Shakespeare’s Restless World
Summary: British Museum Director Neil MacGregor presents Shakespeare's Restless World. The 20-part series looks at the world through the eyes of Shakespeare's audience by exploring objects from that turbulent period.
Shakespeare’s audience would have been familiar with the brutalities of torture. Traitors were hanged, cut down while still alive and their bodies hacked to pieces in front of blood-spattered crowds. The relic of an eye, encased in silver, was created after one Catholic member of such a crowd managed to grab the eye of Edward Oldcorne, a gentle Catholic priest executed in 1606. This gruesome relic serves as a spine-chilling reminder that the gruesome scenes in King Lear, Titus Andronicus and beyond would have been disconcertingly close to the real deal.
Plague was a deadly threat for England and an almighty challenge for James I. In 1603, a fresh epidemic swept through London forcing the theatres to close for almost a year. Join Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, as he surveys a plague proclamation.
A symbolic act of union proved a lot harder than it looked. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, explores the problems of creating a flag that expressed the union of a Great Britain.
Deception and religion, cross-dressing and travelling salesmen are all unpacked via a pedlar's trunk. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, reviews the lives of those who travelled England's roads.
Sunken gold from West Africa sheds light on the complex relationship Elizabethan England had with the Moors of the Mediterranean. But behind the glistening gold lies a more disturbing tale of xenophobia, leading to the eventual expelling of Moors from Elizabethan England. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, presents.
A delicate glass goblet reveals the twin seductions of Venice: its sought-after luxuries and its equally sought-after lecherous women. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, visits Venice - a melting pot of nationalities, religions, classes and cultures all existing within this magnificent city built on water.
A tabloid history of Shakespeare's England, told through a collection of contemporary accounts of plots to murder Elizabeth I and James I - A Thankfull Remembrance of God's Mercy. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, presents.
A foiled witches' plot to kill the king - and an unusual gift of thanks. Witches were associated with James VI, through the vastly popular publication about the trials, News from Scotland, and most famously in Macbeth, the Scottish play that features three ‘black and midnight hags’ at the centre of the action. Neil MacGregor presents.
The part played by magic in state and on stage
Unlocking the language of social difference and social control. Neil MacGregor explores the life of London's apprentices and Shakespeare's groundlings through a woollen cap.
The Irish were largely absent from Shakespeare's stage but never far from the public's minds. The war in Ireland was the great military crisis of the Elizabethan regime and almost resulted in failure for England. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, presents.
Reminders of England's glorious history were kept ever present in the minds of the people. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, explores the battle gear of the heroic warrior king, Henry V.
Urban violence was a problem for the inhabitants of Shakespeare's London. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, explores the murky world and drunken feuds of Thames life with the aid of a rapier and dagger found on its banks.
As Elizabeth I aged, the succession was the hottest topic of the day. Open discussion was banned, but a portrait of the Tudor dynasty from 1571 demonstrates the power of metaphor and allegory in exploring such sensitive subject matter. And on stage, Shakespeare too was exploring ideas of dynasty – but behind the veil of ancient Rome and historical England. Presented by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum.
A theatre-goer's fork excavated from the site of the Rose Theatre on London’s South Bank brings us closer to the theatre-going experience and the snacks the audience would have enjoyed. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, explains.