Plays

Agamemnon (Play One from The Oresteia)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Aeschylus’ The Oresteia is a trilogy of Greek tragedies concerning the murder of King Agamemnon of Argos, together with its aftermath. The name derives from the character Orestes, the son of Agamemnon, who sets out to avenge his father's murder. The three plays – Agamemnon, Choephori (Libation-Bearers) and Eumenides (The Furies) – were originally accompanied in performance by a satyr play, Proteus, now lost. The Oresteia, which won first prize at the Dionysia festival in 458 BC, is the only surviving example of an ancient Greek theatre trilogy.

This translation by Marianne McDonald and J. Michael Walton is based on the Oxford text (to which the line numbers refer). It follows a distinction in the original text between the lines spoken by the characters (which are mostly composed in iambics), and those spoken by the Chorus (which adopt a much freer lyric verse); here, the lyric passages belonging to the Chorus are identified by the use of initial capital letters for each new line. In addition, various expressions such as io, pheu, oimoi and others have been left transliterated from the original Greek, being (in the words of the translators) 'indications of grief rather than actual words'.

The first play of the trilogy, Agamemnon, details the homecoming of Agamemnon, King of Argos, from the Trojan War. Waiting at home for him is his wife, Clytemnestra, who has been planning his murder, partly as revenge for the sacrifice of their daughter, Iphigenia, and partly because in the ten years of Agamemnon's absence Clytemnestra has entered into an adulterous relationship with Aegisthus, Agamemnon's cousin and the sole survivor of a dispossessed branch of the family (Agamemnon's father, Atreus, killed and fed Aegisthus's brothers to Aegisthus's father, Thyestes, when he took power from him), who is determined to regain the throne he believes should rightfully belong to him.

The second play, Choephori, deals with the reunion of Agamemnon's children, Electra and Orestes, and their revenge. Orestes kills his mother Clytemnestra to avenge the death of his father.

In the final part, Eumenides, Orestes, Apollo, and the Erinyes go before Athena and eleven other judges chosen by her from the Athenian citizenry to decide whether Orestes' killing of Clytemnestra makes him guilty of the crime of murder.

The Al-Hamlet Summit  

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Al-Hamlet Summit sees the familiar characters of Hamlet reborn as delegates placed in a conference room in an unnamed modern Arab state on the brink of war. 

All For Love

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

All for Love, or The World Well Lost is John Dryden's epic adaptation of the tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra into a neo-classical quintet with supporting voices. The play, which the 1678 quarto titlepage claims is ‘Written in Imitation of Shakespeare’s Stile’, draws heavily on Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra; it does away, however, with the salaciousness of Shakespeare’s text, and reduces his temporal and geographical range to that of one time and place as per Aristotelian dramatic unities. The play was arguably intended to be seen in direct relation to the contemporary Antony and Cleopatra: A Tragedy (1677), written by politician and playwright Charles Sedley. Dryden’s application of neo-classical conventions and contemporary dramatic practice gives the classic love story a structural beauty and an austere power.

After Cleopatra’s desertion of Antony at the battle of Actium, not only his wife Octavia but also his general Ventidius and his friend Dolabella strive to win him over to their side. Antony, torn between the claims of duty, friendship, dignity and love, despairs when he hears the rumour of Cleopatra's death, which is not, as in Shakespeare’s version, spread by the queen herself but by her deceitful eunuch.

The first recorded performance was at the Theatre Royal, London by the King’s Company in 1677. The play’s political implications have perhaps been lost over time: absolute monarchy and the illicit love of a ruler were highly topical concerns in a post-Restoration Britain, when King Charles II’s extra-marital amours, most famously with the celebrated actress Nell Gwyn, were the subject of much anxiety.

audio Antigone (Anouilh)

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

"The body of Polynices, Antigone's brother, has been ordered to remain unburied by Creon, the new king of Thebes. Antigone's faithfulness to her dead brother and his proper burial, and her defiance of the dictator Creon, seals her fate. Originally produced in Paris during the Nazi occupation, Anouilh's Antigone was seen by the French as theatre of the resistance and by the Germans as an affirmation of authority.

Includes an interview with translator Christopher Nixon and director Brendon Fox. Also includes an interview with Ned Chaillet, a playwright, radio producer and director for the BBC. Chaillet is the former Deputy Drama Critic for the Times of London and the London theatre critic for the Wall Street Journal-Europe. He spoke with us about Antigone in the context of World War Two, the differences bewtween the original myth of Sophocles and the Anouilh version, and Anouilh’s influence on later playwrights. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Jordan Bridges as Haemon and Guard Dominic Fumusa as Guard Francis Guinan as Creon John Hansen as Guard and Messenger Alan Mandell as Chorus Elizabeth Marvel as Antigone Alley Mills as Nanny Mandy Siegfried as Ismene Directed by Brendon Fox. Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles."

Featuring: Jordan Bridges, Dominic Fumusa, Francis Guinan, Alan Mandell, Elizabeth Marvel, Alley Mills, Mandy Siegfried, John Hansen

Antigone (trans. McCafferty)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Owen McCafferty's version of Sophocles’ Antigone is a muscular take on the ancient Greek tragedy that offers a reflection on the nature of power, democracy and human rights. It was first performed by Prime Cut Productions at the Waterfront Studio Hall, Belfast, in October 2008 as part of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival.

The play takes place in a huge hall within the palace of Creon, the new ruler of Thebes. The palace is in ruins after battle and, although the war has ended, with peace comes conflict. Antigone’s brother Polyneices lies on the battlefield where he fell, his burial outlawed by Creon. Antigone is determined to overrule him and attempts to persuade her sister, Ismene, to join her in rebellion against the king, but to no avail. When Creon discovers that Antigone has disobeyed him and buried her brother, she is captured, a decision that triggers a catastrophic chain reaction resulting in the double suicide of his son Haemon and wife Eurydice.

Sophocles’ tragedy has a powerful resonance in post-conflict Northern Ireland and this version is set entirely within the walls of a palace destroyed by war. Written in his distinctive style, McCafferty highlights the human frailties of these mythic characters by drawing attention to the family saga element of the story.

The Prime Cut Productions premiere was directed by Owen McCafferty and designed by Lorna Ritchie. It was performed by Walter McMonagle, Katy Ducker (as Antigone), Rosie McClelland, Ian McElhinney, Conor MacNeill, Paul Mallon, Harry Towb, Eoin McCafferty, Tom Loane, Chris Corrigan, Julia Dearden, Cat Barter, Barry Etherson and Matt Faris.

Antigone (trans. Taylor)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In his Guide to Greek Theatre and Drama, Kenneth McLeish writes: “Antigone is a textbook example of how to develop one short episode from a myth-story to make a full-scale tragedy articulating universal themes and meanings… The fact that her story has had such an effect on world consciousness – she is one of the best loved characters in all Greek myth – is entirely due to the issues which Sophocles draws from the myth, and to his portrayal of Antigone herself, pulled between heroic certainty and all too human frailty.”

The story of one sister’s loyalty to both her brothers, regardless of their acts or opposing political beliefs, Antigone is one of the most consistently popular plays in the history of drama. This translation, by Don Taylor, was commissioned by the BBC, and was first broadcast in autumn, 1986.

Antony and Cleopatra (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Antony and Cleopatra rival Romeo and Juliet for the title of most famous lovers in Western drama. Shakespeare’s play, probably written around 1606-7 (though not appearing in print until the First Folio of 1623), reflects the popularity of the story in the early modern imagination. Shakespeare’s play is heavily indebted to Plutarch’s Parallel Lives of the Greeks and Romans, written in the first century AD, and translated into English by Sir Thomas North in 1579.

Marc Antony is one of three triumvirs ruling Rome following the assassination of Julius Caesar. Neglecting his political duties, he lingers in Egypt with Cleopatra, a queen who sees herself as a demigod, an embodied Isis. When unrest threatens Rome, Antony must leave Cleopatra in order to solidify his power against threats from Pompey and fellow triumvir Octavius Caesar. Despite marrying Octavia, the passive sister of Caesar, for the sake of peace, he soon longs for his ‘wrangling queen’ and returns to Egypt. The ensuing war between the lovers and Octavius Caesar engulfs the Roman world. The eponymous lovers are unable to reconcile their martial defeat and its consequent shame with their hyperbolic self-images, and commit two of the most memorable suicides in the Shakespearean canon.

From its earliest audiences, Antony and Cleopatra has received criticism. Post-Restoration critics knocked the play for the way it disregarded the classical unities of drama, which stated that a play should cover one idea, in one place, at one time. With its action historically spanning a decade, and its scenes ranging from Europe to Africa and back again, the play affronted those who desired a neater retelling of the famous love story. John Dryden took it upon himself to rewrite the tragedy in his play All for Love, first performed in 1677: covering only the last day of the lives of Antony and Cleopatra, the play reaches for a grander love affair, removed from the lust, jealousy and self-inflation of Shakespeare’s play. Scholarly criticism has dwelt upon the play’s use of opposites, the imagery of instability, and the performance of gender on the early modern stage (to which Cleopatra metatheatrically refers, when she fears boy actors will portray her ‘squeaking [. . .] i’th’posture of a whore’ [5.2.219-20].

The staging of the play has long been of special interest to critics and theatre-makers alike: the play calls for a sea-battle, and a colossal monument to Cleopatra up to which the dying Antony must be hoisted. Notable Antonys have included John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier and Patrick Stewart; notable Cleopatras Peggy Ashcroft, Vanessa Redgrave and Mark Rylance, in the 1999 all-male production at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London.

video Antony and Cleopatra (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

Virtue and vice, transcendent love and realpolitik combine in Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare’s greatest exploration of the conflicting claims of sex and power, all expressed in a tragic poetry of breathtaking beauty and magnificence.

Featuring: Ignatius Anthony, Peter Bankole, Eve Best, Jonathan Bonnici, Philip Correia, Jolyon Coy, Phil Daniels, Kammy Darweish, Paul Hamilton, James Hayes, Rosie Hilal, Sean Jackson, Daniel Rabin, Sirine Saba, Obioma Ugoala, Clive Wood.

video Antony and Cleopatra (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Following Caesar’s assassination, Mark Antony has reached the heights of power. Now he has neglected his empire for a life of decadent seduction with his mistress, Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Torn between love and duty, Antony’s military brilliance deserts him, and his passion leads the lovers to their tragic end.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

Bacchae

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Bacchae is one of the nineteen surviving plays by Euripides, a tragedy written during his final years in exile in Macedonia. It was first performed in 405 BC, a few months after his death.

The play's action is based on the Greek myth of King Pentheus of Thebes and his mother Agave, and their punishment by the god Dionysus. At the beginning of the play, Dionysus appears before the royal palace of Thebes and proclaims that he has come to avenge his rejection by the people of the city. He intends to make all Thebes accept him, beginning with the women, whom he has filled with ecstasy and driven into the mountains. He disappears to join them there, on Mount Kithairon, where (as the Chorus recounts) his ecstatic worshippers, the Bacchae ('bacchants') or Maenads ('ecstatic ones'), dance in his honour. When Pentheus tries to have Dionysos arrested, the prophet Teiresias counsels him to accept the god, but Pentheus sends his guards nonetheless. Dionysos willingly accepts his arrest, only to instigate his horrific revenge, ending with the murder of Pentheus at the hands of the Bacchae.

This version of Bacchae is a translation by Frederic Raphael and Kenneth McLeish. In their introduction to the play, they write: 'the play’s continuing relevance, 2500 years after it was written, not to mention its extraordinary ability simultaneously to exhilarate and discomfort anyone who takes it even remotely seriously, reflects not merely Euripides’ mastery but also the bitter continuity in human life of political and religious tyrannies and absurdities of every kind'.

The Bacchae

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

One of the greatest of all Greek tragedies – savage, comic and intensely lyrical – The Bacchae powerfully dramatises the conflict between the emotional and rational sides of the human psyche. The magnetic young Dionysus – icon, hedonist, god – returns home with his cult of female followers to exact his revenge, unleashing the full force of female sexuality on the city.

David Greig's version of The Bacchae premiered at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, in August 2007 in a co-production between the Edinburgh International Festival and the National Theatre of Scotland.

audio Black Water: An American Opera

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Based on National Book Award-winner Joyce Carol Oates’ novella about the Chappaquiddick scandal, this tragic and beautiful new opera enthralls as a handsome Senator uses power to enchant, seduce and carelessly destroy.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring David Lee Brewer, Reid Bruton, Stephanie Buckley, Karen Burlingame, Kimberly Graham, Linda Kerns, Erin Langston, Patrick Mason, John Savarese and Rob Shacklett.

Composed by John Duffy, libretto by Joyce Carol Oates.

Featuring: David Lee Brewer, Reid Bruton, Stephanie Buckley, Karen Burlingame, Kimberly Graham, Linda Kerns, Erin Langston, Patrick Mason, John Savarese, Rob Shacklett

Bluebird

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Bluebird is a sensitive and melancholy play, composed of brief conversations and lifelong sorrow.

Taxi driver Jimmy hears about other people’s lives, just for a few moments. In the time it takes to drive them where they want to go, Jimmy hears about walking the streets, lost daughters and changing the lightbulbs by the tube tracks. He is asked whether he believes in ghosts, in love, in the human spirit. And as he drives through the night, the play gets closer to the core of his silences, to the tragedy of his own life, and to where he goes when there’s no one in the back seat of his cab.

Bluebird was first performed in 1998 at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London.

Born

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Born is a tragic epic for the twenty-first century. In it Edward Bond examines violence and terror in a dehumanised world in the terse and broken language of extreme deprivation.

Peter and Donna and a baby have moved in to a new house. The removal men have broken a mug. Twenty years later, the street is being evacuated, people piled into trucks – Peter and Donna are ejected from the room, one suitcase each. They are afraid for their son Luke, but he puts on a uniform and joins the fighting, asking questions of an ailing and silent world.

Born was first staged at the Avignon Festival in 2006. It is the third play in Bond’s The Paris Pentad (originally called The Colline Tetralogy), preceded by The Crime of the Twenty-First Century and Coffee, and followed by People and Innocence.

Celestina

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Fernando de Rojas's Celestina, originally known as the Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea (Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea), is a work that is neither truly a play nor a novel, but something of both. First published in 1499, it comprises a series of dialogues that tell the story of a noble bachelor, Calisto, who uses the services of Celestina, the madam of a local brothel, to help him seduce Melibea, a beautiful young woman being kept in seclusion by her parents. Using all her wiles, and with the help of two greedy servants, Celestina goes about weaving her spells, with tragic results.

The original work is generally considered too lengthy to work satisfactorily on the stage: it would run to something like nine hours. But it has been performed in abbreviated versions written for the stage, and has come to be known after its famous central character, the procuress Celestina (in Spain, La Celestina).

