Helena loves the arrogant Bertram, and when she cures the King of France of his sickness, she claims Bertram as her reward. But her brand-new husband, flying from Helena to join the wars, attaches two obstructive conditions to their marriage – conditions he is sure will never be met Stage director: John Dove. Screen director: Robin Lough. Featuring: Michael Bertenshaw, Sam Cox, Sam Crane, Naomi Cranston, John Cummins, Janie Dee, Ben Deery, Mary Doherty, Sophie Duval, Will Featherstone, James Garnon, Peter Hamilton Dyer, Colin Hurley, Ellie Piercy, Laura Darrall, Nicholas Delvalle, Luke McConnell.
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.
In the Forest of Arden where the cross-dressed Rosalind meets her lover Orlando, folklore meets with classical ideals, the pastoral with ribaldry, and love poetry with parody and satire. As You Like It plays witty games with gender roles, and the nature of liberty and love.
As You Like It was probably written at the end of 1598, and perhaps first performed in 1599. This text is based on the Folio, where it was first printed.
Duke Fredrick has usurped his older brother Duke Senior and banished him to the Forest of Arden, where he lives with the faithful members of the court. He has left behind is his daughter Rosalind who is close friends with her cousin Celia, the daughter of Duke Fredrick. The changeable Fredrick banishes Rosalind from his court; Celia accompanies her into the forest, along with the clown Touchstone. Meanwhile Orlando, who Rosalind favours after seeing him wrestle, flees to the forest with his servant Adam after hearing his oldest brother Oliver plots to kill him.
Rosalind disguises herself as a young man called Ganymede, and Celia as ‘Aliena’, while Orlando joins the banished Duke and his men, who include the melancholy Jacques. In the guise of Ganymede, Rosalind meets Orlando and gives him lessons in wooing and women, pretending to be ‘Rosalind’ and receiving his mock-courtship. Secondary romance plots involve the rustic Silvius and Phoebe, and Audrey and Touchstone. When Oliver arrives in the forest too, Rosalind arranges several marriages and the dukedom is restored.
In her introduction to the current edition, Juliet Dusinberre writes ‘As You Like It, with its cross-dressed heroine, gender games and explorations of sexual ambivalence, its Forest of Arden and melancholy Jaques, speaks directly to the twenty-first century. Although the play is rooted in Elizabethan culture – literary, social, political, aesthetic – Shakespeare has placed a prophetic finger on the pulse of the future. Amongst the myths of classical pastoral and of the biblical Garden of Eden are a group of displaced persons fleeing family disruption and political corruption. In raising profound questions about the nature of liverty, renewal and regeneration posed by the new environment of the Forest, Shakespeare has created a comedy of extraordinary flexibility and depth.’
As You Like It runs the glorious gamut of pastoral romance: cross-dressing and love-notes; poetry and brilliant conversation; gentle satire, slapstick and passion Stage director: Thea Sharrock. Screen director: Kriss Russman. Featuring: Michael Benz, Philip Bird, Naomi Frederick, Peter Gale, Brendan Hughes, Sean Kearns, Jack Laskey, Trevor Martin, Tim McMullan, Jamie Parker, Laura Rogers, Dominic Rowan, Ewart James Walters, Sophie Duval, Jade Williams, Gregory Gudgeon.
In 17th Century Sicily, a clever valet named Mascarille tries to help his boss Lélie win the girl of his dreams -- only to find that Lélie is a monumental dunce who ruins every one of his intricate schemes. Undaunted, Mascarille invents progressively wilder plots, only to see his best-laid plans go very awry in Molière's The Bungler. Translated by Richard Wilbur.
An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Richard Easton as Mascarille Adam Godley as Lelie Alan Mandell as Trufaldin Dakin Matthews as Ergaste Christopher Neame as Pandolphe Paula Jane Newman as Celie Darren Richardson as Andres John Sloan as Léandre Norman Snow as Anselme Kate Steele as Hippolyte. This recording contains an interview with Mechele Leon, Associate Professor of Classical and Contemporary French Theatre at the University of Kansas. Directed by Dakin Matthews. Recorded at The Invisible Studios, West Hollywood.
Featuring: Richard Easton, Adam Godley, Alan Mandell, Dakin Matthews, Christopher Neame, Paula Jane Newman, Darren Richardson, John Sloan, Norman Snow, Kate Steele
A Chaste Maid in Cheapside is Middleton’s masterpiece of Jacobean city comedy, rich in irony and wordplay. Middleton welds together the themes of corruption, money and sex into a complex whole, in which comedy is mingled with disgust.
