Dan Snow and Sian Williams celebrate British history, investigating claims that William Shakespeare may not have been the author of the classic plays.
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400 years ago William Shakespeare lived and died here in what was one
of the grandest houses in Stratford-upon-Avon. Tonight we are
going to try to imagine what life was like for the world's greatest
playwright. From the home of William Shakespeare, welcome to
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE Hello and welcome to National
Treasures Live. So far on National Treasures Live we've visited a
medieval castle, a 19th century warship, and tonight we're
celebrating our greatest cultural treasure. The man I think might be
the most important person we've ever produced, William Shakespeare.
Tonight, we're looking at what's left of the house he lived in when
he died and where he's thought to have written some of the world's
best known plays. They are doing such amazing work here. Let's have
a proper look at where we are on this dig. This was called New Place
and Shakespeare was already becoming famous and wealthy when he
bought it. We'll be getting our hands dirty tonight and Sian is
particularly excited. I am. I've been on a few dig s. I personally
cannot wait to get down there and find something. The best thing
about this dig is that anyone and everyone is getting involved, like
ten-year-old Ellis. He's been so inspired by this dig he's convinced
his mum and dad to let him dig up their own back yard. We'll show you
results later. Also tonight I will be doing my
best to explain to Michael Douglas why his home town is so
unbelievably special. And Ruby Wax looks at the reality of life in
Victorian asylums. Also tonight with most of the UK about to enjoy
a bank holiday weekend we would like you to tell us which places
you would consider to be national treasures that perhaps other people
could visit this weekend. Lets us know your historical gems by e-mail
- [email protected], or follow us on Twitter at
@bbctreasures and we'll share them later. William Shakespeare lived
here from 1597 so some of his best play could have been written here.
That's if you believe they were written by Shakespeare. There's a
controversial film coming out later this year that William Shakespeare
might not have been all he seems. Hollywood has always revered the
Bard. This autumn a new film wants that Cho change. What if I told you
Shakespeare never wrote a single word? In October the film Anonymous
will claim the Earl of Oxford is the real author. The courtier of
Queen Elizabeth was arrestcratic, highly educated and well travelled.
Shakespeare wasn't, so critics denounce him as a fraud. William
Shakespeare was an opportunist and entrepreneur. He made a living from
the writing of others and held the pour. Nonsense say the purists.
at a loss frankly why anyone would question such matters. So who is
right? William Shakespeare, the man from stat Ford, was born in this
house in 1564.,000 son of a glove maker rose to become such a
celebrated writer is one of the greatest mysteries of British
history. Underneath the Bard's birthplace were priceless
Shakespearean artefacts but what evidence links the man to the
material? Paul I'm blown away. I don't think I've ever seen a
collection of documents this valuable altogether. We are looking
at some of the crown jewels of Shakespeare studies. This is the
parish register from his baptism in 1564. His name is in Latin. And
this is the first time his name appears in print. This is his great
poem, which was Venus and adorn is. That's when his name -- Adonis.
That's when his name breaks as a great poet. This is the first
collection of Shakespeare's work. It is one of only a few surviving
copies. It was published in 15 23. It is the first time they've been
gathered together. You get this amazing tribute, to the memory of
my beloved, the author, Mr William Shakespeare. How available is this
first edition? If it weren't for this book, we wouldn't have half of
Shakespeare's plays. No Macbeth, Anthony 57 Cleopatra or Coreolanus.
So where did the idea come from that he wasn't responsible for this
work? It was snobbery. This was a country lad doing good and we
should rejoice in that. Critics still claim he was taking credit
for work he didn't write. In June, some of the world's leading
authorities on Shakespeare joined film makers to debate his
authorship. Record after record tells us we are dealing with a
rather unpleasant, not particularly well educated, but an opportunistic
businessman and not the writer of many great works. The genius of
William Shakespeare is untraceable. Others believe his genius is God
given. The work is so utterly extraordinary it does defy
comprehension that any one man could have written so much of such
extraordinary quality, but some people are very good at these
things and some people aren't. William Shakespeare was. Get over
it. Even so, some things are still puzzling me. Both alike in dignity.
In fair Verona where we lay our scene... No diaries in
Shakespeare's own hand have come to like. Only six signatures survive.
Three of those are on his own will. He famously left his wife, Anne, he
second best bed. Amazingly there is no mention of poems and plays. Why
wasn't this great body of literature included in his will?