This translation by John Clifford was published by Nick Hern Books in its Drama Classics series in 2004, and was first performed at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, on 16 August 2004, as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. The production was directed by Calixto Bieito, with Kathryn Hunter in the role of Celestina.

Choephori (Play Two from The Oresteia)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Aeschylus’ The Oresteia is a trilogy of Greek tragedies concerning the murder of King Agamemnon of Argos, together with its aftermath. The name derives from the character Orestes, the son of Agamemnon, who sets out to avenge his father's murder. The three plays – Agamemnon, Choephori (Libation-Bearers) and Eumenides (The Furies) – were originally accompanied in performance by a satyr play, Proteus, now lost. The Oresteia, which won first prize at the Dionysia festival in 458 BC, is the only surviving example of an ancient Greek theatre trilogy.

This translation by Marianne McDonald and J. Michael Walton is based on the Oxford text (to which the line numbers refer). It follows a distinction in the original text between the lines spoken by the characters (which are mostly composed in iambics), and those spoken by the Chorus (which adopt a much freer lyric verse); here, the lyric passages belonging to the Chorus are identified by the use of initial capital letters for each new line. In addition, various expressions such as io, pheu, oimoi and others have been left transliterated from the original Greek, being (in the words of the translators) 'indications of grief rather than actual words'.

The first play of the trilogy, Agamemnon, details the homecoming of Agamemnon, King of Argos, from the Trojan War. Waiting at home for him is his wife, Clytemnestra, who has been planning his murder, partly as revenge for the sacrifice of their daughter, Iphigenia, and partly because in the ten years of Agamemnon's absence Clytemnestra has entered into an adulterous relationship with Aegisthus, Agamemnon's cousin and the sole survivor of a dispossessed branch of the family (Agamemnon's father, Atreus, killed and fed Aegisthus's brothers to Aegisthus's father, Thyestes, when he took power from him), who is determined to regain the throne he believes should rightfully belong to him.

The second play, Choephori, deals with the reunion of Agamemnon's children, Electra and Orestes, and their revenge. Orestes kills his mother Clytemnestra to avenge the death of his father.

In the final part, Eumenides, Orestes, Apollo, and the Erinyes go before Athena and eleven other judges chosen by her from the Athenian citizenry to decide whether Orestes' killing of Clytemnestra makes him guilty of the crime of murder.

Coffee: A Tragedy

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Coffee centres around the death of a child and asks disturbing questions about the history of the twentieth century, through an examination of what constitutes acceptable behaviour towards children in our time.

The play opens on a young man alone in a room, laying the table. A stranger enters as he leaves, and after a strange ballet, they journey to a dark forest together. There they meet the Woman and the Girl, accusatory and half crazed with hunger. When the men return to the daylight world, they don uniform and take up a position on a cliff-top with machine-guns, a Primus stove and a coffee pot. They are involved in an incident – to them it is hardly more than a gesture, but its alarming triviality captures the history of our century and presents the deepest of questions about ourselves.

Coffee was first staged in 2000 at Le Théâtre National de la Colline in Paris. It is the first play in Bond’s The Paris Pentad (originally called The Colline Tetralogy), followed by The Crime of the Twenty-First Century, Born, People and Innocence.

Coriolanus (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Coriolanus was first published in the First Folio of 1623; we have no recording of a first performance contemporary with Shakespeare. As a result, dating the play has proven to be a difficult task, with most modern critics placing the writing of the play in the second half of the 1610s.

Affording Coriolanus a genre is similarly tricky: it is ‘The Tragedy of Coriolanus’ in the First Folio, but it is deeply indebted to the sub-genre of ‘Roman plays’ that form a significant part of the Shakespearean oeuvre. As with Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare draws on Thomas North’s 1579 translation of Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans for both historical detail and literary tropes.

The exploration of the public voice and the body politic in Coriolanus is immediately displayed in the play’s opening, where Roman citizens are rising up against the mounting price of grain. (It has been argued that this is a contemporary reference to the Midland Revolt of 1607, where peasants in the Midlands of Britain rioted against the enclosure of common land.) Menenius, a wise old Roman generally respected by the people, recites a parable narrating the breakdown of the body when its individual parts are not in accord. For the body politic to function, the head (here, the General; in Shakespeare’s England, King James I) and the belly (the people) must support each other.

One of the play’s central explorations, that of the battle between public and private identity, and political and personal duty, is encapsulated in the figure of Coriolanus, much as it is in other Roman figures (e.g. Brutus in Julius Caesar and Mark Antony in Antony and Cleopatra). His identity is unfixed, and manipulated by the patricians and his ambitious mother, Volumnia.

Unlike other Shakespearean tragic heroes, Coriolanus only has one lengthy soliloquy, in which he laments the ‘dissension’ and ‘bitterest enmity’ to which ‘friends now fast sworn’ have turned. As his affinity shifts from Romans to Volscians, his own identity gets lost, until he cries at the end of Act IV that ‘only that name remains’ – the irony being that ‘Coriolanus’ is not the name he started off with at the beginning of the play (he was ‘Caius Martius’ until he was granted the toponym Coriolanus, after his defeat of the town of Corioles). He is murdered at the end of the play in a bloody attack perpetrated by conspirators, mirroring Caesar’s death in his eponymous Roman tragedy. The opacity of the play’s central figure has rendered theatrical and cinematic interpretations of Coriolanus manifold in the past century especially: Laurence Olivier (twice), Anthony Hopkins, Richard Burton, Ian McKellan and Ralph Fiennes have all portrayed the general.

video Coriolanus (Donmar Warehouse / NT)

National Theatre
Type: Video

Age recommendation: 12+

This Donmar Warehouse production was recorded through National Theatre Live on 30th January, 2014

When an old adversary threatens Rome, the city calls once more on her hero and defender: Coriolanus. But he has enemies at home too. Famine threatens the city, the citizens’ hunger swells to an appetite for change, and on returning from the field Coriolanus must confront the march of realpolitik and the voice of an angry people.

Shakespeare’s searing tragedy of political manipulation and revenge, Coriolanus features an Evening Standard Award-winning performance from Tom Hiddleston in the title role, directed by the Donmar's former Artistic Director Josie Rourke.

CAST
First Citizen: Rochenda Sandall
Second Citizen: Mark Stanley
Third Citizen: Dwane Walcott
Menenius: Mark Gatiss
Caius Martius Coriolanus: Tom Hiddleston
Cominius: Peter de Jersey
Titus Lartius: Alfred Enoch
Brutus: Elliot Levey
Sicinia: Helen Schlesinger
Aufidius: Hadley Fraser
Volumnia: Deborah Findlay
Virgilia: Birgitte Hjort Sørensen
Valeria, Fourth Citizen: Jacqueline Boatswain
Young Martius: Joe Willis

CREATIVES
Director: Josie Rourke
Designer: Lucy Osborne
Lighting Designer: Mark Henderson
Sound Designer: Emma Laxton
Video Designer: Andrzej Goulding
Composer: Michael Bruce
Movement: Jonathan Watkins
Fight Director: Richard Ryan

video Coriolanus (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Caius Martius Coriolanus is a fearless soldier but a reluctant leader. His ambitious mother attempts to carve him a path to political power, but he struggles to change his nature and do what is required to achieve greatness. In this new city state struggling to find its feet, where the gap between rich and poor is widening every day, Coriolanus must decide who he really is and where his allegiances lie.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

video Cymbeline (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Britain is in crisis. Alienated, insular and on the brink of disaster. Can it be saved? An ineffectual Queen Cymbeline rules over a divided dystopian Britain. Consumed with grief at the death of two of her children, Cymbeline’s judgement is clouded. When Innogen, the only living heir, marries her sweetheart Posthumus in secret, an enraged Cymbeline banishes him. Behind the throne, a power-hungry figure plots to seize power by murdering them both. In exile, Innogen’s husband is tricked into believing she has been unfaithful to him and, in an act of impulsive jealousy, begins a scheme to have her murdered. Warned of the danger, Innogen runs away from court in disguise and begins a journey fraught with danger that will eventually reunite Cymbeline with a longlost heir and reconcile the young lovers.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

Danton's Death

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Danton’s Death is a thundering dramatization of the most extraordinary scenes of the French Revolution, of eloquence and execution.

In 1794, the Revolution was reaching its climax. After a series of bloody purges the life-loving, volatile Danton is tormented by his part in the killing. His political rival, the driven and ascetic Robespierre, decides Danton's fate. A titanic struggle begins. Once friends who wanted to change the world together, now these two men stand against each other, one for compromise and the other for ideological purity, as the guillotine awaits.

A revolutionary himself, George Büchner was 21 when he wrote the play in 1835, while hiding from the police. With a hair-raising on-rush of scenes and vivid dramatisation of complex, visionary characters, Danton’s Death has a claim to be one of the greatest political tragedies ever written.

In this translation, Howard Brenton captures Büchner's exhilarating energy as Danton struggles to avoid his inexorable fall. This version of Danton’s Death premiered at the National Theatre in 2010.

Delirium

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

A radical re-interpretation of Dostoyevsky’s seminal novel The Brothers Karamazov, Delirium is the result of a collaboration between Enda Walsh and acclaimed theatre company, theatre O. It was first performed on 9 April 2008 on tour prior to playing at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, and the Barbican, London.

The play loosely follows the plot of Dostoyevsky's novel: at its heart is a bitter rivalry between the tyrannical Fyodor and his eldest son Mitya over money and the affections of a young woman, Grushenka. This is complicated by another love triangle, in which Mitya’s fiancée Katerina is loved by his resentful, intellectual brother Ivan. Observing these tensions, and attempting to introduce benign Christian virtues, is the youngest brother Alyosha. Meanwhile the sinister manservant Smerdyakov looks on from the sidelines, filming the action.

In their Prologue to the published text (Nick Hern Books, 2008), Joseph Alford and Carolina Valdés, Co-Artistic Directors of theatre O, write that 'Delirium explores a world without morals, depicting the human condition in a harsh and uncompromising way. The determined brothers of the title, and their despicable father, are each driven by an individual mix of passion, intellect, faith and frustration. Feuds over women and money ensue and bad blood runs deep, as beliefs and spitefulness ignite a frenzy of emotion so strong it is impossible to contain.'

The theatre O production was directed by Joseph Alford and designed by James Humphrey. It was performed by Joseph Alford, Denis Quilligan, Julie Bower, Dominic Burdess, Carolina Valdés, Nick Lee and Lucien MacDougall.

De Monfort: a Tragedy

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

How far can jealousy take you? A rarely revived Othello-inspired tale of love, loss and obsessive passion. After fleeing in shame from a lost duel, De Monfort comes face to face with the man who spared his life. Overwhelmed by the lifelong grudge he holds, he tries in vain to follow the advice of his friends and beloved sister. Is his rival truly working against him or is he lashing out at shadows? As vengeance and envy take hold, friendship cracks and schemes push towards uncertainty and bloodshed. Much admired by Lord Byron, Joanna Baillie explores passions and their ability to take hold of the mind.

Doctor Faustus

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Doctor Faustus is a play about desire: for the best in life, for knowledge, power, material comfort, and influence. Faustus sells his soul to the devil hoping to learn the secrets of the universe, but is fobbed off with explanations which he knows to be inadequate. He is obsessed with fame, but his achievement as a devil-assisted celebrity magician is less substantial than it was previously as a scholar.

Marlowe's most famous play is a tragedy, but also extremely funny. It involves hideous representations of the Seven Deadly Sins, and of Helen of Troy, the world's most beautiful woman. With its fireworks and special effects, it was one of the most spectacular and popular on the Elizabethan stage. Yet, ever since Marlowe's death, it has been regularly rewritten. Its mix of fantastical story, slapstick, and raw human emotion still arouses conflicting interpretations, and presents us with endlessly fascinating problems.

This student edition is based on the earlier so-called A-text of the play, with the B-text scenes included in an appendix. It contains a lengthy Introduction with interpretation of the play in its historical and cultural context, stage history, discussion of the complex textual problems, and background on the author, date and sources.

video Doctor Faustus (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

Doctor Faustus is Christopher Marlowe's most renowned and controversial work. Famous for being the first dramatised version of the Faustus tale, the play depicts the sinister aftermath of Faustus's decision to sell his soul to the Devil's henchman in exchange for power and knowledge. Stage director: Matthew Dunster. Screen director: Ian Russell. Featuring: Charlotte Broom, Michael Camp, Nigel Cooke, Jonathan Cullen, Arthur Darvill, Robert Goodale, Paul Hilton, Sarita Piotrowski, Will Mannering, Pearce Quigley, Iris Roberts, Felix Scott, Chinna Wodu, Richard Clews, Jade Williams, Beatriz Romily.

video Doctor Faustus (Stage on Screen)

Stage on Screen
Type: Video

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, to give it its full title, by Christopher Marlowe, was first published in 1604, at least twelve years after its first performance, although the basic story of the play is much older.
Having decided he has accumulated all he can of conventional knowledge, Doctor Faustus turns to magic in a quest for greater truths. Before long, he ends up selling his soul to the devil – the famous 'Faustian pact' that has entered everyday language. Dr Faustus gradually realises his terrible mistake. He apparently repents, but finally dies, the devil coming to collect his soul, and his friends the dismembered body.
A classic that never dates
Is Doctor Faustus a tragic hero or a terrible example? It's not clear. But with its themes of sin, Satanism, death, damnation and magic, the play naturally holds great appeal for modern students, as well as theatre lovers across the ages.
In addition, Dr Faustus is a good choice for anyone studying Shakespeare, as he and Marlowe were contemporaries. Both wrote for the same acting company and influenced each other's work. Certainly, as an Elizabethan tragedian, Marlowe is considered second only to the great man himself. Notoriously, there are even those who believe that Marlowe actually wrote Shakespeare's plays, his early death notwithstanding.
Director: Elizabeth Freestone.
Featuring: Joanna Christie, Amy Rockson, Harvey Virdi, Jonathan Battersby, Guy Burgess, Samuel Collings, Mark Extance, Gareth Kennerley, Adam Redmore, Tim Treloar, Conrad Westmaas

A Doll's House (trans. Stephens)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The slamming of the front door at the end of Ibsen’s delicate and electrifying play shatters the romantic masquerade of the Nora and Torvald’s marriage. In their stultifying and infantilised relationship, they have deceived themselves and each other into thinking they are happy. But Nora’s concealment of a loan she had to take out for her husband’s sake forces their frivolous conversation to an irrevocable crisis, until Nora claims her right to individual freedom.

Ibsen’s 1879 play shocked its first audiences with its radical insights into the social roles of husband and wife. His portrayal of his flawed heroine, Nora, remains one of the most striking dramatic depictions of late-nineteenth century woman.

