He is the most famous of Englishmen, and yet our biographical knowledge of William Shakespeare has always been scant. Now Michael Wood - with the help of Olivier Award-winning director, Gregory Doran, leading actors of the Royal Shakespeare Company and many other real-life witnesses - unravels the mysteries and tells the full story of the great bard.
His times: He lived through the Spanish Armada, the Gunpowder Plot, the colonisation of the New World and England's Cultural Revolution.
His politics: In Elizabeth I's police state the bitter Catholic-Protestant feud dogs his life.
His youth: A privileged childhood ends with his father's ruin. Instead of university the 14-year-old is forced to go to work.
His loves: A father at 18, an infatuation with an aristocratic teenage boy and a passionate sexual affair with a married dark-skinned musician.
His 'lost years': What turned Shakespeare from an efficient jobbing playwright into the best writer anyone had ever seen?
His career: How he left the Queen's Men to make his fortune in London, established the Globe and made his name "for all time".
His plays: From inn courtyard to royal court - what his plays meant to his actors, his audience and his wallet.