Holy Trinity Church Stratford. In the church is a bust of him with
quill and writing pair. So why does the only contemporary sketch depict
him holding a bag of grain it? Implies he was a tradesman, not an
author. The debate will no doubt rage on, questioning Shakespeare's
link to the poems and plays that made his name. Perhaps we'll leave
the final word to those inscribed on his grave. It says blessed be
the man that spares these stones and cursed be he that moves my
bones. This seems to be saying, let it be. In that way, perhaps even in
death someone is still watching the Bard's back.
I was maizeed to learn some of the heavyweights that are so-called
anti-Stratfordians. They include Sigmund Freud, Mark Twain, Orson
Wells. Did he write those plays? Yes. Yes. Yes. What do you all
thing? Yes. No. One no. I think they are pretty unanimous hyper.
You say that. There was a lone voice saying no. Most people of
course are going to believe Shakespeare wrote those plays. One
of the reasons for the lack of doubt is that lack of documentation
about his personal life. No notes, journals or diaries. Being here
tells us more about the man. There are foundations here to part of the
house. Where we are standing is the courtyard. With us is Paul. And
also Will Mitchell. Tell us why the courtyard is so important. Why are
we here? Because it is an area which has been very undisturbed.
Everywhere we dig here we are finding new information. What would
you like to find? The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is passionate
about finding out about Shakespeare. There was a dig in the 1660s of
somebody should played here as a child, who remembered the windows
being engraved with witty sayings, and he said he was blessed with
some of the achievements. Shall we look down here? We are finding new
things all the time. There's animal bone for example. We've got a real
mixture of animal bones. Pigs. We haven't got an idea of what people
were eating at the time. Eaten and thrown away. There is an oyster
shell here. And there are pieces here, a pot. What does this tell
us? A pot from around the time we are looking for, mid 1500s. It
tells us they were using pots from the local area. A key fob. That's a
bit later on, but still interesting. And here, really exciting, a dice.
Yes, and this really tells us what people were doing in the pastimes,
playing games. It may have been made on the site here. Paul, what
do you think what we've discovered so far totals us about the man?
has shown us about New Place that we didn't know, the size of the
house. He was a man of considerable means. He invested in land in
Stratford. I hope we find things that confirm that wealthy status we
know he had. There won't be any manuscripts here? Possibly not.
They wouldn't have lasted and they were kept by the. I think you want
a trowel Paul. For this glass. I will get scraping. Keen to get
stuck Some of the things we've seen have been found by enthusiastic
amateurs. That's the really exciting thing about this dig.
Margaret, you found the key fob. was fantastic find. That's the
great thing, people like me and Margaret, with no real training,
can sift and look through the mud and see if there are things the
archaeologists might have missed. The most infamous sifter of all in
these parts is young Ellis. You've been sifting for quite a while.
How long? Since I came, one-and-a- half years ago. You come once a
week, once a month? Twice a week. You must love it here. Yes. It is
like home. Like a home from home. The thing about you is you've done
a bit of addition elsewhere. You got the bug and went elsewhere.
Whereabouts? At home. In the back garden. What does your dad think
about this this? Very encouraging. He's kept it tidy and we've all
enjoyed it. A bit of a mess? really. He's very professional.
are an extraordinary young man. Are these your finds? What are your
favourites? This bit of medieval pottery. That's the kind of thing
they would have found here, the same period? Yes. A lovely bit of
colour. This is a gun handle. It would have been in a lady's handbag.
For protection. A pistol Yes. Very exciting. That was in your garden?
Yes. A tiny gun. What else? A bit of chimney, some other part, a
floor tile. Medieval pottery. This is my first find. Are you going to
become an archaeologist? I think so. Have you found stuff here as well?
Yes, I found a bone button with a brass cover and a pig's jaw.
are an incredible young man and you are also a concert-level guitarist.
Extraordinary. If you've dug your garden at home, let us know. Send
us picture. Stratford is famous around the
world as the home of some of the greatest literature ever written.
What I love about this country is there are so many other places
across it that have shaped the history of us and the entire world.