This version is translated by Olivier Award-winning playwright Simon Stephens, and was first performed at the Young Vic, London on 29 June 2012

The Duchess of Malfi (adapt. Brecht and Hays)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Written in collaboration with H. R. Hays and intended for performance by Elisabeth Bergner, (described by the editors of the Collected Works as ‘the most famous of all the exiled German actresses’), Brecht and Hays’s adaptation of John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi was born of a tortuous set of drafts, redrafts and recriminations, which led to several versions of the script, including a Broadway staging of a version by W. H. Auden. H. R. Hays sets the scene:

‘Early in 1943 Brecht came to New York and broached the idea of The Duchess of Malfi to me as a vehicle for Elisabeth Bergner, who was currently playing on Broadway in a whodunit. Brecht and I were both fond of the Webster piece and both felt that it sprawled too much for a successful production. The idea was to eliminate the anticlimactic series of deaths at the end, tighten up the script and emphasize the implicit incest motivation of the duke . . . We began working in April 1943 . . . We had a meeting in my agent’s office, at which Mr Czinner [producer] announced that what the project needed was “a British poet”. I hit the roof and told them to take my name off the script. Needless to say, the poet was Auden, whose name they hoped would be success insurance. Brecht did not at first withdraw, but later, when he saw what was happening, he too removed his name . . .’

This version of the script, written directly in English by Hays, with Brecht advising on story and structure, reproduces a copy that was in the possession of Hays. It is complemented here by notes and letters by Brecht himself on how the play ought to be performed.

The Duchess of Malfi (ed. Gibbons)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

One of the most haunting tragedies written in the Jacobean period, The Duchess of Malfi is a violent and macabre story of lust, madness, cruelty and revenge. First performed c. 1613-4 by the King’s Men, probably at the indoor Blackfriars theatre and later at the outdoor Globe playhouse, this text is based on the only authoritative extant edition, the first quarto of 1623.

Webster adapts the true story of a noble Italian widow, the eponymous Duchess, who secretly marries her steward, Antonio, and bears his children. Her two corrupt brothers, Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria, and the Cardinal, enraged by this act of female self-determination across class boundaries, begin to spy on the family in a conspiracy against her happiness that ends in psychological torture, mutilation and murder.

While following many of the conventions of revenge tragedy (like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, it employs a courtly setting, surveillance, a malcontent), The Duchess of Malfi affords its protagonists a psychological depth that has prompted discussions, amongst others, of incest and lycanthropy. Nevertheless, it also contains some of the most memorable props of the early modern stage, including the waxwork ‘bodies’ of the Duchess’ family, and a poisoned Bible.

Unlike his sources, Webster does not condemn the Duchess for lasciviousness – she remains one of the most fascinating and complex female characters of the early modern stage. She exercises power politically and domestically, and is sexually autonomous: she takes the active role in her wooing of Antonio, refusing to bow down to her brothers’ prescriptive demands of her heart and body. She has been regarded as an archetypal Protestant martyr against the tyranny of Catholic Europe, such as was celebrated in John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563).

The Duchess of Malfi is one of the major tragedies of the period and continues to prompt both new adaptations and critical interpretations. It has had a long and successful stage history, and was played by candlelight as the inaugural production at the Sam Wanamaker playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London (2014), an indoor playing space designed to replicate the early seventeenth-century Blackfriars theatre, a little way across the river from where the Globe now stands.

video The Duchess of Malfi (Stage on Screen)

Stage on Screen
Type: Video

The Duchess of Malfi is a popular choice as a set text, despite (or perhaps because of) the violence and horror of its later scenes. Generally considered to be the masterpiece of Jacobean playwright John Webster, it was first produced in around 1613. It’s a macabre tragedy, based on actual events, and tends to be either loved or hated by critics – while consistently captivating audiences across the centuries.
Set in Italy in the early fifteenth century, it starts out as a love story, with the Duchess marrying beneath her class. However, her two brothers, one cool and corrupt, the other secretly violent and warped, have other ideas. With incredible plot twists along the way, the play ends as an utter tragedy, as the brothers take revenge on her, destroying themselves in the process.
Dark, complex…and feminist?
The main themes of The Duchess of Malfi include revenge and corruption. It also looks at the status of women in society - Webster’s use of a strong, virtuous woman as the central character was rare for the time.
The play was originally written for and performed by The King’s Men, the same company which Shakespeare belonged to. Indeed, this Jacobean classic makes an interesting text to study in comparison to many of Shakespeare’s works.
The language is poetic, and subtle at times, but infinitely rewarding. Its complex characters are also rewarding to watch, as the play develops towards the highly dramatic climax.
Director: Elizabeth Freestone.
Featuring: Peter Bankolé, Edmund Kingsley, Tim Treloar, Mark Hadfield, Tim Steed, Richard Bremmer, Conrad Westmaas, James Wallace, Aislín McGuckin, Harvey Virdi, Brigid Zengeni, Maxwell Hutcheon.

The Duchess of Padua

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Duchess of Padua is a tragic melodrama that centres around a young man named Guido Ferranti who has come to Padua to learn the secret of his birth. There he is told that his father's life was ruined by the current duke of Padua; Guido is convinced that he should revenge his father's life by murdering the duke. He agrees at first to undertake this mission, but later balks at the task, only for it to be carried out by his lover, Beatrice, the wife of the murdered Duke. The play ends in further bloodshed, with the double suicide of the lovers.

The Duchess of Padua, written in 1883, is Oscar Wilde's second play. Written for, but ultimately rejected by, the American actress Mary Anderson, it finally premiered anonymously at the Broadway Theatre in New York.

Edward II

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

When the courageous and impressive Edward I dies, his son, Edward II, is a disappointing successor. He prefers domestic tasks to waging wars, and he prefers men to women. However, Edward I’s death is good news for Piers Gaveston, who has been exiled and is now allowed to return to England under the young Edward’s wishes. The new King bestows extravagant favours upon Gaveston, including the protection of his life, while his sovereign duties are neglected. Not everyone is as smitten with Gaveston as the King, however, and the King’s nobles pressure Edward to banish the favourite to Ireland. It is Edward’s Queen, Isabella of France, who will only be satisfied with Gaveston’s murder.

Based on Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587) and set in early fourteenth century England, Marlowe’s play is a portrait of a flawed monarch, driven by his animal passions and by an overwhelming romantic obsession.

Copyright © 1997 A & C Black Publishers Limited

Electra (Sophocles)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Electra is a story of revenge, of children on their mother, and the grief and fury of a woman when her filial duties are split down the middle.

When the victorious King Agamemnon returns from Troy, carting his new mistress Cassandra in tow, his wife Clytemnestra murders him. This initial act of revenge sparks off a long held grudge, kindled in the exiled and presumed dead Orestes, twin brother of Electra.

In his introduction, J. Michael Walton writes that 'Electra has fed on her hate, absorbing humiliation almost with relish. As the play progresses, so her passion is revealed as having dimensions.' It is these dimensions, rather than the moral conundrum of matricide, which Sophocles brings to life so starkly in his version of the well-known Greek myth.

Elektra (Euripides)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Elektra is a story of revenge, of children on their mother, and the grief and fury of a woman when her filial duties are split down the middle.

When the victorious King Agamemnon returns from Troy, carting his new mistress Cassandra in tow, his wife Clytemnestra murders him. This initial act of revenge sparks off a long held grudge, kindled in the exiled and presumed dead Orestes, twin brother of Elektra.

Just like Sophocles, Euripides was inspired by Aeschylus's great tragic cycle, the Oresteia. Unlike Sophocles (whose focus was a battered and vilified victim of circumstance, fully justified in seeking revenge), Euripides paints a character with a more confused mindset, one who cannot be fully trusted, not even by her returning twin and brother-in-arms. Euripides allows no easy judgement, forcing his audience to pick over the bones of a moral dilemma, as bloody as it is tragic.

Eumenides (Play Three from The Oresteia)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Aeschylus’ The Oresteia is a trilogy of Greek tragedies concerning the murder of King Agamemnon of Argos, together with its aftermath. The name derives from the character Orestes, the son of Agamemnon, who sets out to avenge his father's murder. The three plays – Agamemnon, Choephori (Libation-Bearers) and Eumenides (The Furies) – were originally accompanied in performance by a satyr play, Proteus, now lost. The Oresteia, which won first prize at the Dionysia festival in 458 BC, is the only surviving example of an ancient Greek theatre trilogy.

This translation by Marianne McDonald and J. Michael Walton is based on the Oxford text (to which the line numbers refer). It follows a distinction in the original text between the lines spoken by the characters (which are mostly composed in iambics), and those spoken by the Chorus (which adopt a much freer lyric verse); here, the lyric passages belonging to the Chorus are identified by the use of initial capital letters for each new line. In addition, various expressions such as io, pheu, oimoi and others have been left transliterated from the original Greek, being (in the words of the translators) 'indications of grief rather than actual words'.

The first play of the trilogy, Agamemnon, details the homecoming of Agamemnon, King of Argos, from the Trojan War. Waiting at home for him is his wife, Clytemnestra, who has been planning his murder, partly as revenge for the sacrifice of their daughter, Iphigenia, and partly because in the ten years of Agamemnon's absence Clytemnestra has entered into an adulterous relationship with Aegisthus, Agamemnon's cousin and the sole survivor of a dispossessed branch of the family (Agamemnon's father, Atreus, killed and fed Aegisthus's brothers to Aegisthus's father, Thyestes, when he took power from him), who is determined to regain the throne he believes should rightfully belong to him.

The second play, Choephori, deals with the reunion of Agamemnon's children, Electra and Orestes, and their revenge. Orestes kills his mother Clytemnestra to avenge the death of his father.

In the final part, Eumenides, Orestes, Apollo, and the Erinyes go before Athena and eleven other judges chosen by her from the Athenian citizenry to decide whether Orestes' killing of Clytemnestra makes him guilty of the crime of murder.

Faust: Part One

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Goethe's Faust is a two-part retelling of the story of Faust, the learned doctor who makes a pact with the Devil to obtain magical powers, but is finally carried off to hell when the Devil comes to claim his soul.

The work occupied Goethe during the whole of his creative life: he began work on it in about 1772-5; published a first fragment of it in 1790, then the whole of Part One in 1808; saw the first performance of Part One in Brunswick in 1829; and was still making minor revisions to Part Two shortly before his death in March 1832.

The two parts of the original are full of meandering plotlines and inconsistencies. Although Faust is written in dialogue form, it appears that Goethe did not intend it to be a play at all. John Clifford, the translator of this version, describes it in his introduction to the Nick Hern Books edition (published 2006) as 'a poetic autobiography and epic-dramatic confession'.

Clifford's task as translator, he writes, was to 'shorten the text, reducing it to a manageable length without compromising the richness and complexity of the journey; make abstractions vivid and fill them with life; discover a form of verse that would be faithful to Goethe's poetic spirit without reproducing his very literary and non-dramatic forms; reduce the worst of the meanderings and dead ends and discover a theatrical through-line that holds the whole journey together.'

The resulting version aims to be true to the spirit of Goethe's work, while also reflecting Clifford's own creative and personal life, including his identity as a transgendered person (he subsequently changed his name to Jo Clifford), and the traumatic loss to cancer of his lifelong partner, Sue Innes, in the course of working on this translation. 'While I hope the result is true to the spirit of Goethe's work,' he writes in his introduction, 'it is also most intimately autobiographical'.

This version was first performed at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, on 28 February 2006 (Part One) and on 1 March 2006 (Part Two). The production was directed by Mark Thomson and designed by Francis O'Connor.

Faust: Part Two

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Goethe's Faust is a two-part retelling of the story of Faust, the learned doctor who makes a pact with the Devil to obtain magical powers, but is finally carried off to hell when the Devil comes to claim his soul.

The work occupied Goethe during the whole of his creative life: he began work on it in about 1772-5; published a first fragment of it in 1790, then the whole of Part One in 1808; saw the first performance of Part One in Brunswick in 1829; and was still making minor revisions to Part Two shortly before his death in March 1832.

The two parts of the original are full of meandering plotlines and inconsistencies. Although Faust is written in dialogue form, it appears that Goethe did not intend it to be a play at all. John Clifford, the translator of this version, describes it in his introduction to the Nick Hern Books edition (published 2006) as 'a poetic autobiography and epic-dramatic confession'.

Clifford's task as translator, he writes, was to 'shorten the text, reducing it to a manageable length without compromising the richness and complexity of the journey; make abstractions vivid and fill them with life; discover a form of verse that would be faithful to Goethe's poetic spirit without reproducing his very literary and non-dramatic forms; reduce the worst of the meanderings and dead ends and discover a theatrical through-line that holds the whole journey together.'

The resulting version aims to be true to the spirit of Goethe's work, while also reflecting Clifford's own creative and personal life, including his identity as a transgendered person (he subsequently changed his name to Jo Clifford), and the traumatic loss to cancer of his lifelong partner, Sue Innes, in the course of working on this translation. 'While I hope the result is true to the spirit of Goethe's work,' he writes in his introduction, 'it is also most intimately autobiographical'.

This version was first performed at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, on 28 February 2006 (Part One) and on 1 March 2006 (Part Two). The production was directed by Mark Thomson and designed by Francis O'Connor.

A Florentine Tragedy

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A Florentine Tragedy is a tragedy in blank-verse set in the sixteenth century. It tells the story of the illicit love between a burgher's wife, Bianca, and the young heir to the throne of Florence, Guido. Guido has come to the house of the burgher Simone to claim Bianca for his own. Encouraged by her, Guido promises a fortune to Simone in exchange for her hand. Simone, though greedy for the money, is not to be swayed so easily, and a fight to the death ensues.

Written in 1894, A Florentine Tragedy exists only as a fragment, often accompanied for the purposes of presentation by an opening scene commissioned from the Irish poet Thomas Sturge Moore by Robert Ross, Wilde's literary executor. Only Oscar Wilde's work is presented here.

Fury

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Phoebe Eclair-Powell's play Fury is a modern-day version of the Medea story, exploring issues around motherhood and class and focussing on the predicament of a young single mum in London. It was the winner of the Soho Theatre Young Writer's Award, and was first performed at Soho Theatre, London, on 5 July 2016 in a co-production by Soho Theatre and Damsel Productions.

The play's action is free-flowing, partly narrated and constantly commented on by a three-strong Chorus comprising Woman, Man and Fury (who also play additional roles in the action). Sam is struggling as a single parent in south-east London with her two young sons since Rob left her. Tom, a master's student who plays his music too loudly, rents the flat above, the one Sam cleans. If they can come to 'an arrangement', he won't report her to Social Services.

In a 'Note on the Play' in the published script, Eclair-Powell states that 'The Chorus act like every Greek chorus should – they ask us to bear witness. But this Chorus also manipulates our understanding of the story unravelling before us. They shape our idea of Sam and our sense of judgement. They are a three-headed hydra – with slight differences in allegiance. Fury is more on Sam’s side, Man is on the fence – sometimes playful, sometimes vengeful – and Woman is the least sympathetic – perhaps she has seen this all before and she’s tired of it. When the Chorus speak they take over – they infiltrate the stage and enhance the theatrical journey. They should be supported by music and underscore – they take us out of naturalism and into something far more heightened.'