Moll Yellowhammer is in love with Touchwood Junior, but her avaricious parents have betrothed her to the rich knight Sir Walter Whorehound, just as they have set up their son Tim to marry a rich Welsh heiress. Sir Walter is conducting an open affair with Mrs Allwit, while her happily cuckolded husband congratulates himself on finding an adulterer to support his household. Meanwhile, Sir Oliver Kix and his wife hope to get their hands on some of Sir Walter’s property, but Lady Kix has been unable to conceive, so they employ the ceaselessly fertile Touchwood Senior (the brother of Moll’s lover) to make Lady Kix pregnant any way possible.
The play signals its ironic nature even in the humorously ironic title: Cheapside maids were not noted for their chastity. London’s busiest commercial area is shown to be a crucible of mercantile greed, where money is more important than either happiness or honour, the most coveted commodities to be bought with it are sex and social prestige, and even true lovers must trick their way to marriage.
The play was probably first performed in 1613 at the Swan theatre, possibly by the Lady Elizabeth’s Men and the Queen’s Revels together.
Basing his plot on a farce by Plautus, Shakespeare caps the mayhem of his Roman original to build up a hectic tale of violent cross-purposes, furious slapstick and social nightmare. Stage Director: Blanche McIntyre; Screen Director: Ross MacGibbon. Featuring: Hattie Ladbury, Simon Harrison, Stefan Adegbola, Andy Apollo, Paul Brendan, Linda Broughton, Gershwyn Eustache Jr, Becci Gemmell, Peter Hamilton Dyer, Emma Jerrold, James Laurenson, Matthew Needham, Anne Odeke, Brodie Ross, Jamie Wilkes.
The Coronation of Poppea, freely adapted from the libretto by Giovanni Francesco Busenello for L'incoronazione di Poppea by Claudio Monteverdi, depicts the triumphant adultery between Poppea and the Roman emperor Nero. Ravenhill updates Tacitus’s scathing portrayal of imperial degeneracy with language which is contemporary, spare and brutally powerful.
This version of the The Coronation of Poppea opened at the King’s Head theatre, Islington, in April 2011, in a production directed by the author.
The intricate plot of Cymbeline folds comic, romantic, tragic and historical modes into a bittersweet and experimental play. Though listed under the ‘Tragedies’ in its first appearance in the 1623 First Folio, the play’s diverse elements of murderous jealousy, Roman invasion, dark schemes of sexual assault, female transvestism, passionate love, court, country and fairy-tale are all harmoniously and peacefully reconciled in marriage. Thought to have been written around 1608-10, the playgoing doctor Simon Forman noted seeing the play at the Globe in April 1611. Some critics have wondered if Cymbeline, as other late Shakespeare plays, could be a collaboration; the play’s similarity to Beaumont and Fletcher’s Philaster (c.1608-10) has led to debate as to which may have borrowed from which. Sources for Cymbeline include Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae (c.1136), Boccaccio’s Decameron (1353), Holinshed’s Chronicles (1577-87), and the anonymous romantic drama The Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune (1582).
Cymbeline, King of Britain is furious with his daughter Imogen for marrying Posthumus, because he wanted to marry her step-brother Cloten (son of Cymbeline’s second wife, the Queen). Posthumus is banished. In Rome, he meets Iachimo, who wagers that he will be able to sleep with Imogen.
Iachimo, failing to seduce Imogen, hides in a chest and is carried into her bedchamber. Once she is asleep he steals a bracelet given to her by Posthumus. Back in Rome, this convinces Posthumus of Imogen’s infidelity.
Cymbeline refuses to pay the tribute due to Augustus Caesar, and the Roman ambassador Lucius promises war. Posthumus writes to his servant Pisanio instructing him to kill Imogen; instead Pisanio advises Imogen to dress as a man and accompany Lucius to Rome. She goes as ‘Fidele’ to Milford-Haven to meet the departing Lucius. Cloten, believing that Posthumus will also be at Milford-Haven, wears Posthumus’ clothes and follows Imogen there. He intends to kill her husband and rape her.
On her way ‘Fidele’ meets Belarius and his two sons Guiderius and Arviragus – who are actually Cymbeline’s sons, stolen away in their infancy. Cloten arrives and Guiderius kills him.