I've tried to explain that to Doug Doug doufplgt we went to his home
We are now lost. Don't talk to me about GPS. We'll go over there a
bit. You hit the kerb. Recognise this? I do recognise it, you have
brought me back to Preston. I thought we were going to tour the
whole of Britain. You brought me back it my hometown much I have
been here before. Ha is the point. History happens in all of our back
yards, not just in Palaces and Kaszles. You don't think it's
interesting, because you grew up here. Prston changed the world
forever. It's effects are being felt until this day. You are going
to talk about the industrial revolution, aren't you? Yes, I am.
I remember doing the industrial revolution at school and being
totally bored. I find it hard to believe he's going to make me
really interested in this. Look at him back there, with his map, you
know, doing his work homework. If he can make Preston exciting, you
know, get me interested and engadgeed in, it I'll be delighted
basically. It would give me a reason to come home. This is the
heart of industrial Preston. That is the car park I used to park in
when I worked at the airport. Little did you know you were
walking in the footsteps of heros. Down one of these streets is the
home of one of the most important British engineers, inventors,
businessman of all-time. A man who changed the world. I wonder if
someone will say that about me one day? I doubt it. A bit harsh! What
did this guy do? This guy, Michael, is one of the most important
humanes who ever lived. Inside this house a man called Richard
ArkWright produced a spin that allowed you to spin more cotton
than before. Previously, clothes were made by craftsman in cottage
industries. Mass production was invented in this house. It shows
big things can happen in modest surroundings, lesson for all of us.
Do you know how old he was when he He made that invention and made
mass production possible, that led to these mills. 3,000 of these
mills in Lancashire alone. What happened? Why is it derelict and is
not producing stuff? The rest of the world also built factories.
They do it cheaper. The factories exist, but not in Britain. If I was
born 200 years ago I would have ended up working in that place like
that. Not sure would you have knead through infancy, to be honest.
do you I get the feeling you wouldn't have worked in a place
like that. We knead here, with your driving. Industrial revolution went
from strength to strength, not just about textiles. This is a temple
dedicated to railway engines. Before these trains came along,
most people would live and die within 30 miles of where they were
born. What relation does that bear on the industrial revolution.
could sell over the world? Why did we invent these cotton mills and
machines and trains? One thing led to another. As one invention laid
into another. We discovered how to lay railway tracks let as's put a
steam engine on it and see if that works. Best way to learn about
history is experience it for yourself. I always wanted to go on
a steam engine. The idea you can live miles away begins because of
these engines. It must have been revolutionary? It is. America, Asia,
Africa, Europe covered in British Rail ways. Built, planned and
engineered by the Brits. Changed I had no idea that Preston would be
so interesting. Everywhere has a story. There is not a town or city
in this country that something extraordinary didn't happen. Where
are we going next? Who knows? Who knows where they will be going.
More of Dan and Michael's magical mystery tour next week. I don't
want to sound like Michael Douglas. A lot of people on twitter has been
asking us as well, there is not a huge amount of house left, is
there? The house has gone. If you want to imagine what it is like 400
years ago, with television trickery we can show you. This is what New
Place might have looked like at the end of the 16th century. Look at
that. A substantial house. It had about 20 rooms. It was significant.
It was called Great House by the people of Stratford. Shakespeare
would have passed this house every sengele day, as a young boy, on his
way to school. To come back here as a man of means, actor and a
playwright, to say, I will buy this house now, it must have had added
status. What happened, it's tragic it's not here any more. He passed
it to his daughter and she passed it to her daughter. That is where
the Shakespeare line ends. It changed hands a few times.
Renovation was done. A couple bought it who had other property.
They decide to demolish it because they didn't want to pay the tax.
That is why we are looking at what we are looking at. A lot of people
have been asking, is there more digging to be done? This would have
been Shakespeare's living quarters, servant waters -- quarters out the
front. There is a free in the way of the dig. There is a mulberry
tree. There is a tree preservation order on that. No more digging for
now. The good stuff will be found. Of course it is. We - as the series
has been asking we have been asking famous people to explore what have
interested them. Ruby Wax looks at the horrifying treatments through
illness. Dreaded by many, Britain's 1th century asylums provides a
unique window on how Britain housed and treated the mentally ill. They
were big business. The whole thing was a gotic horror. Was there some
method to this madness? From Victorian times, through to the
20th Century, disturbing treatments like draining blood, inducing
vomiting and shock therapy was common. Why did doctors turn to
using such extreme measures? Basically, because they were
clueless. I mean, they were faced with this massive task of dealing
with lunacy, in the 19th century they developed things like machine
that is would push them into cold water until they drowned. The idea,
if you reached reached a point of a near day experience it could alter
their consciousness. Did they not gate clue when people were dying?