The Soho Theatre production was directed by Hannah Hauer-King and designed by Anna Reid, with Sarah Ridgeway as Sam, Alex Austin as Tom, Naana Agyei-Ampadu as Woman, Daniel Kendrick as Man and Anita-Joy Uwajeh as Fury.

Good

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A story about a liberal-minded university professor who drifts well-meaningly into a position in the upper reaches of the Nazi administration, Good is a profound and alarming examination of passivity and the rationalisation of evil.

John Halder, a professor of literature, seems to be a good man; he diligently visits his blind and senile mother and looks after his vacant wife and three children. He is unremarkable, other than an unusual neurotic tic: the imaginary sound of band music plays in the background of his life, particularly at moments of high emotion. But by writing a book – the result of his own experience – discussing euthanasia for senile elderly people and by lecturing on the delicacy of German literary culture, John has unintentionally made himself a very desirable acquisition for the Nazi party.

By rationalised and intellectually reasoned steps he is absorbed into the direction of the death camps, a transformation all the more chilling because it does not seem dramatic, until the last horrible resounding note of the play.

Good is a structured stream of consciousness, punctured by the musical medley that plays inside Halder’s head. The first production was staged at the London Warehouse in 1982.

audio Hamlet

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Shakespeare’s timeless story of revenge, corruption, and murder is considered one of the greatest works in the English language. Prince Hamlet sets out to avenge his beloved father's death at the hand of his uncle Claudius — but Hamlet's spiral into grief and madness will have permanent and immutable consequences for the Kingdom of Denmark. Composed over 400 years ago, Hamlet remains one of the theater’s most studied and performed works, and is presented here in a stunning, sound-rich full-cast recording.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Josh Stamberg as Hamlet Stephen Collins as King Claudius JoBeth Williams as Queen Gertrude Stacy Keach as Ghost Alan Mandell as Polonius Emily Swallow as Ophelia JD Cullum as Laertes Matthew Wolf as Horatio Mark Capri as Ambassador and others Josh Clark as Gravedigger, Voltemand and others Henri Lubatti as Rosencrantz and others Jon Matthews as Guildenstern and others Darren Richardson as Player Queen and others André Sogliuzzo as Reynaldo and others Directed by Martin Jarvis. Recorded at the Invisible Studios, West Hollywood in August, 2011.

Featuring: Mark Capri, Josh Clark, Stephen Collins, JD Cullum, Stacy Keach, Henri Lubatti, Alan Mandell, Jon Matthews, Darren Richardson, Andre Sogliuzzo, Josh Stamberg, Emily Swallow, JoBeth Williams, Matthew Wolf

video Hamlet (Globe on Screen 2)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

Encompassing political intrigue and sexual obsession, philosophical reflection and violent action, tragic depth and wild humour, Hamlet is a colossus in the story of the English language and the fullest expression of Shakespeare's genius.

Learning of his father's death, Prince Hamlet comes home to find his uncle married to his mother and installed on the Danish throne. At night, the ghost of the old king demands that Hamlet avenge his 'foul and most unnatural murder'.

video Hamlet (Maxine Peake as Hamlet)

Genesius Pictures
Type: Video

Shakespeare’s most iconic work, HAMLET explodes with big ideas and is the ultimate story of loyalty, love, betrayal, murder and madness. Hamlet’s father is dead and Denmark has crowned Hamlet’s uncle the new king. Consumed by grief, Hamlet struggles to exact revenge, with devastating consequences.
From its sell-out run at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre comes the film version of their unique and critically acclaimed production, with BAFTA-nominee Maxine Peake in the title role. This ground breaking stage production, directed by Sarah Frankcom, was the Royal Exchange Theatre’s fastest-selling show in a decade.
HAMLET is brought to cinemas and DVD by film director Margaret Williams whose Written on Skin (Royal Opera House/BBC) won many awards including the Dispason d’Or. The film version of HAMLET is produced by Anne Beresford and Debbie Gray, the team behind the highly praised Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh beach, which Margaret also directed. Hamlet MAXINE PEAKE; Claudius/Ghost JOHN SHRAPNEL; Gertrude BARBARA MARTEN; Polonia GILLIAN BEVAN; Horatio THOMAS ARNOLD; Laertes ASHLEY ZHANGAZHA; Ophelia KATIE WEST; Marcella/Player King CLAIRE BENEDICT; Guildenstern PETER SINGH; Rosencrantz/2nd Gravedigger JODIE McNEE; Margaret/1st Grave Digger MICHELLE BUTTERLY; Bernardo/Osric/Player Queen BEN STOTT; Francisco/Reynaldo/Priest TACHIA NEWALL; Lucianus DEAN GREGORY; young company LEYLA PERCIVAL, NATASHA HYLTON, MATT BOYLAN; children LILY-BLOSSOM TAIT, LARA PROCTER, JAMES PRENTICE, JACOB RICHARDS. Directed for the stage by Sarah Frankcom and for the screen by Margaret Williams.

video Hamlet (NT)

National Theatre
Type: Video

Age recommendation: 12+

This production was recorded through National Theatre Live on 9th December, 2010.

Director Nicholas Hytner offers a detailed political, social and psychological context to Hamlet's dilemma: whether or not to avenge the death of his father.

Rory Kinnear plays Hamlet in this dynamic production of Shakespeare’s complex and profound play about the human condition. His performance earned him an Evening Standard Award.

CAST
Hamlet: Rory Kinnear
Barnado: Michael Peavoy
Francisco: Matthew Barker
Horatio: Giles Terera
Marcellus: Marcus Cunningham
Ghost of the Late King: James Laurenson
Claudius: Patrick Malahide
Voltemand: James Pearse
Priest: Leo Staar
Laertes: Alex Lanipekun
Polonius: David Calder
Gertrude: Clare Higgins
Cornelia: Ellie Turner
Reynaldo: Victor Power
Rosencrantz: Ferdinand Kingsley
Guildenstern: Prasanna Puwanarajah
Player Queen: Saskia Portway
Lucianus: Michael Sheldon
Fortinbras: Jake Fairbrother
Osric: Nick Sampson
Messenger: Zara Tempest-Walters
Ophelia: Ruth Nega
Gravedigger: David Calder
English Ambassador: Michael Sheldon
Captain in Fortinbras' army: Matthew Barker
Player King: James Laurenson

CREATIVES
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Designer: Vicki Mortimer
Lighting Designer: Jon Clark
Composer: Alex Baranowski
Sound Designer: Paul Groothuis
Fight Director: Kate Waters

video Hamlet (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Hamlet has the world at his feet. Young, wealthy and living a hedonistic life studying abroad. Then word reaches him that his father is dead. Returning home he finds his world is utterly changed, his certainties smashed and his home a foreign land. Struggling to understand his place in a new world order he faces a stark choice. Submit, or rage against the injustice of his new reality. Simon Godwin (The Two Gentlemen of Verona 2014) directs Paapa Essiedu as Hamlet in Shakespeare's searing tragedy. As relevant today as when it was written, Hamlet confronts each of us with the mirror of our own mortality in an imperfect world.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

Hamlet (The First Folio, 1623, Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In the 400 years following its composition, Hamlet has become enshrined amongst the classic plays of Western literature. Written about by luminaries from Samuel Johnson to Sigmund Freud, from Voltaire to T.S. Eliot, the study of Hamlet has engrossed great minds since its inception.

Simultaneously, the role of Hamlet is considered both the pinnacle and the challenge of an actor’s career, as he strives to take his place amongst classic Hamlets of the past such as Richard Burbage, David Garrick, and Laurence Olivier. Hamlet continues to fascinate readers and audiences to this day, as each new generation discovers that, in the words of critic William Hazlitt, ‘it is we who are Hamlet’.

In the wake of his father’s death and his uncle’s ascension to the throne, Prince Hamlet has struggled with his grief, as well as his sense of outrage over his mother Gertrude’s quick remarriage to Hamlet’s uncle, the new king. When Hamlet’s father appears to him as a ghost to reveal that he was, in fact, murdered by Hamlet’s uncle, the prince sets himself on an ultimately tragic path towards vengeance.

William Shakespeare’s play emerged from the classical tradition of revenge tragedy, which enjoyed a particular popularity around the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the play was first written and performed. Its first performances were probably staged by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Shakespeare’s company at the time. Although it shares certain plot similarities with other revenge tragedies – a secret murder, a ghostly apparition, a bloody resolution – the ambiguities of Hamlet allow it to defy strict classification, enabling every actor, reader, or theatregoer to consider the play anew upon each new reading or viewing. The straightforward story of a son determined to avenge his father’s murder is complicated and enhanced by the many questions that arise throughout the play regarding unanswered plot points as well as philosophical conundrums.

Due to the survival of three early, distinct versions of the text of Hamlet, the process of editing Hamlet has required its editors to consider which of the texts – known as Quarto 1 (Q1), Quarto 2 (Q2), or Folio (F) – is truly ‘authoritative’. For the Arden Third Series edition of Hamlet, editors Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor chose to reject the traditions of elevating one text above the others or creating a composite text from all three versions. Instead, Arden offers clear, modernised versions of all three texts.

The text presented here is taken from the 1623 First Folio, a collection of thirty-six Shakespeare plays collated by John Heminges and Henry Condell (two actors from Shakespeare’s company, the King’s Men), where it appears as The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke. It is the longest play in the Folio, and, although 4% shorter than Q2, it contains 1,914 words not found in Q2. It has been argued that this version is from a copy prepared for performance, possibly by Shakespeare and fellow company members, as the play contains fuller and more systematic stage directions than Q1 and Q2. It has been posited that F is based partly on a copy of Q2 annotated in the playhouse or after performance, and thus is authoritative given its derivation from the authorial ‘foul papers’ theorised to be the basis of Q2. Character names and the placing of key soliloquies are on the whole consistent between Q2 and F, although F lacks Hamlet’s final soliloquy in Q2, ‘How all occasions do inform against me...’, in which he decides once and for all to ‘be bloody’.

Hamlet (The First Quarto, 1603, Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In the 400 years following its composition, Hamlet has become enshrined amongst the classic plays of Western literature. Written about by luminaries from Samuel Johnson to Sigmund Freud, from Voltaire to T.S. Eliot, the study of Hamlet has engrossed great minds since its inception.

Simultaneously, the role of Hamlet is considered both the pinnacle and the challenge of an actor’s career, as he strives to take his place amongst classic Hamlets of the past such as Richard Burbage, David Garrick, and Laurence Olivier. Hamlet continues to fascinate readers and audiences to this day, as each new generation discovers that, in the words of critic William Hazlitt, ‘it is we who are Hamlet’.

In the wake of his father’s death and his uncle’s ascension to the throne, Prince Hamlet has struggled with his grief, as well as his sense of outrage over his mother Gertrude’s quick remarriage to Hamlet’s uncle, the new king. When Hamlet’s father appears to him as a ghost to reveal that he was, in fact, murdered by Hamlet’s uncle, the prince sets himself on an ultimately tragic path towards vengeance.

William Shakespeare’s play emerged from the classical tradition of revenge tragedy, which enjoyed a particular popularity around the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the play was first written and performed. Its first performances were probably staged by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Shakespeare’s company at the time. Although it shares certain plot similarities with other revenge tragedies – a secret murder, a ghostly apparition, a bloody resolution – the ambiguities of Hamlet allow it to defy strict classification, enabling every actor, reader, or theatregoer to consider the play anew upon each new reading or viewing. The straightforward story of a son determined to avenge his father’s murder is complicated and enhanced by the many questions that arise throughout the play regarding unanswered plot points as well as philosophical conundrums.

Due to the survival of three early, distinct versions of the text of Hamlet, the process of editing Hamlet has required its editors to consider which of the texts – known as Quarto 1 (Q1), Quarto 2 (Q2), or Folio (F) – is truly ‘authoritative’. For the Arden Third Series edition of Hamlet, editors Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor chose to reject the traditions of elevating one text above the others or creating a composite text from all three versions. Instead, Arden offers clear, modernised versions of all three texts.

‘The Tragicall Historie of HAMLET Prince of Denmarke, printed in quarto version (Q1) in 1603, is often known as the ‘bad’ quarto due to its significant differences from both the Q2 and F texts, rendering it ‘artistically inferior’ in the eyes of some readers. The plot, though essentially the same as in the older versions, is much abridged – Q2 is 79% longer than Q1. Several characters names are reworked: ‘Gertred’, ‘Leartes’, ‘Ofelia’, ‘Rossencraft’, ‘Gilderstone’, ‘Voltemar’, ‘Cornelia’ and ‘Fortenbrasse’ are all recognisable alternate spellings of characters familiar from Q2, whilst Polonius and his man Reynaldo undergo a sea-change to become ‘Corambis’ and ‘Montano’ respectively. In addition, many iconic monologues, particularly ‘To be or not to be’, will seem odd, both in position and wording, to readers familiar with Q2 and F. Q1 also includes an important scene between Gertred and Horatio, absolving the queen from knowledge of her new husband’s guilt, that does not appear in either of the other versions of the texts. Since its discovery in 1823, many theories have been posited regarding Q1, with some readers suggesting that it is a ‘first draft’ of the play, others that it is a ‘memorial reconstruction’ compiled from players’ memories, and still others that it is a theatrical abridgement, Q2 and F both being too long to have comfortably appeared on the early Jacobean stage as ‘two hours’ traffic’ (though in recent years the duration of early modern performances has been disputed as anywhere between two hours and up to three and a quarter hours long). Q1’s unique stage directions have, since the quarto’s discovery, become standardised: despite only appearing in Q1, stage business such as Ophelia’s mad lute-playing and Hamlet and Laertes jumping into the grave have become iconic moments in the play.

Hamlet (The Second Quarto, 1604-05, Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In the 400 years following its composition, Hamlet has become enshrined amongst the classic plays of Western literature. Written about by luminaries from Samuel Johnson to Sigmund Freud, from Voltaire to T.S. Eliot, the study of Hamlet has engrossed great minds since its inception.

Simultaneously, the role of Hamlet is considered both the pinnacle and the challenge of an actor’s career, as he strives to take his place amongst classic Hamlets of the past such as Richard Burbage, David Garrick, and Laurence Olivier. Hamlet continues to fascinate readers and audiences to this day, as each new generation discovers that, in the words of critic William Hazlitt, ‘it is we who are Hamlet’.

In the wake of his father’s death and his uncle’s ascension to the throne, Prince Hamlet has struggled with his grief, as well as his sense of outrage over his mother Gertrude’s quick remarriage to Hamlet’s uncle, the new king. When Hamlet’s father appears to him as a ghost to reveal that he was, in fact, murdered by Hamlet’s uncle, the prince sets himself on an ultimately tragic path towards vengeance.

