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Actor Kenneth Branagh has been awarded an honorary degree for helping to popularize William Shakespeare's work. The British star, 40, has brought Shakespeare's plays to mainstream audiences with a series of film adaptations, while his 1989 version of Henry V won him Best Actor and Best Director Oscars. And to add to the accolades, University Of Birmingham vice professor Maxwell Irvine yesterday honored Branagh with a Doctor of Letters to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the educational establishment's Shakespeare Institute in Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire in England. A delighted Branagh gushes, "I am delighted to be associated with an institute that has done so much to further cooperation between the theatre and academic life." Branagh joined the world-renowned British Royal Shakespeare Company in the early 1980s and performed in Henry V and Romeo And Juliet before leaving to set up the Renaissance Theatre Company. After the success of his Henry V, Branagh directed and starred in Much Ado About Nothing with Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves. He then went on to direct and play the Prince Of Denmark in Hamlet in 1996.

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