In new two-part series Shakespeare And Us, Simon Schama argues that it is impossible to understand how Shakespeare came to belong “to all time”, without understanding just how much he was of his own time.
In the Histories and Tragedies, Shakespeare explores the questions people still ask today – What is this England? What makes this Nation? Behind the mask of royalty, who are our Kings and Queens? These questions are rooted in the distinct historical context of Shakespeare’s age – Post-Reformation England was a country in the grip of a profound identity crisis.
His explorations of the tragedies of kingship were inspired by his own experiences writing for the courts of Elizabeth and James I. The image of Gloriana fading before his eyes, and his close proximity to a King, inspired Shakespeare’s deep meditations on the burden of power; plays which satisfy our universal desire to see the human face behind the masquerade of royalty.