William Shakespeare’s play emerged from the classical tradition of revenge tragedy, which enjoyed a particular popularity around the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the play was first written and performed. Its first performances were probably staged by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Shakespeare’s company at the time. Although it shares certain plot similarities with other revenge tragedies – a secret murder, a ghostly apparition, a bloody resolution – the ambiguities of Hamlet allow it to defy strict classification, enabling every actor, reader, or theatregoer to consider the play anew upon each new reading or viewing. The straightforward story of a son determined to avenge his father’s murder is complicated and enhanced by the many questions that arise throughout the play regarding unanswered plot points as well as philosophical conundrums.

Due to the survival of three early, distinct versions of the text of Hamlet, the process of editing Hamlet has required its editors to consider which of the texts – known as Quarto 1 (Q1), Quarto 2 (Q2), or Folio (F) – is truly ‘authoritative’. For the Arden Third Series edition of Hamlet, editors Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor chose to reject the traditions of elevating one text above the others or creating a composite text from all three versions. Instead, Arden offers clear, modernised versions of all three texts.

The second quarto (Q2), the text presented here, was printed in 1604 as The Tragicall Historie of HAMLET, Prince of Denmarke. Despite being nicknamed the ‘second’ quarto, scholars have argued that it is probable that Q2 actually pre-dates Q1, as it is conjectured to be based on Shakespeare’s manuscript copy, his ‘foul papers’. The supposed proximity of Q2 to the authorial hand has therefore led this text frequently to be chosen as the authoritative version of Hamlet. As its titlepage makes no mention of performance (unlike Q1), it has been argued that this Hamlet was a version crafted by Shakespeare’s hand before the cuts required by performance were put into place: a play ‘for the closet, not for the stage’. At 28,628 words, ‘Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much againe as it was, according to the true and perfect Coppie’, it is the longest extant play in the canon. Although it resembles the Folio text, both contain a number of unique lines. Even so, this is the version of Hamlet most familiar to readers in terms of language and scene structure, particularly in relation to iconic monologues such as ‘To be or not to be’.

Harry's Christmas

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

It is a few days until Christmas and Harry is waiting for someone to be in touch, for an old lover to have a drink with him, for a friend to show up. But as the big day comes, he falls into lonely and isolated despair.

A dark and searing portrait of one man’s solitude and its repercussions, Harry’s Christmas examines society’s hypocrisy at the time of year when emotional pressure is at its highest.

Harry’s Christmas premiered at the Donmar Warehouse, London, in December 1985.

Hecuba (trans. Harrison)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

The first great war between the east and west is over. Hecuba, once queen of Troy, is widowed and enslaved by the conquering Greeks. When her captors demand that her daughter be sacrificed in honour of the great warrior Achilles, and she finds her only surviving son murdered, her mourning turns to a hunger for retribution.

A vital examination of the psychology of the powerful and the powerless in time of conflict, Euripides’ Hecuba, in this translation by Tony Harrison, premiered at the Albery Theatre in March 2005 as part of the RSC’s London season.

© Tony Harrison, 2005

video Henry IV (Donmar)

Donmar Warehouse
Type: Video

What makes a king? What makes a father? Shakespeare’s monumental history play travels to the heart of family, duty and country.

This innovative film, recorded before a live audience, documents the Donmar Warehouse’s all-female stage production, adapted from William Shakespeare’s two plays about King Henry IV, Prince Hal and Falstaff.

The bold, contemporary production is presented as if played by inmates of a women’s prison and was described by critics as ‘unforgettable’. The director for both stage and screen is Phyllida Lloyd, and Dame Harriet Walter is Henry IV.

The Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy began in 2012 with an all-female production of Julius Caesar led by Dame Harriet Walter. Set in a women’s prison, the production asked the question, ‘Who owns Shakespeare?’ Two further productions followed: Henry IV in 2014 and The Tempest in 2016, all featuring a diverse company of women. The Trilogy enthralled theatre audiences in London and New York and was shared with women and girls in prisons and schools across the UK. The film versions were shot live in a specially built temporary theatre in King’s Cross in 2016.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

For more videos about the trilogy, visit this page.

Herakles' Children

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Herakles' Children is described in the introduction by translator Kenneth McLeish as dramatising 'a section of the Herakles myth which seems to explain how initial enmity between Athens and the Pelopennesian state of Argos was, at some remote period of mythological time, replaced by alliance. After Herakles' ascension from earth to Olympos, his mortal rival King Eurystheus of Argos (who had devised his Labours) was afraid that Herakles' sons might grow up to contest the throne. He harried them from town to town across Greece, demanding that they be returned to Argos on pain of invasion. The play takes place after the children, led by Herakles' aged mother Alkmene and his equally decrepit nephew and former companion Iolaos, take refuge in Marathon, a town in Attika not far from Athens.'

The Argives then declare war on Marathon and the Athenians, a war whose victory is underwritten for the Athenians by the decision of Herakles' daughter Makaria, to allow herself to be sacrificed to the gods.

The subsequent defeat of the Argives, and the punishment of Eurystheus, defines the second half of the play, which was first produced some time between 430 and 427 BC, contemporaneously with Euripides' other great plays Hippolytos and Medea.

Hippolytos (trans. McLeish)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Euripides' play tells the story of Phaidra's love for her step-son Hippolytos, Theseus's illegitimate son, a man so devoted to his chastity and the cult of Artemis that he spurns the goddess of love Aphrodite. To return the insult, she condemns him via his stepmother's passion, causing the subsequent fall of the royal house.

In his introduction, editor J. Michael Walton writes: 'However priggish or puritanical Hippolytos may seem, Aphrodite's wholesale destruction of the household is pre-planned and calculated to affect everyone within range. Nor is this some sudden whim. It is two years since she contrived for Phaidra first to see and fall in love with Hippolytos. At the far end of the play, Theseus receives news from the Messenger of his son's accident and asks for the dying Hippolytos to be brought in for him to gloat over. Before his attendants can fetch the litter Artemis appears to accuse Theseus of murdering his son. Despite her affection for Hippolytos, she confesses to declining to become involved because "We have an agreement in Heaven: Never interfere with other gods' decisions" (ll. 1328–9). The mortally injured Hippolytos is then carried in and a reconciliation engineered with Theseus. Artemis consoles Hippolytos in a desultory sort of way before leaving so as not to be defiled by having someone die in her presence. As a Parthian shot to confirm a general disdain for human affairs it is telling and chilling.'A play that at once cautions people not to disregard the strength of the divine, but also illustrates the futility of trying to second-guess its intention, Hippolytos is an astonishing and disturbing tragedy.

audio The Idiot (adapt. Fishelson)

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Dostoyevsky’s monumental novel The Idiot, adapted into a spellbinding full-cast drama by playwright David Fishelson.

In The Idiot, meet the kindly, childlike Prince Myshkin, as he returns to the decadent social whirl of 1860s St. Petersburg. The two most beautiful, sought-after women in the town compete for his affections, in a duel that grows increasingly dangerous.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Edward Asner, Kate Asner, Angela Bettis, Arye Gross, John Kapelos, Robert Machray, Jon Matthews, Johanna McKay, Paul Mercier, Laurel Moglen, Michael Rivkin, Peggy Roeder and Douglas Weston.

Featuring: Edward Asner, Kate Asner, Angela Bettis, Arye Gross, John Kapelos, Robert Machray, Jon Matthews, Johanna McKay, Paul Mercier, Laurel Moglen, Michael Rivkin, Peggy Roeder, Douglas Weston

Ivanov (trans. Hare)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Ivanov is a man paralysed by existential ennui; his self-loathing is by turns ridiculous and pathetic, as Chekhov’s first completed play whips between farce and tragedy.

Ivanov is deep in debt and out of love with his wife Anna, only rising out of his apathy to express disgust at his own ridiculous condition. He is pursued by rumours that he married Anna for her money, only to be frustrated when she was disinherited by her father after converting from Judaism. Anna is now dying of tuberculosis, sharpening Ivanov’s loss of affection into cruelty. The intensity of his crumpled boredom is fascinating – particularly for the young woman Sasha, the daughter of one of his creditors, who declares her passionate love for him when he visits her father’s house for a languid party. Whether he is accepting her advances, or debating the nature of honesty with his wife’s prim doctor, Ivanov is always sullen and self-lacerating; he satirises himself as an imitation Hamlet. Chekov’s tragicomic portrait of depression is uniquely hilarious and devastating.

This version of Ivanov was first performed at the Almeida Theatre, London, in 1997.

audio Julius Caesar

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Richard Dreyfuss, Kelsey Grammer and Stacy Keach star in one of Shakespeare's most revered tragedies.

The skies over ancient Rome blaze with terrifying portents, and soothsayers warn Julius Caesar of approaching doom. As conspiracy swirls through the city, Shakespeare explores the deep repercussions of political murder on the human heart. A classic tale of duplicity, betrayal and murder, masterfully performed by an all-star, all-American cast in this BBC co-production. “...a wonderful addition to any audio theater library.” Audiofile Magazine An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Stacy Keach as Marcus Brutus John de Lancie as Cassius Richard Dreyfuss as Marc Antony Harold Gould as Caesar Jack Coleman as Casca JoBeth Williams as Portia Bonnie Bedelia as Calphurnia Kelsey Grammer as Murellus John Randolph as Flavius and Artemidorus Arye Gross as Octavius alongside the voices of Paul Winfield, John Vickery, Basil Langton, David Birney, George Murdock, James Morrison, Andrew White, Rudy Hornish, Lee Arenberg, Jon Matthews, Josh Fardon, Paul Mercier, Arthur Hanket and Marnie Mosiman Directed by Martin Jenkins. Recorded at KCRW, Los Angeles in November, 1994.

Featuring: Lee Arenberg, Bonnie Bedelia, David Birney, Jack Coleman, John de Lancie, Richard Dreyfuss, Josh Fardon, Harold Gould, Kelsey Grammer, Arye Gross, Arthur Hanket, Rudy Hornish, Stacy Keach, Basil Langton, Jon Matthews, Paul Mercier, James Morrison, George Murdock, John Randolph, John Vickery, Andrew White, JoBeth Williams, Paul Winfield

Julius Caesar (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Shakespeare’s dramatization of the assassination of Julius Caesar sees rhetoric give way to cruelty, revenge and war. The tragedy is a complex treatment of the conspiracy, prompting discussions about power, tyranny, rivalry, gender, religion, the Elizabethan understanding of the Roman world and the continued interpretation of character: is Caesar a hero or a tyrant? Is Brutus a patriot or a murderer?

In a fast-paced opening half, Caesar returns to Rome triumphant following victory over Pompey. The city turns out to hail him as a hero, but Cassius is alarmed by Caesar’s inflated popularity and power, and surreptitiously recruits senators who share his concerns. He persuades the conscientious Brutus to join the conspiracy, which quickly gathers momentum; on the Ides of March, Caesar is stabbed to death in the Senate by the conspirators.

The killing marks a turning point in the play, and the full introduction of a major new character – Mark Antony. At Caesar’s funeral, Brutus explains to the mob that he slew the ambitious Caesar for the good of Rome. But he is outdone when Antony speaks to them, the latter skilfully stirring up outrage and violence through a combination of powerful oratory and the reading of Caesar’s generous will. His words turn the crowd against the conspirators. Driven from the city, Brutus and Cassius go to war against Mark Antony and Caesar’s nephew Octavius, and are defeated at Philippi.

There are no extant quartos of Julius Caesar; our text comes out of the Folio of 1623. The date of composition is likely to be some time between September 1598 and September 1599, based on the play’s absence from the list of Shakespeare plays in Francis Mere’s Palladis Tamia, and a mention of it in Thomas Platter’s diary, recording that he saw the play at the Globe ‘at about two o’clock’ on the 21st September 1599. This composition date has led scholars to herald the play as the first great tragedy – one that paved the way for Shakespeare’s late Elizabethan and early Jacobean tragedies, including Hamlet, which is widely believed to have followed Julius Caesar chronologically. Indeed, there are several references to Caesar in the later play. Based largely on Amyot’s French and North’s English translations of Plutarch’s Lives (1559 and 1579 respectively), Julius Caesar is regarded as an unprecedented kind of political play – of fast action and compelling rhetoric – that pushed the boundaries of conventional dramatic verse and prose.

The play has had a rich and varied performance history, rarely falling out of vogue. Its politics have remained as relevant throughout the past century as they were on its first performance. It comes out of a period great political unease, to which Elizabeth’s treatment of her intimates and rivals, her own image of self-deification and lack of successor all contributed. Insurrection was in the air: a year and a half later, in 1601, the Earl of Essex would lead an unsuccessful rebellion against the ageing ruler.

The play was revived almost every year in the first half of the eighteenth century, and the opportunity for grand staging and large crowds was not lost to nineteenth-century theatre makers. In the twentieth century, the theme of tyrannical rule was ripe fruit for directors of the play. Orson Welles’s 1937 production, subtitled ‘Death of a Dictator’ was the first to cast the Emperor as a fascist ruler.

In the later twentieth century, political literary theory saw New Historicist and Cultural Materialist critics thinking on the staging of alternative political structures, and the representation and subversion of the people. Feminist criticism has looked into the Elizabethan conception of the Roman world as an ideology of maleness. Recent productions have included Greg Doran’s 2012 all-black ‘Pan-African’ Julius Caesar at the RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Phyllida Lloyd’s 2013 all-female version at the Donmar Warehouse.

video Julius Caesar (Bridge Theatre / NT)

National Theatre
Type: Video

Age recommendation: 12+

This Bridge Theatre production was recorded through National Theatre Live on 22nd March, 2018.

Caesar returns in triumph to Rome and the people pour out of their homes to celebrate. Alarmed by the autocrat’s popularity, the educated élite conspire to bring him down. After his assassination, civil war erupts on the streets of the capital.

Nicholas Hytner’s production thrusts the audience into the street party that greets Caesar’s return, the congress that witnesses his murder, the rally that assembles for his funeral and the chaos that explodes in its wake.

CAST
Casca: Adjoa Andoh
Brutus: Ben Whishaw
Caesar: David Calder
Mark Anthony: David Morrissey
Lucius/Cinna the Poet and as cast: Fred Fergus
Metellus Cimber and as cast: Hannah Stokely
Octavius and as cast: Kit Young
Ensemble and as cast: Leaphia Darko
Decius Brutus and as cast: Leila Farzad
Caius Ligarius: Mark Penfold
Cassius: Michelle Fairley
Cinna: Nick Sampson
Marullus/Artemidorus and as cast: Rosie Ede
Flavius/Popilius Lena and as cast: Sid Sagar
Calpurnia: Wendy Kweh
Ensemble and as cast: Zachary Hart

CREATIVES
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Lighting Designer: Bruno Poet
Production Designer: Bunny Christie
Costume Designer: Christina Cunningham
Composer: Nick Powell
Sound Designer: Paul Arditti

video Julius Caesar (Donmar)

Donmar Warehouse
Type: Video

Power, betrayal, justice. Phyllida Lloyd directs a cast including Harriet Walter in Shakespeare’s great political drama, part of the Donmar Warehouse’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy.