Most of the treatments were useless or harmful. That was a Kew to try
something something extreme. Benjamin Rush believed lunacy was
to do with flux tuewaitions in blood flow to the brain. The box
altered the temperature around the head and the blood flow. Patients
were strapped in it for hours on end. This was one of the nice guys.
You may think the doctors were saddists but they were using
methods available in the day. They were doing the best work they could.
To me the therapies were grotesque. In Bristol this doctor is the
curator of the mew sim that shows some of the alternative therapies.
There were extreme methods of brain surgery to treat the illness.
would go up here and you would hammer it in. Was the patient
unconscious when this was happening? I think the patient
wasn't unconscious she was, actually, you know around. I don't
think they gave any injection to relieve the pain at that stage.
What is this? This is to hold the skull in place. It is held in one
position. Right. Is this the first machine that sends electric volts
through your head. It's now plugged in. It goes on both sides. First,
ECG in this country was given in 1939. Not given to a man or a woman,
it was given to a sheep. I don't know what to say. Did the sheep
feel better? Exactly. OK, what were the earliest retraipbts? --
restraints? These restraints were using chains. They were really very
horrible. I assumed the chains didn't work. Who came up with this
little number? Is this the latest in straitjackets? A kinder way.
Kinder? You put this on because the patient is aggressive. I think the
danger is he can harm himself. look like you did this a few times.
Do you think you could untie me? course. That would be great. Thank
you. The number of insane were growing faster than asylums could
be built. By 1900 there were 74,000 patients in asylums across the
country. During the First World War they reached bursting point as many
were turned into hospitals. A third of those coming back from the
trenches were called mental cases. What treatments were used for shell
shock? Some doctors would pull the tongue out and paut shock on it.
The whole tradition of attacking the body when you are faced with a
a mental health problem. Treatment were coming in and the idea that
maybe the environments that people were in were the source of peoples'
distress and mental health problems in the military. They could see
some other factor - Something else was going on. The treatments seem
inhumane. At the time they were thought to be the best methods of
helping patient. I wonder what people will think of the methods we
use today. Will they admire the sophistication or shake their heads
at the horror of how primitive it is. I will let you know 100 years.
Is there a gift shop here? Extraordinary. Another familiar
face next week. We asked to you name some of your favourite
national treasures. We wanted to hear what you would be visiting
over the Bank Holiday weekend. Martha suggests King Loch Castle.
The first house with electricity in Scotland. Beautiful island.
Lorraine, she says, "I love TintonAbbey". One of my favourite
parts. Here is one., "the lost Gardens of Helgan in Cornwall. A
secret garden and truly magical". Nice to go there. One of the
surprising things about this dig, you found a message from an
archeologist in the past, didn't you? There has been interest in
this site over the past, the Victorians took an interest. They
excavated part of the site much they found some of the foundations
of the house. He built these walls around it and put slabs on top.
These are Victorians. We lifted the slabs. This was left on top.
left a present. A clay pipe. 17th century. Not smoked by the
Victorians. It was found on site and placed back on top. Must have
left it for us. Take it back before I do damage to it. We thought we
would do a time capsule. It has been filled by suggestions from you
on twitter and the people here. In here are the complete works of
Shakespeare. Photographs of Stratford people and a local
newspaper. Can I put some of the things in. Here we go. We have the
final copy of the News of the World. That was Tina. We have a Will and
Katemug that was suggested by Linda, who is here. Thank you, Linda. Care
wfl that. Harry Potter. Shakespeare of the modern-day. We have Ellis to
dig it into the ground. Time you put something back, you have been
taking things out for years. Let us give him a huge round of applause.
Well done. He will stay there all night planting that. If you want to
plant your own, details on our Thank you to all our helpers
tonight. Next week we are in the New Forest when we'll explain how
Live from Stratford Upon Avon, Dan Snow and Sian Williams continue their series celebrating the best in British history. In this programme, they investigate claims that William Shakespeare may not have been the author of the classic plays, and join an excavation at the house where he died. Plus, Ruby Wax takes a look at some of the grisly techniques that were used on patients inside Victorian asylums.