BBC FOUR has released a new documentary which explores the history of English from a fresh point of view. It analyses its beginning, when it was a language that, how John Florio said in First Fruites, “will do you good in England, but pass Dover it is worth nothing” to the global language we know today. Language historian Dr John Gallagher focuses on the real story of English and how writers like John Florio were key figures not just for the development of English, but most importantly for the language used in Shakespeare’s plays.

John begins by revealing that if you had stopped an Elizabethan on the streets and told them their language was going to become the most powerful one in the world, they would have laughed in your face. When Shakespeare began writing, the English language was obscure and England an isolated country. John’s quest to find out how English became a global language sees him investigate everything from what it was like to be an immigrant in Elizabethan Britain to how new technology is transforming our understanding of Shakespeare.

This documentary is avaible for 28 days on BBC iPlayer.

Giovanni Florio, known as John Florio, is recognised as the most important humanist in Renaissance's England.

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