Set in the present-day in the world of a women’s prison, Julius Caesar could not be more timely as it depicts the catastrophic consequences of a political leader’s extension of his powers beyond the remit of the constitution. As Brutus (Harriet Walter) wrestles with his moral conscience over the assassination of Julius Caesar (Jackie Clune), Mark Antony (Jade Anouka) manipulates the crowd through his subtle and incendiary rhetoric to frenzied mob violence. There follows the descent of the country into factions and the outbreak of civil war.

The Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy began in 2012 with an all-female production of Julius Caesar led by Dame Harriet Walter. Set in a women’s prison, the production asked the question, ‘Who owns Shakespeare?’ Two further productions followed: Henry IV in 2014 and The Tempest in 2016, all featuring a diverse company of women. The Trilogy enthralled theatre audiences in London and New York and was shared with women and girls in prisons and schools across the UK. The film versions were shot live in a specially built temporary theatre in King’s Cross in 2016.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

video Julius Caesar (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

Opposing dictatorship and republicanism, private virtue and mob violence, Shakespeare’s tense drama of high politics reveals the emotional currents that flow between men in power.

Featuring: Catherine Bailey, Sam Cox, Patrick Driver, Anthony Howell, George Irving, Joe Jameson, Tom Kanji, Christopher Logan, William Mannering, Tom McKay, Keith Ramsay, Paul Rider, Katy Stephens, Luke Thompson, Dickon Tyrrell.

video Julius Caesar (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Caesar returns from war, all-conquering, but mutiny is rumbling through the corridors of power. Angus Jackson directs Shakespeare’s epic political tragedy, as the race to claim the empire spirals out of control.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

King Lear (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

King Lear is an anguished tragedy of man’s cruelty to man. The play is extremely rich, encompassing every level of society and the extremes of emotion in the human experience. The play is shaken by a radical instability that is political and existential – a vast backdrop to the figure of the mad king, broken by politic flattery and injustice, howling into the wind.

In King Lear, family relations are continually called into question, as the text is concerned with the strength of blood in determining loyalty. The play itself has a corresponding plot and subplot, wherein Lear’s relationship with his three daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia, is mirrored in Gloucester’s relationship with sons Edmund and Edgar.

Critics have commonly focused on the juxtaposition of Edmund, Regan, and Goneril’s valuation of power, property, and inheritance, with Cordelia and Edgar’s familial devotion. The characters assess the importance of family by different means, but they are not immediately ‘greedy’ or ‘moral’, as a result. Moreover, the strain of kinship in the text can be seen as a transition from an old order to a new one; the younger generation is at ideological odds with their elders, explaining their difficulty to connect with one another.

King Lear is thought to have been composed in 1605-6. Two, exceedingly different versions of the play text survive: the Quarto of 1608 and the First Folio of 1623. The choices of the Arden text rely mainly on the Folio, but the editor has also included lines from the Quarto which are not found in the Folio, and has thoughtfully explained such textual variations.

video King Lear (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

Ian Holm stars in the title role of this award-winning film version of Richard Eyre’s National Theatre production of William Shakespeare's King Lear. The cast also includes Timothy West as The Earl of Gloucester, Finbar Lynch as his bastard son, Edmund and Paul Rhys as his legitimate son, Edgar; Barbara Flynn, Amanda Redman and Victoria Hamilton as Lear's daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia; and Michael Bryant as the Fool.

Credits:

Director: Richard Eyre; Writer: William Shakespeare; Writer (Screen): Richard Eyre; Producer: Susan Birtwistle; Music: Dominic Muldowney; Production Design : Bob Crowley; Art Direction: Andrew Sanders; Cast: King Lear: Ian Holm, Edgar: Paul Rhys, Edmund: Finbar Lynch, Gloucester: Timothy West, Kent: David Burke, Goneril: Barbara Flynn, Regan: Amanda Redman, Cordelia: Victoria Hamilton Fool: Michael Bryant, Oswald: William Osborne.

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

video King Lear (Donmar Warehouse / NT)

National Theatre
Type: Video

Age recommendation: 12+

This Donmar Warehouse production was recorded through National Theatre Live on 3rd February, 2011.

An aged king decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters, according to which of them is most eloquent in praising him. His favourite, Cordelia, says nothing. As Lear’s world descends into chaos, all that he once believed is brought into question. One of the greatest works in western literature, King Lear explores the very nature of human existence: love and duty, power and loss, good and evil.

The acclaimed Donmar Warehouse production of Shakespeare’s most harrowing tragedy, starring Sir Derek Jacobi and directed by Tony Award winning Michael Grandage (Red).

CAST
Earl of Kent: Michael Hadley
Earl of Gloucester: Paul Jesson
Edmund: Alec Newman
King Lear: Derek Jacobi
Goneril: Gina McKee
Regan: Justine Mitchell
Cordelia: Pippa Bennett-Warner
Duke of Albany: Tom Beard
Duke of Cornwall: Gideon Turner
Duke of Burgundy: Stefano Braschi
King of France: Ashley Zhangazha
Edgar: Gwilym Lee
Oswald: Amit Shah
The Fool: Ron Cook
Gentleman: Harry Attwell
Old Servant: Derek Hutchinson

CREATIVES
Director: Michael Grandage
Designer: Christopher Oram
Lighting Designer: Neil Austin
Composer and Sound Designer: Adam Cork

video King Lear (Globe on Screen 2)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

King Lear’s tempestuous poetry is shot through with touches of humour and moments of heart-rending simplicity, as the notion of familial love is questioned and torn apart. Best known as Artistic Director of Shared Experience for 22 years and with numerous credits including the RSC and National Theatre, Nancy Meckler brings her charismatic style to the Globe for the first time.

video King Lear (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

King Lear has ruled for many years. As age begins to overtake him, he decides to divide his kingdom amongst his children, living out his days without the burden of power. A proud man, he allows vanity to cloud his judgment, believing that he can relinquish the crown, but enjoy the same authority and respect he has always known. Misjudging his children’s loyalty he soon finds himself stripped of all the trappings of state, wealth and power he had taken for granted. Alone in the wilderness he is left to confront the mistakes of a life that has brought him to this point. Following his performance as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s great 20th century American tragedy Death of a Salesman, Antony Sher returns to play King Lear, one of the greatest parts written by Shakespeare. The production is directed by the RSC’s Artistic Director Gregory Doran.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

King Richard II (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

King Richard II is the first play in Shakespeare’s second tetralogy, the set of four plays whose events are often regarded as the root of the Wars of the Roses. The play teleologically points to the domestic conflict that haunted the country for generations after Richard’s deposition: ‘The blood of English shall manure the ground … this land be called / The field of Golgotha and dead men’s skulls’.

The play relates the events surrounding the dethronement of the inept (but divinely appointed) Richard II by his more able (but illegitimate) cousin Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV. Following the death of his father, John of Gaunt, during his six-year exile abroad, Bolingbroke returns to England to demand the reinstatement of his estates from Richard. Richard, unpopular due to his court favourites, his arrogant belief in his own pre-ordained right to kingship, and his ever-increasing taxes, is losing supporters. Under duress, he eventually hands over his crown to Bolingbroke. Misinterpreting the words of the new king, one of Bolingbroke’s followers kills Richard in his prison cell. With the murder on his conscience, Henry IV vows to undertake a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to clear his troubled soul. Critical discussions of the play often focus on the play’s protagonists and the ambivalence of their characters. Is Richard a tyrant or a martyr? Is Bolingbroke a pious social hero or a self-serving Machiavel?

First performed c. 1595 at the Theatre, the Lord Chamberlain Men’s Shoreditch venue, the play was first titled a ‘tragedie’ in the first quarto of 1597 (Q1), and later a ‘historie’ in the First Folio of 1623 (F). The deposition scene (in this edition, Act 4 Scene 1) was omitted in Q1, not appearing in print until 1608. The final years of the ageing, heirless Elizabeth’s reign were marred by rebellion and uprising. Deposition was a real and present threat: in 1601, supporters of the Earl of Essex, a one-time favourite of Elizabeth’s, paid for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men to put on the play (by this point, a relatively agèd production) less than a week before their doomed rebellion. Post-Restoration, the political clout of the play was still being acknowledged, with Nahum Tate attempting to suppress performances at Drury Lane in 1680. In the twentieth century, the role became a favourite of John Gielgud, who performed it three times over four decades. The effeminacy that has come to be associated with the role came to a peak with Deborah Warner’s 1997 production, which saw Fiona Shaw play an androgynous Richard.

King Richard III (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Richard III is the final play of Shakespeare’s first tetralogy, the culmination of the War of the Roses and the inception of the Tudor dynasty. The play picks up where Henry VI Part 3 left off, with the Lancastrian king dead and the house of York in the ascendant. Richard, the youngest son of York, orders the murder of his middle brother, the Duke of Clarence, and awaits the death of the eldest, King Edward IV; he marries the Lady Anne, the late Prince of Wales’ widow, to seal his power. In his role as Lord Protector to Edward’s young sons, Richard rules as a tyrant and orders the deaths of the two princes as they lie in wait at the Tower of London. Meanwhile, the Lancastrian heir, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, is gaining support in England and France to launch an attack on Richard’s Yorkist army. They come together at the Battle of Bosworth Field, where Richard is killed, and Henry becomes the first Tudor monarch, King Henry II, uniting the houses of York and Lancaster through his marriage to Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter of Edward IV.

The play first appears in the 1597 first Quarto (Q1) as The Tragedy of King Richard the third. Containing, His treacherous Plots against his brother Clarence: the pittiefull murther of his iunocent nephews: his tyrannicall vsuration: with the whole course of his detested life, and most deserued death. While he has been regarded as a medieval Vice, or a Machiavellian devil through and through, the characterization of Richard as a ‘lump of foul deformity’ has come under scrutiny in recent years. Shakespeare’s written sources were all sixteenth-century chronicles or ‘histories’; historians have argued that sources such as Thomas More’s History of King Richard III (1513) present a biased account of disjointed Plantagenet rule in order to emphasise the ‘Tudor myth’ of the harmonious, united reign initiated by Henry VII. By the 1623 First Folio (F), the play is catalogued in the Histories section. F is significantly longer than Q1 (the second longest play in the Folio, after Hamlet), with manifold textual differences; this edition incorporates both, generally deferring to F).

From 1700 until the mid-nineteenth century, the play text used in performance was not Shakespeare’s original, but a revised and abridged version by Colley Cibber, The Tragical History of King Richard III. Twentieth-century performances of Richard ranged from the king as monstrous, bestial caricature (Anthony Sher, 1984) to extreme right-wing dictator (Ian McKellen, 1995 – film based on earlier stage performance).

Laughter!

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Laughter! is a two act play that dramatises the screaming cruelty of Ivan the Terrible – the sixteenth century Russian Tsar – and the anaesthetized bureaucracy which administrated the Nazi concentration camps in the twentieth century.

Act One joins Ivan the Terrible in a torture chamber, raging in devout and deranged anguish as he slowly impales a man on a stake, and kills his own son. Act Two takes place in an administrative building in Berlin, 1942, where office-workers are have received new instructions for the systematic categorisation of deaths. Laughter!’s daring treatment of concentration camps, which involves a music-hall style routine, meant that the play had a troubled reception, but Peter Barnes does more than court controversy, probing the cavity between comedy and tragedy, examining the mechanisms – among them laughter – which dampen atrocity.

Laughter! was first performed in 1978 at the Royal Court Theatre, London.

audio Macbeth

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Infamously known as the cursed Scottish play, Macbeth is perhaps Shakespeare’s darkest tragedy. When General Macbeth is foretold by three witches that he will one day be King of Scotland, Lady Macbeth convinces him to get rid of anyone who could stand in his way – including committing regicide. As Macbeth ascends to the throne through bloody murder, he becomes a tyrant consumed by fear and paranoia.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: James Marsters as Macbeth Joanne Whalley as Lady Macbeth Josh Cooke as Banquo and others JD Cullum as Macduff and Second Murderer Dan Donohue as Ross Jeannie Elias as Second Witch and others Chuma Gault as Lennox and Servant Jon Matthews as Malcolm Alan Shearman as Angus and others André Sogliuzzo as Donalbain, Third Witch and others Kate Steele as Lady Macduff, First Witch and Apparition Kris Tabori as Duncan and others Directed by Martin Jarvis. Sound effects by Tony Palermo. Recorded at the Invisible Studios, West Hollywood.

Featuring: Josh Cooke, JD Cullum, Dan Donohue, Jeannie Elias, Chuma Gault, James Marsters, Jon Matthews, Alan Shearman, André Sogliuzzo, Kate Steele, Kris Tabori, Joanne Whalley

Macbeth (Arden Shakespeare Second Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

‘The Scottish Play’ is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, but its characters are some of the most memorable in his oeuvre: the misguided Macbeth, the ruthless Lady Macbeth and the otherworldly Weird Sisters are recognisable as classic Shakespearean roles. Saturated with blood and despair, the tragedy of Macbeth is a concentrated study of guilt and ambition inflamed by the supernatural. The protagonists’ visceral soliloquies are much prized as revelations of desperate and harrowed psychology, and as Shakespearean reflections on the multifaceted nature of good and evil.

On their return from battle, Macbeth and Banquo encounter three witches, who prophesise both Macbeth’s rise to the Scottish crown, and that of Banquo’s ancestors (including the monarch at Shakespeare’s time of writing, James I and VI of England and Scotland). Lady Macbeth persuades her husband to murder the current king of Scotland, Duncan, and as the dead king’s sons flee the country, Macbeth continues on a murderous and paranoid rampage, removing anyone who threatens his vision of a lengthy rule.

Desperate to know more, Macbeth revisits the witches, who warn him to beware Macduff and tell him that his life will remain unthreatened until Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane. They say that he is safe from any man ‘of woman born’. Meanwhile, Macduff and Malcolm join together in England to raise an army against Macbeth. Their army carries branches from the trees of Birnham wood towards Dunsinane to disguise themselves – thus fulfilling part of the witches’ prophecy. Before the armies meet, Macbeth receives word that Lady Macbeth, having lost her mind, is dead. The armies meet: Macbeth fights with Macduff, discovering in the course of the action that he was delivered by Caesarean section, and is therefore not ‘of woman’. Macduff kills Macbeth, and Malcolm is made king.

Witchcraft was a real and frightening concern in Shakespeare’s England. King James I was himself fascinated by and fearful of witches, and had even published a book, Daemonologie, in 1597, advocating witch-hunts. Criticism of the play has frequently noted, however, that it is not the Weird Sisters who force Macbeth’s hand; they merely prophesise events, and have no physical effect. This leaves us with troubling and unanswerable questions about free will, and how and why good people can be led down dark and evil paths – how ‘Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill.’

