We British: The Rise of England

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The British are brilliant at writing poems. To celebrate National Poetry Day, Andrew Marr is using them to tell our story. In this episode Andrew Marr examines the long 16th century - from the rise of the Tudors to the elegance of Shakespeare. The 16th century is as elegant and brutal as a deft execution. This is a story of English power - entrenched in the South East of the country and never really relinquished. But also of Scottish elegance - the poets of the age reading and re-writing Virgil and the classics long before their Southern brethren.

Joining Andrew are a great cast of poets, historians and experts who help guide us through this golden age of poetry.

Black Country poet Liz Berry opens the programme, reclaiming Shakespeare for the Midlands with Sonnet 18 - 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?'.

We follow the path of Tudor aggression to Ireland, where professor Andy Orchard explores Seamus Heaney's reinterpretation of one of the great Irish anti-colonial poems: Brothers. And we observe the rise of power in the South East as Barry Rutter, founder of Northern Broadsides theatre company, describes his theatrical rebellion against it.

Diane Purkiss takes us to the heart of Tudor London: poets like Isabella Whitney chronicling the growth of the city, it's wealth and its dangers. We hear the torment of one the earliest-known female poets, Anne Askew, as she prepares to be burned at the stake.

A high-water mark in poetic brilliance is reached, as the sonnet arrives on these shores. Poet Don Paterson reads one of his own, and we hear Ben Jonson's extraordinary sonnet written for his dead son.

And do you know which Scottish poet outshone Shakespeare in his day? Professor Robert Crawford introduces us to George Buchanan.
Period8 Oct 2015