Defining the BBC Shakespeare Unlocked season ‘in festival terms’ | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 10, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1753-6421
  • E-ISSN: 1753-643X



Shakespeare Unlocked is a BBC season broadcast on television and radio from March to June 2012. It included BBC television’s first adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays in seven years (the second tetralogy, packaged as The Hollow Crown); documentaries showing Royal Shakespeare Company actors and directors working on plays to ‘unlock’ their meaning, on Elizabethan and Jacobean history, Italy in Shakespeare and Shakespeare in India; and a dedicated episode of the quiz show QI. On Radios 3 and 4 there were further play adaptations; a series of essays on Shakespeare and Love; a documentary rooted in twenty early modern objects; and interviews with diverse figures from public life about their most memorable Shakespeare encounters. The season was timed to complement the Cultural Olympiad, part of London’s 2012 Olympic offerings. This article considers Shakespeare Unlocked as a Shakespeare festival, in terms of the season’s design and marketing as well as in its reception by professional critics and audiences on Twitter. It also evidences the way in which Shakespeare Unlocked constitutes the first BBC Shakespeare season to be made and received on social media.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): BBC; festival; season; Shakespeare; Shakespeare Unlocked; television
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