BBC Culture’s Stories That Shaped the World Project

Last month, 108 contributors — journalists, academics, writers, literary critics, etc — from 35 countries were invited by BBC Culture to share their list of five stories that they believe have shaped our world. Not favorites, mind you, but stories that "have had the most impact on shaping ideas and changing minds throughout history." I was honored to be among those invited. Below, I am sharing my five picks and the reasons why. Also, at the end, you can check out the final published lists at BBC Culture's website. Please do share your five stories that you think have shaped the world in the comments if you are so inclined.

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Marginalia: Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare)

On Shakespeare's birth and death anniversary, some notes on one of his comedies, 'Much Ado About Nothing'. The entire play is a “skirmish of wit”, as Shakespeare himself called it, between a playboy bachelor, Benedick, and a sharp-tongued spinster, Beatrice (one of my all-time favorite Shakespearean women.) To read this as simply a love story would be to short-change its overall wit and insightfulness. It is also more than a light-hearted comedy because, through these two characters, Shakespeare makes many nuanced observations about men and women and how we (mis)understand and (mis)play with each other.

Play Review: Drawing the Line

Playwright Howard Brenton: The play has big themes: the end of the British Empire, the birth of India and Pakistan and the terrible human consequences of the creation of the border between them. But it also celebrates the humanity and brilliance of the leaders of the different communities and their visions for a better future.