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1 in 5 Britons have never seen or read Shakespeare

28th May 2012

One in five British citizens has never read a Shakespeare play or seen one performed live, according to a new poll that also reveals Romeo and Juliet is the most popular of the Bard's works.

The study, carried out by YouGov in conjunction with the World Shakespeare Festival, found that 23 per cent of UK men and 16 per cent of women have never seen or read a Shakespeare play, which equates to 20 per cent overall.

Romeo and Juliet is the most prevalent Shakespeare work, with 57 per cent of Brits having seen or read it, while Macbeth (49 per cent) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (46 per cent) are the second and third most-read and viewed plays, respectively.

The only play that no respondents had seen or read was The Two Noble Kinsmen, a work that has attracted much controversy over the years. Some scholars question whether Shakespeare was even involved in its creation, or whether the Jacobean playwright John Fletcher had sole authorship.

The survey also found that older people are less likely to have studied or viewed a Shakespeare play, with 24 per cent of 40 to 59-year-olds never having seen or read one of the Bard's works.

This compares with just ten per cent of people aged 18 to 24, suggesting that Shakespeare is becoming increasingly prevalent in the UK school curriculum.

Respondents indicated that the best way to engage with the works of Shakespeare was to see them as they were originally intended to be experienced - performed live on stage.

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