SHAKESPEARE has been everywhere this week on radio. Well, on Radio 3 and Radio 4 at any rate. The former declared Wednesday “Shakespeare Day” to mark the 400th anniversary of the publication of the bard’s first folio in 1623. From Petroc Trelawny on Breakfast to Free Thinking at 10pm, Shakz (as the kids no doubt call him) was lauded and applauded.

But who was he? Greg Jenner’s accessible history show You’re Dead to Me on Radio 4 last Saturday morning offered a ready-made introduction to the nation’s most famous goatee wearer (it’s him or David Brent), with the help of Professor Farah Karim-Cooper and comedian Richard Herring.  The show was half an hour long on Saturday, though there’s an extended version (more than twice as long as the broadcast) on BBC Sounds. 

It played for laughs (and even got some), but along the way it also rattled through Shakespeare’s life, work and legacy with some gusto.  “We’ve constructed a much bigger Shakespeare than perhaps was around in his own time,” Professor Karim-Cooper suggested. Back at the end of the 16th century it was the plays of John Middleton that were the real hot ticket in Jacobean London, it seems.

READ MORE: Divine Might by Natalie Haynes. Neil Mackay's book review

What perhaps marked Shakespeare out was that while his contemporaries were out on the randan, he was churning out a couple of plays a year.

“He’s basically a hard-working guy who’s not doing all the boozing and not doing all the hardcore violence,” Jenner suggested.  That’s the terrible truth about creating art, isn’t it? You need to do the work rather than pose around the bar talking about it. 

In the end, though, it was the pub that killed him. Well, possibly. It is said he went for a boozy night out with fellow playwright Ben Jonson which led to a fatal hangover from hell.  “Some people say that,” Professor Karim-Cooper said with a note of less-than-total belief in her voice. “It could have been anything, but let’s go with that.”

In his will, Shakespeare left £10 to the poor, £13, six shillings and eight pence to his lawyer and his “second-best bed” to his wife. And a legacy of words that we all use every day, often without realising it, as Dame Judi Dench pointed out on This Cultural Life (Radio 4, Saturday and Monday).

“He knew absolutely everything, as far as I’m concerned, Shakespeare, about every condition,” she told John Wilson, “and, therefore, that’s why the plays have gone on for so long.”

Dame Judi went viral on social media the other week with her recitation of a Shakespearean sonnet from the Graham Norton show on TV.  I’m not sure there was anything here that was quite as meme-able, although the almost amused way she described the state of her eyesight these days in the wake of macular degeneration caught the ear.  “Pretty fuzzy. Prettttty fuzzy,” she said with a throaty chuckle. “I can’t see to read any more. That’s tricky.”

To be fair, there was more humour than despair on display. At one point Dame Judi talked about rehearsing for a performance of Macbeth with Ian McKellen, directed by Trevor Nunn. “I used to challenge him to doing handstands against a wall,” she said of Nunn. She didn’t say who won.

Away from Shakespeare, Radio 4 popped into a tattoo parlour in Glasgow for half an hour last Saturday morning. “Oh, that’s bloody nippy,” one of the patrons admitted over the whine of the drill during Military Ink. Recorded at the Primrose Path Tattoo Society which specialises in inking up ex-servicemen and women, it was a slice-of-life documentary that in the end cut deep.

One of the main voices in the programme was that of David Selwyn, who served two tours in Afghanistan with 2 Scots, the Royal Highland Fusiliers before being medically discharged. 

Selwyn gave every indication of being a self-confident man who had loved his time in service. The more he talked, however, the more a different reality emerged and ultimately he admitted that at one point his mental health had become so bad that he tried to kill himself.

But he has come through those difficulties. He’s not the man he was and he’s thankful for that. Thankful, too, for the tattoo parlour that has helped him in that transformation.

“I’m a different man to what I was 10 years ago,” he said. “And it is all to do with what is happening here today; because I come down here, I get my tattoos, I speak to my mates.”

All’s well that ends well.

LISTEN OUT FOR New Music Fix Daily, 6 Music, Monday to Thursday Tom Ravenscroft and Deb Grant are in Glasgow this week to celebrate the city’s current music scene.