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Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will host the biggest festival in its history, featuring every play, sonnet and poem written by the great dramatist. The complete works will be staged between April 2006 and April 2007 in Stratford-upon-Avon, the town where the Bard was born and is buried, and the home of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

All 37 plays will be presented at the same event for the first time. The RSC will be joined by theatre companies from around the world. Highlights include Dame Judi Dench in a musical version of The Merry Wives of Windsor; Ian McKellen making his debut as King Lear, Patrick Stewart in The Tempest and Antony and Cleopatra; Yukio Ninagawa's Titus Andronicus in Japanese and an all-male Twelfth Night performed in Russian.

From the United States, Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents Henry IV; Washington Shakespeare brings Love's Labours Lost; and New York's Theatre for a New Audience brings The Merchant of Venice. Anglo-Kuwaiti director Sulayman Al-Bassam directs an Iraqi Richard III.

Performances take place in a new outdoor riverside theatre, The Dell, Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried and a new 1,000-seat Courtyard Theatre opening in July 2006. Young people (16-25) can buy tickets for as little as £5. Shakespeare's birthplace will host a series of debates. A new published edition of the Complete Works, the first based on the First Folio since 1709, will be launched during the festival.