Macbeth first appears in the 1623 Folio, though its date of composition is usually agreed at 1606: several plays appear around that date (including Beaumont and Fletcher’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle (1607)) which make reference to and/or parody the appearance of Banquo’s ghost. Simon Forman, a doctor and diarist from Salisbury, records seeing ‘Mackbeth at the Glob’ in 1611. The Folio text is thought to be taken from a prompt book, due to its many stage directions. Shakespeare’s play takes the entries for Duncan, Macbeth and Banquo in Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587) as its source matter, although it plays with these historical narratives to a great extent. Several of the witches’ scenes and songs, and the introduction of the queen of the witches, Hecate, have been credited to another playwright, Thomas Middleton, as they also feature in his later tragicomedy The Witch, produced by the King’s Men in the later 1610s. It is thought that these extracts were inserted around 1618.

video Macbeth (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

When three witches tell Macbeth that he is destined to occupy the throne of Scotland, he and his wife choose to become the instruments of their fate and to kill the first man standing in their path, the virtuous King Duncan. Stage director: Eve Best. Screen director: Sue Judd. Featuring: Samantha Spiro, Joseph Millson, Bette Bourne, Phil Cumbus, Finty Williams, Jess Murphy, Moyo Akande, Cat Simmons, Geoff Aymer, Stuart Bowman, Jonathan Chambers, Gawn Grainger, Harry Hepple, Billy Boyd, Colin Ryan, Marc Borthwick, Ed Pinker.

video Macbeth (NT)

National Theatre
Type: Video

Age recommendation: 12+

A new version by Justin Audibert and the company.

Originally staged as part of the National Theatre’s Shakespeare for younger audiences programme. This archival recording was captured in 2017.

Amid bloody rebellion and the deafening drums of war, Macbeth and his wife will stop at nothing to fulfil their ambition. Witchcraft, murder, treason and treachery are all at play in this murky world.

A bold contemporary retelling of one of Shakespeare’s darkest plays.

CAST
Lady Macbeth: Madeline Appiah
Macbeth: Nana Amoo-Gottfried
Duncan: Ashley Gerlach
Banquo: Kayla Meikle
Malcolm: Ronak Patani
Ross: Sharan Phull
Macduff: Jay Saighal
Lady Macduff: Tripti Tripuraneni

All other characters are played by members of the Company

CREATIVES
Director: Justin Audibert
Adaptor: Justin Audibert and the Company
Designer: Lucy Sierra
Lighting Designer: Paul Knott
Composer and MD: Jonathan Girling
Sound Designer: Mike Winship
Fight Director: Kev McCurdy

video Macbeth (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Filmed live in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in April 2018

“Something wicked this way comes...”

Returning home from battle, the victorious Macbeth meets three witches on the heath. Driven by their disturbing prophecies, he sets out on the path to murder.

This contemporary production of Shakespeare’s darkest psychological thriller marks both Christopher Eccleston’s RSC debut and the return of Niamh Cusack to the Company.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

CAST
Duncan / Scottish Force: David Acton
Security Guard / Aide / Murderer / Young Siward / Lord: Afolabi Alli
Donalbain / Aide / Lade: Donna Banya
Bloody Captain / Murderer / Scottish Force: Stevie Basaula
Macduff: Edward Bennett
Doctor / Lady: Katy Brittain
Aide / English Force: Raif Clarke
Lady Macbeth: Niamh Cusack
Chamberlain / Siward: Paul Dodds
Macbeth: Christopher Eccleston
Aide: Josh Finan
Ross: Bally Gill
Lady Macduff / Lady / Scottish Force: Mariam Haque
Witch: Eve Hatz
Witch: Lauren Heaps
Witch: Elizabeth Kaleniuk
Witch: Aleksandra Penlington
Witch: Phoebe Stephens
Witch: Abigail Walter
Porter: Michael Hodgson
Murderer / Chamberlain / Scottish Force: John Macaulay
Fleance: Hector Magraw
Malcolm: Luke Newbery
Lennox: Tim SamuelsBanquo / English Force: Raphael Sowole
Young Macduff: Joshua Vaughan

CREATIVES
Stage Director: Polly Findlay
Designer: Fly Davis
Incidental Music: Rupert Cross
TV Director: Robin Lough

video Medea (NT)

National Theatre
Type: Video

Age recommendation: 12+

This production was recorded through National Theatre Live on 4th September, 2014.

Terrible things breed in broken hearts. Medea is a wife and a mother, stricken with grief. For the sake of her husband, Jason, she’s left her home and borne two sons in exile. But when he abandons his family for a new life, Medea faces banishment and separation from her children. Cornered, she begs for one day’s grace.

It’s time enough. She exacts an appalling revenge and destroys everything she holds dear.

Helen McCrory takes the title role in Euripides’ powerful tragedy, in a new version by Ben Power, directed by Carrie Cracknell, with music written by Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp.

CAST
Nurse: Michaela Coel
Medea: Helen McCrory
Aegeus, King of Athens: Dominic Rowan
Jason: Danny Sapani
Kreusa: Clemmie Sveaas
Kreon, King of Corinth: Martin Turner
Jason’s Attendant: Toby Wharton
Medea’s son: T’Jai Adu-Xeboah
Medea’s son: Ricco Godfrey Brown
Medea’s son: Trevor Imani
Medea’s son: Kyron Wilson
Medea’s son: Joel McDermott
Medea’s son: Jude Pearce
Chorus: Lorna Brown
Chorus: Vivien Carter
Chorus: Amy Griffiths
Chorus: Hazel Holder
Chorus: Jane Leaney
Chorus: Caroline Martin
Chorus: Daisy Maywood
Chorus: Yuyu Rau
Chorus: Petra Söör
Chorus: Naomi Tadevossian
Chorus: Cath Whitefield
Chorus: Jane Wymark
Chorus: Clemmie Sveaas
Ensemble: Simon Desborough
Ensemble: Adrian Grove

CREATIVES
Director: Carrie Cracknell
Adaptor/Writer: Ben Power
Designer: Tom Scutt
Lighting Designer: Lucy Carter
Choreographer: Lucy Guerin
Music: Will Gregory
Music: Alison Goldfrapp
Sound Designer: Gregory Clarke
Fight Director: Owain Gwynn

Medea (trans. Power)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Medea is a wife and a mother. For the sake of her husband, Jason, she's left her home and borne two sons in exile. But when he abandons his family for a new life, Medea faces banishment and separation from her children. Cornered, she begs for one day's grace. It's time enough. She exacts an appalling revenge and destroys everything she holds dear.

Medea is a wife and a mother. For the sake of her husband, Jason, she's left her home and borne two sons in exile. But when he abandons his family for a new life, Medea faces banishment and separation from her children. Cornered, she begs for one day's grace. It's time enough. She exacts an appalling revenge and destroys everything she holds dear.

Ben Power's version of Euripides' tragedy Medea premiered at the National Theatre, London, in July 2014.

Miss Julie (trans. Eldridge)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A conflict of sexual passion and social position that is jagged and gripping. Miss Julie is shocking in subject-matter, revolutionary in technique, and was fiercely attacked on publication for immorality.

It is Midsummer in Sweden and Miss Julie, the Count’s daughter, appears in the kitchen, confronting her father’s valet Jean. The restless and electric exchanges between them are a snarl of seduction and contempt, their unseen sexual transgression undoing the restrictions of servility and hierarchy. Strindberg writes with disdain of a woman deformed by her belief that she is equal to man, but Miss Julie emerges as a compellingly mercurial character, tense and hysterical and tragic.

Written in a fortnight and often regarded as Strindberg's masterpiece, the play's premiere at Strindberg's experimental theatre in Denmark in 1889 was banned by the censor and its first public production three years later in Berlin aroused such protests that it was withdrawn after one performance. David Eldridge’s contemporary and faithful translation was first performed in 2012 at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

audio Oedipus the King

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

One of the first and greatest of all Greek tragedies, Harry Lennix stars as Oedipus, the king who unwittingly kills his father and marries his mother.

Includes a Q & A session with translator and director Nicholas Rudall. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Spencer Garrett as Shepard and Chorus Francis Guinan as Messenger and Chorus Gregory Itzin as Creon and Chorus Charles Kimbrough as Priest Of Zeus and Chorus Harry J. Lennix as Oedipus Rod Mclachlan as Second Messenger and Chorus Carolyn Seymour as Jocasta W. Morgan Sheppard as Tiresias Translated and directed by Nicholas Rudall. Recorded before a live audience at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

Featuring: Francis Guinan, Charles Kimbrough, Harry J. Lennix, Spencer Garrett, Rod McLachlan, Carolyn Seymour, W. Morgan Sheppard

Olly's Prison

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Edward Bond's Olly’s Prison is a hard and painful vision of a selfish and disconnected society from which is it impossible to escape.

An ordinary city flat. Evening. A man, Mike, tries to talk to his daughter, tries to get her to drink the cup of tea he has made. She will not answer, or drink it, or even move. And suddenly their world turns to tragedy. Many of the scenes are set in prison, as Mike is incarcerated for his crime, but it seems the greater and more profound prison is outside. While incarcerated, Mike is denied suicide; when released, he is denied freedom. Written in Bond’s harsh, powerful style, Olly’s Prison is a bleak condemnation of society’s helpless inhumanity.

Olly’s Prison was first broadcast by BBC TV in 1993, and has been adapted for the stage.

Olly's Prison – Stage Version

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Edward Bond's Olly’s Prison is a hard and painful vision of a selfish and disconnected society from which is it impossible to escape.

An ordinary city flat. Evening. A man, Mike, tries to talk to his daughter, tries to get her to drink the cup of tea he has made. She will not answer, or drink it, or even move. And suddenly their world turns to tragedy. Many of the scenes are set in prison, as Mike is incarcerated for his crime, but it seems the greater and more profound prison is outside. While incarcerated, Mike is denied suicide; when released, he is denied freedom. Written in Bond’s harsh, powerful style, Olly’s Prison is a bleak condemnation of society’s helpless inhumanity.

This is a stage adaptation by Edward Bond of his screenplay of the same name, first broadcast by the BBC in 1993.

Orestes

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

'Orestes is a vicious play, filled with vicious characters, interested almost exclusively in themselves. Helen is shallow, Menelaos a backslider, Pylades, who does no more than haunt the fringes of most versions of the story, took a full part in the murder of Klytemnestra and is prime mover in the plan to kill Helen. Elektra sets up the taking of Hermione as a hostage. The only redeeming character is Tyndareus arguing that, if Orestes and Elektra had a grievance against Aigisthos and Klytemnestra, they should have invoked a perfectly good legal system. The decision of Apollo ex machina that he will sort everything out is the clearest evidence that Euripides' use of the device is ironic'.

Thus does editor J. Michael Walton describe Orestes, one of Euripides' later plays. In a story of murder, passion and vengeance, Orestes, having murdered his mother, the unfaithful Klytemnestra, now vows a plot of revenge against his uncle Menelaos, who has refused to offer moral support for the vengeful matricide carried out by Orestes and his sister Elektra. With blood already on their hands, they plot to murder Helen, Menelaos' wife, and Hermione, his daughter, in a near-unstoppable cycle of vengeance and bloodshed.

Orestes: Blood and Light

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Helen Edmundson’s Orestes is a drama about avenging siblings, exploring the tragedy of human relationships set against the backdrop of war. It is based on Euripides’ Electra. Orestes was first performed by Shared Experience at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, on 14 September 2006.

Orestes and his sister, Electra, were banished as children after witnessing the brutal murder of their father, King Agamemnon, at the hands of their mother, Klytemnestra. Years later, they have avenged their father’s death with matricide and now the city must vote to determine their future as they stand trial for her murder. Inflamed by the situation of war, the city stands divided over their sentence. Some say the killing should be met with banishment and that the cycle of revenge must be stopped. But others are baying for their blood.

In her foreword to the published edition of the play, Edmundson writes 'I have played fast and loose with the conventions of Greek theatre and with Euripides’ version of the story. I have abandoned the Chorus (who is not active or influential in the Euripides) in favour of the more subtle witness of the Slave. I have cut the character of Pylades to allow Electra her full role in the story and to allow myself to explore the extremities of her relationship with her brother. I have given Helen an intelligent, probing mind and allowed her and Klytemnestra some defence. I have chosen not to emulate the verse structure and metres of Euripides’ text, but to try to create a rhythmic, heightened language of my own.'

The play's full title in the published edition is Orestes: Blood and Light.

The Shared Experience production was directed by Nancy Meckler and designed by Niki Turner, with Tim Chipping as Menelaos, Jeffery Kissoon as Tyndareos, Mairead McKinley as Electra, Clara Onyemere as Helen, Claire Prempeh as the Slave and Alex Robertson as Orestes. The production subsequently toured to Dublin Theatre Festival, Warwick Arts Centre, The Lowry in Salford, Liverpool Playhouse, Oxford Playhouse and the Tricycle Theatre, London.

Othello (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Quite apart from the brilliance of its language and characters, Othello is remarkable amongst other early modern plays for its inversion of traditional, racially-defined roles in tragedy – the black man, Othello, becomes the hero, whereas the white man, Iago, is the obvious villain. Although ‘black’ characters were common on the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage, a black hero was unique.

More recent criticism has also expanded this discussion by considering Othello’s identity not just as a Moor, but as a Muslim. In doing so, it allows modern readers to examine the larger question of ‘otherness’ in relation to race, religion, and culture. Othello is now studied as part of a wider tradition of ‘Turk plays’, which also include Philip Massinger’s The Renegado and Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine. This critical lens allows scholars to expand their understanding of the relationships between early modern European countries and the Ottoman Empire.

Despite the tendency of modern audiences to focus on the racial element, however, Othello is only partially about race. It is also a deeply moving and tragic depictions of the consequences of passion and the effects of jealousy. The insidious Iago has become the archetypal agent provocateur, and the shocking final scene is one of Shakespeare’s greatest.

The Arden edition prefers to date the play to late 1601-1602, (it is traditionally dated to 1603–4). Two early texts of Othello survive – a Quarto from 1622 and the text in the First Folio of 1623. This edition preferences the Quarto text, but in instances of textual cruxes, the editor has produced a carefully thought-out meditation between the two texts.

video Othello (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

With its racing concentrated plot and intense dramatic details, Othello is one of Shakespeare's most exciting, atmospheric and heartbreaking plays. By introducing to early 17th-century England a black character as complex as Othello, it is also one of his most extraordinary imaginative achievements. Stage director: Wilson Milam. Screen director: Derek Bailey. Featuring: Eamonn Walker, Nick Barber, Tim McInnerny, Sam Crane, Johnathan Newth, Nigel Hastings, Dickon Tyrrell, Micael O'Hagan, Paul Lloyd, Zoe Tapper, Lorraine Burroughs, Zawe Ashton, Micael Taibi, Che Walker, Anthony Bailey, Gabby Wong, Fanos Xenofos, John Stahl.

video Othello (NT)

National Theatre
Type: Video

Age recommendation: 12+

This production was recorded through National Theatre Live on 26th September, 2013.

