Shakespeare: Staging the world

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For those interested in such things, a minor spat has broken out among some of Britain's best known thespians about whether Will Shakespeare of Stratford was, in fact, the author of the plays attributed to him.

So this exhibition at the British Musuem seems timely. Visitors are invited to walk through a series of themed rooms which explore the relationship between the plays and the world that Shakespeare would have known. Specially commissioned videos of well-known actors performing Shakespearean soliloquies are interspersed among the swords, maps, paintings, bear skulls, witches' charms and other renaissance relics.

Although at £14 it's a bit expensive for those without British Museum membership, there is plenty to enjoy here.

Bring back the bawdy Bard

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Recently Shakespeare has been popping up everywhere, even more so than normal. Alongside the usual productions there is an exhibition coming to the British Museum and lots more smaller performances, many happening under the banner of the Cultural Olympiad.

Should we care? Isn't Shakespeare just the preserve of the pretentious literati who get a kick out of saying they like stuff that most people struggle to understand?

That's certainly what I used to think. I used to agree with Blackadder, who, in a great scene in Blackadder: Back & Forth, castigates Shakespeare (played by the pointless Colin Firth, in his perfect role sitting quietly on the ground getting kicked) for inflicting boredom on generations of schoolchildren. Blackadder sums up a typical Shakespearean scene: "Oh look here comes Othello, talking total crap as usual."

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