Shake the Spear

I’ve been watching the excellent new series In Search of Shakespeare on the BB of C (the government’s favourite broadcaster). It’s presented by the excellent Michael Wood (steady now girls, we know he gets you excited) who brought us In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great and Conquistadors amongst others – excellent documentaries of the sort the BBC is rightly praised for creating. Apparently after years of globe trotting to often remote locations for his series he decided to make this one closer to home because his kids asked why he always had to go abroad for months to research and film the shows – hence Shakespeare.

It’s been fascinating, all interspersed with performances of some of the bard’s works in the only inn still equipped with a gallery from the period. The Elizabethan and early Stewart period are fascinating times, as anyone who has read Starkey’s Elizabeth will agree, the cusp of the modern era, the changing of religion, world power shifts and the birth of the modern theatre.

I first came across Woods way back in the 1980s when he presented In Search of the Trojan War. I enjoy all history, but Classical history has always been a passion since I was a young boy and I lapped up this excellent series (hopefully it will get repeated like his other shows on UK History). I loved reading about the towers and walls of lofty Ilium in Homer then finding that it was a real place. Mythical for centuries then Schliemann actually finds it and begins to excavate it (famously he was put on the scent by examining an old coin that he could discern the fine details on due to his myopia).

Some of the graphics on Shakespeare seemed familiar in style to me – beautifully constructed, multi-layered designs. Watching the credits I found that they were familiar – they were the work of the wonderfully talented Dave McKean, who created all of the gorgeous cover art for each issue of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series as well as illustrating several books with Neil (and a new one on the way). And so, in a lovely little co-incidence two of the creative people who have had a huge influence on me over the last 15 years become enmeshed in one series. Nice.