William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare lived through one of the most turbulent yet thrilling eras of English history – a period of plague, riots and political and religious tensions – and went on to become one of history's most famous playwrights. He has been portrayed numerous times on stage and on screen – but how much do you know about England's bard?

On the banks of the river in Stratford-on-Avon stands the burial place of the most famous playwright in the English language, William Shakespeare

From fatal snakebites to dying from a broken heart, Kathryn Harkup guides us through a grisly range of Shakespeare’s death scenes

The first black actor to play many of William Shakespeare's leading roles, Ira Aldridge took 19th-century London by storm when in 1825 he performed Othello in the city's docklands. Here, Professor…

The story of the Shakespeares was one of social advancement, says Stanley Wells, reflected in dwellings that rose from rural farmstead to manorial splendour. Along the way were some family upsets:…

Jane Austen is one of the most recognised names in English literature. Her six major novels – Pride and Prejudice; Sense and Sensibility; Persuasion; Mansfield Park; Northanger Abbey and Emma – are considered classics today, renowned for their portrayal of English middle-class life in the early 19th century. Learn more about the author and her work

Jane Austen (1775–1817) is one of the most recognised names in English literature. Her six major novels – Pride and Prejudice; Sense and Sensibility; Persuasion;…

Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon – set in a fictional seaside resort of the same name – was inherited by the author’s sister following her death in 1817. But what is known about the…

Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance, wrote Jane Austen in her 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice. Roy and Lesley Adkins share their tips for a successful Georgian marriage –…

Jane Austen's novels, which are set predominantly in rural England in the late Georgian period, provide a fascinating picture of life at that time – but how much is fact and how much fiction? Here,…

The Anglo-Irish Victorian playwright Oscar Wilde was the toast of 1890s London, famous for his society plays and flamboyant wit, as well as his support of aestheticism. He later became known for his affairs with men and, after two hugely public and damaging trials, Wilde was in 1895 convicted of 'gross indecency' – a charge which criminalised homosexual people that no longer exists in the UK – and sentenced to two years' imprisonment

It was a bitter conclusion to a life that had so often featured glittering success. Emma Slattery Williams explores the decline of celebrated Irish writer Oscar Wilde

The Anglo-Irish Victorian playwright Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) was the toast of 1890s London, famous for his society plays and flamboyant wit, as well as his support of aestheticism. He later became…

Released in UK cinemas on 15 June, The Happy Prince dramatises the final three years of Oscar Wilde's life - spent in exile in France and Italy, suffering abuse and humiliation, and dying…

Fifty years ago, parliament passed the Sexual Offences Act, partially decriminalising homosexual acts between two consenting males. Some campaigners hailed the legislation as a landmark on the road…

Book recommendations

Love literature and looking for something to read next? We've got you covered with our book reviews and guides – from historical fiction to the best history books and classics

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens is widely regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. He wrote a string of bestselling novels and short stories including The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby, A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations and invented some of literature’s best-known characters

Great poets from history

From Geoffrey Chaucer to the poets of the First World War, discover more about great poets from history

Poetry and protest WW1 poet Siegfried Sassoon

He is remembered as one of the greatest poets of his generation. But what drove Siegfried Sassoon to decry the horrors of World War I so publicly, even when he risked facing the wrath of his own side?

From scathing verses on the horrors of life in the trenches to laments on the tragedy of a lost generation, the First World War inspired some of British poetry's most poignant and affecting work.…

Geoffrey Chaucer is often hailed as the ‘father of English literature’. Yet, argues Marion Turner, who has written an acclaimed biography of the poet, this epithet fails to capture the radical nature…

The Brontës

Against a backdrop of incredible personal tragedy, three modest, Victorian women from Yorkshire would forever change the face of English literature. Learn more about the world’s greatest literary sisters: Anne, Charlotte and Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë is perhaps best known for her bestselling novel Wuthering Heights and for being the sister of the famous Charlotte, Anne and (Patrick) Branwell Brontë. But how much do you know…

Against a backdrop of incredible personal tragedy, three modest, Victorian women from Yorkshire would forever change the face of English literature. Mel Sherwood reveals the unfortunate and unlikely…

One of the most celebrated literary families of the 19th century, the Brontës were part of a post-war generation, with Charlotte Brontë, the eldest child, born in 1816, a year after the decisive…

"She didn't twiddle her thumbs. She got on with things – and she paved the way for other female writers. Her novels have a feminist twist, and she had a strong sense that life wasn't fair for women":…

Children's literature

From the real history that inspired Harry Potter to the story of popular children's authors Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter – learn more about these literary favourites

He is one of Britain's most beloved writers, the creator of more than 20 children's books including Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG. But how much do…

To mark the 20-year anniversary of the release of the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Dr Hetta Howes investigates the real history that inspired JK Rowling’s magical world…

As a new exhibition at the V&A Museum in London celebrates the life and inspirations of the beloved children’s author, Sarah Gristwood considers how the much-forgotten elements of Beatrix’s Potter’s…

What are some of the best historical fiction books for children? The team behind BBC History Magazine, BBC History Revealed and HistoryExtra reveal some of their top…