Othello, newly married to Desdemona – who is half his age – is appointed leader of a major military operation. Iago, passed over for promotion by Othello in favour of the young Cassio, persuades Othello that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair.

This acclaimed production of William Shakespeare’s play about the destructive power of jealousy was nominated for Best Revival at the 2013 Olivier Awards. Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear jointly won the Evening Standard Best Actor Award for their performances in the iconic roles of Othello and Iago.

CAST
Roderigo: Tom Robertson
Iago: Rory Kinnear
Brabantio: William Chubb
Othello: Adrian Lester
Cassio: Jonathan Bailey
The Duke of Venice: Robert Demeger
Lodovico: Nick Sampson
Senator: Joseph Wilkins
Official: Rebecca Tanwen
Official: David Carr
Desdemona: Olivia Vinall
Montano: Chook Sibtain
Soldier: Sandy Batchelor
Soldier: Gabriel Fleary
Officer: Scott Karim
Emilia: Lyndsey Marshal
Bianca: Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi
Gratiano: Jonathan Dryden Taylor
Soldier: Adam Berry
Soldier: David Kirkbride
Soldier: Tom Radford

CREATIVES
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Designer: Vicki Mortimer
Music: Nick Powell
Lighting Designer: Jon Clark
Sound Designer: Gareth Fry
Fight Director: Kate Waters

video Othello (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Othello is the greatest general of his age. A fearsome warrior, loving husband and revered defender of Venice against its enemies. But he is also an outsider whose victories have created enemies of his own, men driven by prejudice and jealousy to destroy him. As they plot in the shadows, Othello realises too late that the greatest danger lies not in the hatred of others, but his own fragile and destructive pride. Iqbal Khan’s ground-breaking production of Othello was the first RSC production to cast a black actor, Lucian Msamati, as Iago. RSC Associate Artist, Hugh Quarshie, returned to the Company to play the title role with Joanna Vanderham at Desdemona and Ayesha Dharker as Emilia.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

Phedra

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jean Racine's Phedra (originally Phèdre et Hippolyte) is a five-act tragedy written in alexandrine verse, first performed on 1 January 1677 at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, home of the royal troupe of actors in Paris.

This translation by Julie Rose was published in 2001 by Nick Hern Books in its Drama Classics series.

Racine derived the subject of his play – the story of Phedra's illicit love for her stepson Hippolytus, the son of Theseus – from Greek mythology, principally from Euripides' tragedy Hippolytus and Seneca's Phaedra.

Consumed by an uncontrollable passion for her young stepson and believing Theseus, her absent husband, to be dead, Phedra confesses her darkest desires and enters the world of nightmare. When Theseus returns, alive and well, Phedra, fearing exposure, accuses her stepson of rape. Heartbroken and overcome, Theseus banishes Hippolytus and asks the god Neptune to avenge him by his son's death. When Hippolytus is reported dead, Phedra poisons herself; before dying, she confesses the truth to Theseus.

audio Romeo and Juliet

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

The most iconic love story of all time, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is an epic-scale tragedy of desire and revenge. Despite the bitter rivalry that exists between their families, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet have fallen madly in love. But when the long-running rivalry boils over into murder, the young couple must embark on a dangerous and deadly mission to preserve their love at any cost.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Calista Flockhart as Juliet Matthew Wolf as Romeo Julie White as Nurse Alan Mandell as Friar Laurence Richard Chamberlain as Prince Escalus Nicholas Hormann as Lord Capulet Josh Stamberg as Mercutio Mark J. Sullivan as Benvolio and others Logan Fahey as Tybalt and Balthasar Alfred Molina as Chorus Henry Clarke as Paris and others Lily Knight as Lady Capulet Janine Barris as Young Lady, Boy Page to Paris and others Darren Richardson as Sampson and Peter Alan Shearman as Lord Montague and others André Sogliuzzo as Gregory and others Sarah Zimmerman as Lady Montague and others Directed by Martin Jarvis. Recorded at the Invisible Studios, West Hollywood in January, 2012.

Featuring: Janine Barris, Richard Chamberlain, Henry Clarke, Logan Fahey, Calista Flockhart, Nicholas Hormann, Lily Knight, Alan Mandell, Alfred Molina, Darren Richardson, Alan Shearman, Andre Sogliuzzo, Josh Stamberg, Mark J. Sullivan, Julie White, Matthew Wolf, Sarah Zimmerman

Romeo and Juliet (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Unsurpassed and unforgettable, Shakespeare’s tragedy about star-crossed lovers is one of his most frequently performed plays. On first read, Romeo and Juliet is particularly interesting in its subversion of comedic plot devices for tragic ends. Recent criticism has also focused on issues of gender roles and sexuality within the play. Its most enduring features, however, are the brilliance of its incandescent language, and its hauntingly familiar depiction of young love.

The prologue sets out the scheme of the tragedy: in the city of Verona live two families locked in an ancient feud, the Montagues and the Capulets. Juliet, a daughter of the Capulets, is engaged to marry Paris, while Romeo, a Montague, is mooning over his own unrequited love affair. The instant their eyes meet at a party, however, both of their lives are forever changed.

The play is also distinguished by the excellence of its supporting characters. Juliet’s Nurse is an outstanding comedic character whose dialogue is rife with puns and sexual innuendo. Romeo’s friend Mercutio delivers the famous ‘Queen Mab’ speech, and ultimately dies in a spectacular duel sequence.

Romeo and Juliet was first performed at the Curtain in 1596-7. The First Quarto was printed in 1597, and the longer Second Quarto in 1599. This was reprinted in 1609, and followed by the Fourth Quarto in 1622, which was the basis for the Folio text. This text is based on the Second Quarto.

video Romeo and Juliet (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

A violent street brawl between their rival families is the prelude to Romeo’s first encounter with Juliet. Despite this, and the fact that Juliet has been promised to another man in marriage, they fall in love. Stage director: Dominic Dromgoole. Screen director: Kriss Russman. Featuring: Holly Atkins, Philip Cumbus, Adetomiwa Edun, Jack Farthing, Ellie Kendrick, James Lailey, Penny Layden, Fergal McElherron, Michael O'Hagan, Rawiri Paratene, Ukweli Roach, Ian Redford, Tom Stuart, Graham Vick, Andrew Vincent, Miranda Foster.

Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad  

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Commissioned by the World Shakespeare Festival, the play uses Shakespeare to comment on contemporary political and social concerns. The feuding families are clearly Shiite and Sunni and the play is full of contemporary references. Paris becomes a clownish Al-Qaeda member wearing an explosive vest, an American general makes a brief apperance and the rattle of machine guns is frequently heard offstage.  

video Romeo and Juliet (NT)

National Theatre
Type: Video

Age recommendation: 8+

A new version for younger audiences by Bijan Sheibani and Ben Power.

Originally staged as part of the National Theatre’s Shakespeare for younger audiences programme. This archival recording was captured in 2017.

This contemporary production sees a company of eight tell the most famous love story of all time, set against a vivid urban backdrop bursting with excitement, colour, dance and song.

A swift, contemporary celebration of Shakespeare’s masterpiece, Bijan Sheibani’s thrilling production brings Romeo and Juliet to life for a new generation.

CAST
Mercutio: Ashley Gerlach
Tybalt: Madeline Appiah
Romeo: Nana Amoo-Gottfried
Sister Lawrence: Kayla Meikle
Prince: Ronak Patani
Juliet: Sharan Phull
Capulet: Jay Saighal
Nurse: Tripti Tripuraneni
Paris: Ronak Patani
Mrs Montague: Madeline Appiah

All other characters are played by members of the Company

CREATIVES
Director: Bijan Sheibani
Adaptor: Ben Power
Adaptor: Bijan Sheibani
Original Design: Becs Andrews
Composer: Soumik Datta
Music Director: Joel Fram
Movement Director: Aline David
Lighting Designer: Paul Knott
Sound Designer: Mike Winship

video Romeo and Juliet (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Filmed live at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in July 2018

“My only love sprung from my only hate!”

What if your first true love was someone you’d been told to hate? Ripped apart by the bitter division of their parents, two young people will risk everything to be together.

The most famous story of love at first sight explodes with intense passion and an irresistible desire for change. Will this spark a revolution, or will division continue to tear through the generations?

For teacher resources, visit this page.

CAST
Sampson: Stevie Basaula
Gregory: Donna Banya
Tybalt: Raphael Sowole
Capulet: Michael Hodgson
Lady Capulet: Mariam Haque
Peter: Raid Clarke
Nurse: Ishia Bennison
Juliet: Karen Fishwick
Cousin Capulet: John Macaulay
Abraham: Nima Taleghani
Balthasar: Tom Padley
Benvolio: Josh Finan
Lady Montague: Sakuntala Ramanee
Montague: Paul Dodds
Romeo: Bally Gill
Escalus: Beth Cordingly
Paris: Afolabi Alli
Mercutio: Charlotte Josephine
Sister John / Apothecary: Andrew French

CREATIVES
Stage Director: Erica Whyman
Designer: Tom Piper
Incidental Music: Sophie Cotton
TV Director: Bridget Caldwell

The Ruling Class

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Ruling Class is a witty, double-edged and idiosyncratic satire in which a man diagnosed with paranoid-schizophrenia inherits a peerage.

After the 13th Earl of Gurney’s morbid nightly indulgence turns into an accidental suicide, the title and estate passes to his son Jack, who has until hitherto been living in a psychiatric institution. He brings with him a belief in divine love, a penchant for sleeping upright on a cross and the conviction that he is the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. His family’s attempts first to manipulate and then to cure him result in the transformation of his ebullient and loquacious delusions into a far more sinister personality. The play is a unique collision of wit, pathos, melodrama, cynicism and horror, creating an iconoclastic and mesmeric theatre.

The Ruling Class was first presented at the Nottingham Playhouse in 1968.

audio Salome

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

A dark tale of hubris, lust, and self-destruction … as told by a man who famously fell prey to those same impulses in his own life. Oscar Wilde wrote his original interpretation of the Biblical story of Salomé in French, and the play was so controversial that no theatre in England would produce it for nearly four decades.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast production starring:

Rosalind Ayres as Herodias

James Marsters as Iokanaan

Andre Sogliuzzo as The Young Syrian and others

Kate Steele as Salomé

John Vickery as Herod

Matthew Wolf as Page of Herodias and others

(DIGITAL ONLY: Director Michael Hackett and Wilde scholar Dr. David Rodes discuss Salomé’s history and where it fits stylistically in Wilde’s canon.)

Music by Djivan Gasparyan and Lian Ensemble. Directed by Michael Hackett. Recorded by L.A. Theatre Works before a live audience.

Featuring: Rosalind Ayres, James Marsters, Andre Sogliuzzo, Kate Steele, John Vickery, Matthew Wolf

Salomé

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Salomé is a short, but bewitching tragedy based on the biblical story of King Herod in the New Testament. Telling a tale of lustful desire and power, the language of the play is saturated and verbose, and the imagery, decadent and lush. The sequences of seduction and passion are consistently offset by the grotesque, most evident in the sudden suicide of the Young Syrian, and the presentation of Jokanaan’s severed head on a silver shield. Overall, the play represents the aestheticism of Symbolist drama, while also critiquing the literary movement in its jarring turn of events. It mixes the physicality of human experience with the voice of prophetic transcendence, elevating the artistry of the drama while allowing it to remain accessible to realists.

Wilde wrote Salomé in French in 1891 while residing in Paris, where it also debuted in early 1896. It was later adapted into an operatic version by Richard Strauss, which was enormously successful in Germany. The play was translated into English in 1894; despite the Lord Chamberlain’s ban dating from the Reformation that forbade the representation of biblical characters onstage, it was given five private performances in London between the years of 1905 and 1931. Besides being performed fairly extensively in recent times, Salomé has inspired a multitude of contemporary plays, songs, and films.

Sea Wall

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Sea Wall is a delicate monologue, completely devastating and beautifully powerful.

Alex’s story, spoken directly to the audience, begins full of clear light and smiles, as he speaks about his wife, visiting her father in the South of France, having a daughter, photography, and the bottom of the sea. His tone is natural, happy and engaging, with flickers of questions about belief and religion glimpsed under the surface. But his contentment falls away into deep and heart-breaking grief, crumbling to pieces with a vividness that is incredibly moving.

Sea Wall was first performed in 2008 at the Bush Theatre, London.

audio Shakespeare's Greatest Hits

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Shakespeare's Greatest Hits contains some of the most memorable scenes from 13 of the Bard’s greatest plays, including Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello and many more. Intertwined with the greatest hits of music, this highly engaging introduction to William Shakespeare is performed by the famous Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Peter Aylward, Johnny Lee Davenport, Henry Godinez, Kevin Gudahl, Susan Hart, Amy Irving, Linda Kimbrough and Ross Lehman.

Featuring: Peter Aylward, Johnny Lee Davenport, Henry Godinez, Kevin Gudahl, Susan Hart, Amy Irving, Linda Kimbrough, Ross Lehman

A tragedy is a serious play with an unhappy ending. The word is often said to mean ‘goatsong’ (Greek: tragos, goat; ode, song), although modern etymologists have disputed this. It was Aristotle who provided the classic definition of tragedy, stating (in his Poetics) that tragedy should move one “by pity and terror” at the fall of a great person: the plot ought to be so constructed that, even without the aid of the eye, he who hears the tale told will thrill with horror and melt to pity at what takes place.

The genre developed in ancient Greece, where tragedies were expected to follow a fairly strict form. Tragic protagonists were drawn only from deities, royalty, and the upper classes, and their inevitable suffering and downfall was brought about by a combination of fate and their own hubris. The three great authors of classical tragedy were Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, all of whom wrote in the 5th century BC. The rules of classical tragedy were rediscovered at the Renaissance, as were many of the Greek and Roman texts. The gory tragedies of the Roman Seneca proved particularly influential on the playwrights of the time.

Typically, the tragedies of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras combined violent and sensational action with acute psychological insight and intense poetry. The great tragedies of Shakespeare are usually considered the pinnacle of world drama. In the 17th century the Frenchmen Corneille and Racine led a return to the stricter Greek forms of tragedy. Thereafter the tradition of serious tragic writing declined, being largely displaced by sentiment and melodrama.

It did not revive until the late 19th century, when such writers as Ibsen, Strindberg, and Chekhov managed to combine the sombre themes and moral seriousness of tragedy with a realistic depiction of contemporary life. Perhaps the only modern writer to attempt the classic tragic form was the US dramatist Eugene O’Neill.

from Jonathan Law ed., The Methuen Drama Dictionary of the Theatre (London, 2011)