores how Elizabethan and Jacobean playgoers made sense of the unstable and rapidly changing world in which they lived. With old certainties shifting around them, in a time of political and religious unrest and economic expansion, Neil asks what the plays would have meant to the public when they were first performed. He uses carefully selected objects to explore the great issues of the day that preoccupied the public and helped shape the works, and he considers what they can reveal about the concerns and beliefs of Shakespearean England. Programme 9. NEW SCIENCE, OLD MAGIC - Dr Dee's Mirror was actually a highly polished disk of black obsidian from Mexico but it reflects the Elizabethan fascination with the new sciences of cosmology and astrology. Producer: Paul Kobrak.

14mins

26 Apr 2012

Rank #7

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Ireland: Failures in the Present

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, continues his new object-based history. Taking artefacts from William Shakespeare's time, he explores how Elizabethan and Jacobean playgoers made sense of the unstable and rapidly changing world in which they lived. With old certainties shifting around them, in a time of political and religious unrest and economic expansion, Neil asks what the plays would have meant to the public when they were first performed. He uses carefully selected objects to explore the great issues of the day that preoccupied the public and helped shape the works, and he considers what they can reveal about the concerns and beliefs of Shakespearean England. Programme 7. IRELAND: FAILURES IN THE PRESENT - A rare woodcut offers a equally rare visual impression of the troubles and tragedies of Elizabethan Ireland.Producer: Paul Kobrak.

13mins

24 Apr 2012

Rank #8

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City Life, Urban Strife

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, continues his new object-based history. Taking artefacts from William Shakespeare's time, he explores how Elizabethan and Jacobean playgoers made sense of the unstable and rapidly changing world in which they lived. With old certainties shifting around them, in a time of political and religious unrest and economic expansion, Neil asks what the plays would have meant to the public when they were first performed. He uses carefully selected objects to explore the great issues of the day that preoccupied the public and helped shape the works, and he considers what they can reveal about the concerns and beliefs of Shakespearean England. Programme 8. CITY LIFE, URBAN STRIFE - The life of London's apprentices and Shakespeare's groundlings told through a rare woollen cap. Producer: Paul Kobrak.

13mins

25 Apr 2012

Rank #9

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Disguise and Deception

Neil MacGregor, former Director of the British Museum, continues his object-based history. Taking artefacts from William Shakespeare's time, he explores how Elizabethan and Jacobean playgoers made sense of the unstable and rapidly changing world in which they lived. With old certainties shifting around them, in a time of political and religious unrest and economic expansion, Neil asks what the plays would have meant to the public when they were first performed. He uses carefully selected objects to explore the great issues of the day that preoccupied the public and helped shape the works, and he considers what they can reveal about the concerns and beliefs of Shakespearean England.Programme 14. DISGUISE & DECEPTION - Deception and religion, cross-dressing and travelling salesmen are all unpacked via a pedlar's trunk. This programme was originally broadcast in 2012.Producer: Paul Kobrak.

13mins

3 May 2012

Rank #10