top of page


Born: 26th April 1564

Died: Age 52

William Shakespeare was an English playwright, poet and actor. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "the Bard"). His extant works, including collaborations, consist of some 39 plays, 154 sonnets, three long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. Shakespeare remains arguably the most influential writer in the English language, and his works continue to be studied and reinterpreted.

Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children.. Sometime between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner (sharer) of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. At age 49 (around 1613), he appears to have retired to Stratford, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive; this has stimulated considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, his sexuality, his religious beliefs and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.

Shakespeare produced most of his known works between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were primarily comedies and histories and are regarded as some of the best works produced in these genres. He then wrote mainly tragedies until 1608, among them Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, all considered to be among the finest works in the English language. In the last phase of his life, he wrote tragicomedies (also known as romances) and collaborated with other playwrights.

Many of Shakespeare's plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. However, in 1623, John Heminges and Henry Condell, two fellow actors and friends of Shakespeare's, published a more definitive text known as the First Folio, a posthumous collected edition of Shakespeare's dramatic works that includes 36 of his plays. Its Preface was a prescient poem by Ben Jonson, a former rival of Shakespeare, that hailed Shakespeare with the now famous epithet: "not of an age, but for all time".

How do you rate these Shakespeare adaptations?...


Shakespeare: Rise of a Genius

Wednesday 15th November, BBC2, 9:00pm

Documentary drama telling the story of how a glover's son from rural Stratford became arguably the greatest writer that ever lived, using a series of cinematic vignettes combined with contributions from stars and experts including Judi Dench, Brian Cox, Adrian Lester and Helen Mirren. The story begins in 1587, when Shakespeare leaves his small rural home town to pursue his dream of becoming a playwright in London. He begins as a stagehand and occasional actor. But then he writes a gory revenge play, Titus Andronicus, which does well, followed by a teenage romance that becomes a breakout success - Romeo and Juliet.

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses

Saturday 4th November, BBCFour, 10:35pm

Henry VI - Part 1

The critically acclaimed adaptation of Shakespeare's historical plays returns, with three more star-studded films covering the events of Henry VI Parts One, Two and Three, and Richard III, all of which deal with events surrounding the bloody civil conflict known as the War of the Roses. In the midst of the Hundred Years War, as English forces seek to conquer France, the charismatic King Henry V dies, leaving his infant son to take the crown. Seventeen years later, the realm is under the protection of the Duke of Gloucester and the teenage Henry VI. However, bitter defeat in France cause unrest in Henry's court, as the young monarch seeks to mitigate his losses by marrying the formidable Margaret of Anjou, whose introduction as the new queen only exacerbates already escalating quarrels. Amid the turmoil, the ambitious noble Plantagenet learns of his own strong claim to the English crown, sowing the seeds of conflict between the houses of York and Lancaster. Drama, starring Tom Sturridge, Sophie Okonedo, Hugh Bonneville, Adrian Dunbar and Michael Gambon.

FILM: Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Saturday 4th November, BBCFour, 10:35pm

Director Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of Shakespeare's romantic tragedy, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. In Verona Beach, teenagers Romeo and Juliet meet by chance and fall in love. They plan to marry secretly because of the hostility between their families, the Montagues and the Capulets. But when Romeo kills Juliet's cousin in a gang fight and is banished, his plan to be reunited with his intended goes tragically wrong.

FILM: Bill (2015)

Sunday 5th November, BBC1, 2:20pm

Comedy from the Horrible Histories team about the early life of Shakespeare, played by Mathew Baynton. Having been thrown out of his band, Mortal Coil, ambitious "Bill" Shakespeare leaves his home in Stratford-upon-Avon to make a name for himself in London. But despite picking up some writing tips from Christopher Marlowe, Bill finds himself unwittingly drawn into a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I.

Judi Dench: This Cultural Life

Sunday 5th November, BBCFour, 7:00pm

The actress talks to John Wilson about the importance of Shakespeare to her career, from her first professional stage role, as Ophelia in a 1957 Old Vic production of Hamlet, to joining the RSC, where she performed in a landmark production of Macbeth in 1976, directed by Trevor Nunn. She also remembers the many parts she has played since, offering insight into her preparation for her Olivier award-winning performance of Lady Macbeth opposite Ian McKellen, and her later role of Cleopatra opposite Anthony Hopkins in 1987 at the National Theatre.

Hamlet from Bristol & Elsinore

Sunday 5th November, BBCFour, 8:30pm

Shakespeare's tragedy following the efforts of a prince trying to take revenge on his uncle and mother, who betrayed his dead father. John Haidar's production, staged by Bristol Old Vic, stars Billy Howle, Mirren Mack and Niamh Cusack.

Sir Richard Eyre Remembers: King Lear

Sunday 5th November, BBCFour, 8:30pm

Award-winning director and screenwriter Richard Eyre looks back on his 2019 production of King Lear, which garnered huge critical acclaim and drew together a cast that included Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Emily Watson, Jim Broadbent and Florence Pugh.


Gnomeo & Juliet


A Midsummer Night's Dream


Make sure you are booked in for this week's DRAMA CLASSES

Mix Up Theatre provide drama classes Online for anyone aged 12-18 (can be based anywhere!)

and in-person drama classes for ages 3-18 throughout Scotland.


bottom of page