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Think you know everything about Shakespeare? The Bard still has the power to surprise

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We certainly don’t skimp on Shakespeare. In the run up to the 400th anniversary of his death on April 23, the cultural world’s been awash with Shakespeare think pieces, celebrations and shows. Just a few short years ago was the 450th anniversary of his birth, which saw similar fanfare. Amid all the hype, is there anything left for us to learn about our most celebrated playwright?

There’s plenty, going by recent articles on The Conversation. Here are a few that got us excited all over again.

A posthumous mystery

Experts believe that Shakespeare’s skull might have been stolen from his tomb. Unfortunately for the thief, Shakespeare wrote a curse for anyone who disturbed his interred body. English professor Philip Schwyzer digs deeper into the mystery.

Shakespeare’s epitaph. Tom Reedy/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

An unusual rival

In early modern times, Shakespeare would have had to compete with bear baiting arenas for his audience’s attention. This wildly popular attraction was just around the corner from the Globe and Rose theatres, bringing a whole new meaning to “exit, pursued by a bear”. Archaeology lecturer Hannah O’Regan explains the intertwined histories of theatre and bear baiting.

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A fitting heroine

Drama and theatre studies professor Elizabeth Schafer makes a case for Shakespeare’s finest female role, Margaret of Anjou. Described as having a “tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide”, Margaret matches King Lear in her complexity. Think Game of Thrones’ Queen Cersei whom, incidentally, she’s thought to have inspired.

British Library

A loyal audience

No playwright is as subject to authorship debates as Shakespeare. In scholarly communities, theories about possible collaborators and ghostwriters abound. But audiences may be far more adept than academics when it comes to spotting a fake. Economics and finance professor Leighton Vaughan Williams makes a case for the wisdom of the mob.

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A good old-fashioned scandal

The authorship debate rages on, but creative and life writing lecturer Ros Barber’s brought some persuasive new dialect research to the mix. Is it possible Shakespeare wasn’t from Warwickshire at all?

Are you involved in commemorating the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death? Let us know in the comments or tweet @ConversationUK.

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