After their record-breaking 2015 Magna-Carta exhibition, the British Library certainly had its sights set on even further heights going into 2016.

Anniversary celebrations can often be tedious affairs, an excuse to roll out yet another out-dated re-collection irrespective of current nuances and reflections. However the British Library has been unable to resist the temptation for 2016 with a series of exhibits commemorating the 400-year-anniversary since the death of literary deities, William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes and Tang Xianzu.

They are the triumvirate. Godfathers of world literature. All three embodied an extraordinary living genius and their influence pervades modern culture even to this day.

For obvious reasons, the lead event for the British Library next year will be "Shakespeare in Ten Acts" (15 April - 6 September 2016). His status as this nation's premier cultural icon is impervious. It is impossible to think of English literature without Shakespeare. His works of art from Hamlet to King Lear have had an almost omnipotent influence on their disciples (#2 Charles Dickens is highly indebted) - Shakespeare is undoubtedly the single most revered figure in the history of our nation and arguably western culture.

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The British Library will be hoping to galvanise this iconography to create the ultimate retrospective, covering not only the legend's own lifetime but the continuing impact in the centuries after his death.

The difficulty in even touching Shakespeare is how to come at the subject with fresh insight, to provide the public with never before seen access to the man, the myth, the legend. The only surviving play-script in Shakespeare's hand will be included in the exhibition as well as a series of personal letters and notes revealing in greater depth than ever before the character of the wordsmith himself. These include a grossly entertaining and bawdy piece of prime 17th Century gossip courtesy of a law student named John Manningham. The diary entry recounts a tussle between Shakespeare and his close friend the actor Richard Burbage over a 'groupie' after a production of Richard III at the Globe starring the great Burbage in the lead role. Ever magnanimous in victory, Shakespeare is said to have quipped to Burbage after the deed, "William the Conquerer was before Richard the III". More evidence if ever it was needed that the man had a crafty way with words.

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Another interesting facet of the exhibition will come via a focus on the career of Ira Aldridge, the first black actor to play Shakespeare's Othello in 1825, one of the plays included in the eponymous ten acts that the exhibition will course. Two playbills will be shown dated either side of the abolition of slavery, one including a list of Aldridge patrons from Leopold III to an endless number of Viscounts. It evokes a fascinating correlation between modern day celebrity culture with its overbearing emphasis on social media followers and this cause célèbre almost 200 years ago. The British library is certainly making great efforts to make what could be a stale subject matter, which has been forced down our necks since those dreary afternoons staring out the window in English class, into something incredibly contemporary and relevant.

It isn't all about Shakespeare in 2016 though, another literary giant is being revamped for the 21st Century as the library puts on "Imagining Don Quixote" (19 January - 22 May 2016), a retrospective covering Miguel de Cervantes' masterpiece, the world's most frequently illustrated book after the Bible. Published in two parts (1605, 1615) the exhibition will take four key episodes from the original text and explore their organic interpretation through the 400 years since Cervantes' death. An exciting centrepiece to the exhibition will be two editions designed by artist Salvador Dali, which are sure to be majestic and psychedelic in equal measure.

Finally, April 2016 will see the British Library play host to the "Tang Xianzu Treasures display". The man on the street will invariably offer a bemused look when offered the name Xianzu, but to any self-respecting culture vulture, Xianzu's magnum opus Peony Pavilion (first performed in 1598) is a must know, if only to impress their pals down at the gastropub quiz.

The selection of these three literary figures display's the British Libraries expansive horizons, able to take into account a range of cultures and perceptions away from the ugly uniformity of the GCSE English syllabus while tying them all together under a neat and tidy proclamation. Let's celebrate our global history but let's not forget about the present either.