(listen now on BBC Radio 4: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b086s64x )

As we move towards the celebration of Twelfth Night, historian Jerry Brotton looks back at the meaning and power of Shakespearian mischief.

For Shakespeare and his contempories festivals such as Twelfth Night were not just dates on a calendar, but often opportunities for boundaries to be tested and a whole society to implicitly re-examine the structures by which they lived.

Shakespeare’s plays are a clue to this pattern, and Jerry Brotton hears from actors Dame Harriet Walter and Simon Russell Beale; Simon Godwin, director of a new version of Twelfth Night; and Shakespeare scholar Emma Smith.

Featuring unwelcome commentary from Malvolio, written and performed by Tim Crouch.

Producer: Martin Williams.

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