BBC Shakespeare Day Live: David Tennant and Catherine Tate host extravaganza

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The BBC is dedicating the best part of this weekend to the Bard, William Shakespeare - the 400th anniversary of his death on April 23, and also, as far as experts are concerned, his birth date 52 years earlier.

World renowned for his classic comic/tragic tales of bloody political intrigues and familial divisions, romantic sonnets and stunningly worded insults (“Thou art the son and heir of a mongrel bitch”), he also introduced many popular sayings to the modern language (see quote). Television and film are indebted to his plots and characters, influencing anything and everything from Poldark to Captain Mainwaring.

Shakespeare Live from the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) sets the televisual delights in motion, with David Tennant and Catherine Tate hosting a live gala on Saturday from 8.30pm on BBC2. British acting royalty will abound, plus there’ll be Shakespeare infused music covering everything from opera to hip hop.

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On Sunday at 9pm, BBC4 take us on a journey across film genres with a special Arena programme: All the World’s a Screen (d’you see what they did there?) featuring Shakespeare inspired film adaptations from Branagh to Luhrmann.

Even Countryfile is getting it on the action, as the team map the locations and landscapes alluded to in the great man’s works (BBC1, 7pm Sunday).

Online, Shakespeare Day Live starts at 7.30pm tonight, Friday 22nd - and continues as Shakespeare Lives, a six month festival curated by the BBC and the British Council. The highlight on Saturday 23rd is David Tennant starring in the RSC production of Richard II, released exclusively online at 10.30pm.

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The second instalment of The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses hits our screens on May 7. Featuring Henry VI Parts 1 & 2, and Richard III, Benedict Cumberbatch takes the lead as the apparently not-so-wicked-after-all-yet-made-infamous-by-Shakespeare Richard. With the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Hugh Bonneville, Sophie Okonedo, Michael Gambon and Keeley Hawes also centre stage, it’s going to be a corker.

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If you missed it, you can see the first series of The Hollow Crown next week, as BBC4 repeat the earlier episodes: Richard II (Ben Whishaw) screens at 11pm Monday, Henry IV (Jeremy Irons) Part 1 on Tuesday at 11pm, with Henry IV Part 2 on Wednesday at 10.50pm, and finally, Henry V (Tom Hiddleston) on Thursday, 11pm.

Always wondered why Shakespeare is such a venerated name in our culture? The weekend cometh; t’is your chance to findeth out.

Follow me on Twitter @Scattyjan for live TV tweetage - join the conversation!

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