‘Fidele’ is ill, and drinks a potion given to her by Pisanio, thinking it is a remedy. The Queen thought it was poison and intended it for Posthumus, but the potion creates the only the appearance of death. Her brothers, believing ‘Fidele’ to be dead, place her next to Cloten’s body - still in Posthumus’ clothes. Imogen wakes to what appears to be her husband’s headless corpse. She is found by Lucius and taken into his service.
The returned Posthumus, disguised as a peasant, fights against the Roman invaders. Belarius, Guiderius and Arviragus also fight, saving Cymbeline. Posthumus re-disguises as a Roman, hoping for death; in prison he has an apparition of ghosts and Jupiter. The characters gather in front of Cymbeline. The Queen has died and her trick with the poison is exposed, as is Iachimo’s deception. Posthumus and Imogen are reunited, the identity of Belarius and Cymbeline’s sons is revealed, and Cymbeline makes peace with Rome.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Death summons a man to the reckoning of his life, and his journey towards judgement makes up the matter of one of the best surviving examples of morality plays. Everyman, the central character of the play, is not a person but a place-holder representing all of mankind.
As he converses with Knowledge, Good Deeds, Beauty and Goods, striving to secure a favourable account of his time on earth in order to reach everlasting life, a dramatic allegory is woven about the brevity of life and the necessity of living it well. The play is exceptional in its genre for this narrow focus on the last phase of life, and conveys its message with awe-inspiring seriousness.
The play is poised between the late medieval and early modern eras, recalling the medieval Biblical mystery cycles while anticipating the early modern period’s focus on the individual. It is uncertain whether the original text was ever performed in its time, as it may have been read as a religious treatise. However, a hugely popular revival at the beginning of the 20th century led to many more recent productions, often with a woman in the title role, proving that the play’s themes of mortality and spiritual pilgrimage have retained their power and resonance across the centuries.
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
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'.
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.
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’.
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.
In 1978, the BBC set itself the task of filming all of William Shakespeare's plays for television. The resulting productions, renowned for their loyalty to the text, utilised the best theatrical and television directors and brought highly praised performances from leading contemporary actors.
Henry IV Part One: these are troubled times for King Henry. His son, Prince Harry acts more like a rogue than royalty, keeping the company of drunken highway robber Falstaff and other shady characters. Meanwhile, from the north come rumours of a rebellion led by the son of the Percy family, the valiant Hotspur. One of Shakespeare's most celebrated dramatic achievements, this play mixes history and comedy effortlessly, moving from scenes of royalty to rough drinking dens with ease. This production matches its superb characters with great actors, particularly in Anthony Quayle's magnificent Falstaff.
Starring: Anthony Quayle, Jon Finch, David Gwillim, Tim Piggott-Smith, Brenda Bruce
Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP
King Henry IV Part 1 is an epic tale of power, treachery and war, exploring the complexity of father-son relationships Stage director: Dominic Dromgoole. Screen director: Robin Lough. Featuring: Jason Baughan, Roger Allam, Patrick Brennan, Daon Broni, Phil Cheadle, Oliver Coopersmith, Oliver Cotton, Sam Crane, William Gaunt, Christopher Godwin, Sean Kearns, James Lailey, Danny Lee Wynter, Kevork Malikyan, Barbara Marten, Jamie Parker, Paul Rider, Lorna Stuart, Joseph Timms, Jade Williams.
In 1978, the BBC set itself the task of filming all of William Shakespeare's plays for television. The resulting productions, renowned for their loyalty to the text, utilised the best theatrical and television directors and brought highly praised performances from leading contemporary actors.
Henry IV Part Two (1979): Prince Harry's father figures are ageing. While the King frets about the Prince's lifestyle, Falstaff continues to make merry. But there are serious matters afoot. Prince John has to lead the King's army against an uprising, and Hal is forced to reassess his attitude to responsibility as his father grows increasingly sick. Retaining the same cast and director as Part One, this production assuredly charts the transformation of the Prince. It reflects the play's darker and more intimate focus, but contrasts it with colourful scenes from Falstaff's Eastcheap as well as the bucolic Gloucestershire of Shallow and Silence.
Starring: David Gwillim, Michele Dotrice, Jon Finch, Bruce Purchase and Brenda Bruce.
Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP
Hotspur is dead and Prince Hal has proved his mettle on the battlefield, but Henry IV lies dying and the rebels, though scattered, show no sign of declaring their allegiance to the Crown. Stage director: Dominic Dromgoole. Screen director: Robin Lough. Featuring: Roger Allam, Jason Baughan, Patrick Brennan, Daon Broni, Phil Cheadle, Oliver Coopersmith, Oliver Cotton, Sam Crane, William Gaunt, Christopher Godwin, Sean Kearns, James Lailey, Danny Lee Wynter, Kevork Malikyan, Barbara Marten, Jamie Parker, Paul Rider, Lorna Stuart, Joseph Timms, Jade Williams.
Shakespeare’s masterpiece of the turbulence of war and the arts of peace tells the romantic story of Henry’s campaign to recapture the English possessions in France. But the ambitions of this charismatic king are challenged by a host of vivid characters caught up in the real horrors of war. Stage director: Dominic Dromgoole. Screen director: Ross MacGibbon. Featuring: Jamie Parker, Nigel Cooke, Sam Cox, Kurt Egyiawan, Matthew Flynn, David Hargreaves, James Lailey, Paul Rider, Roger Watkins, Brid Brennan, Graham Butler, Giles Cooper, Beruce Khan, Brendan O'Hea, Olivia Ross, Chris Starkie, Lisa Stevenson.
The Tudor Court is locked in a power struggle between its nobles and the Machiavellian Cardinal Wolsey, the King's first minister and the most conspicuous symbol of Catholic power in the land. Stage director: Mark Rosenblatt. Screen director: Robin Lough. Featuring: Michael Bertenshaw, Sam Cox, John Cummins, Ben Deery, Mary Doherty, John Dougall, Will Featherstone, Peter Hamilton Dyer, Anthony Howell, Colin Hurley, Miranda Raison, Dominic Rowan, Dickon Tyrell, Kate Duchene, Amanda Lawrence, Ian McNeice.
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
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.
More troubled and troubling than King Henry IV Part 1, King Henry IV Part 2 is the second play in the Henriad tetralogy, continuing the story of King Henry’s decline and Hal’s reform. Though Part 2 echoes the structure of the earlier play, its is a darker and more unsettling world, in which even Falstaff’s revelry is more tired and cynical, and the once-merry Hal sloughs off his tavern companions to become King Henry V. Though probably less written about and performed, critics have nevertheless praised the play for its mature style.
The play was written soon after Part 1, probably in 1598. This text, based on the 1600 First Quarto, is supplemented by additional sequences from the 1623 First Folio. It is uncertain whether the play was conceived as a second part, a sequel, or an independent play in its own right. Unlike the popular Part 1, there were no reprints of Part 2 before the Folio, perhaps due to censorship. It uses similar source matter to Part 1, including Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587), The Mirror for Magistrates (1559) and Daniel’s Civile Wars (1595), and thematically it also echoes Part 1, in its concerns about kingship, miscalculation, trust and unrest.
Rumour opens the play with an Induction on the rifeness of slander. After hearing one such false report of victory, the rebel Northumberland learns of the death of his son Hotspur, and the defeat of his army at the Battle of Shrewsbury. Morton tells him that the Archbishop of York is taking up the fight against King Henry.
Falstaff is arrested for a debt to Mistress Quickly – but manages to wriggle out of it by promising (again) to marry her. An anxious Prince Hal is distracted from his ailing father’s by Poins’, who persuades him to help spy on Falstaff at dinner by pretending to be waiters. After they reveal themselves, Hal is summoned to court. The king broods on his position as his health deteriorates.
The rebel forces are at Gaultree Forest, led by the Archbishop of York, Mowbray and Hastings. Northumberland, a crucial ally, has opted against joining them and instead has fled to Scotland. Prince John of Lancaster, Hal’s younger brother, leads an army against them, but sends an envoy to suggest a parley. To the rebel leaders’ great surprise, Lancaster agrees to the terms of their peace – but once they have dismissed their army, he turns on them anyway, arresting them for treason. Falstaff, having recruited unfit soldiers, nevertheless manages to capture an enemy.
Henry collapses at the news of the victory. Mistakenly assuming his father dead, Hal tries on the crown at his bedside. Upon waking Henry is furious at this irreverence, but the two are at last reconciled before he dies, and Hal becomes King Henry V. In a heartbreaking moment, Falstaff travels hastily to London to see his old friend (and secure a royal favour or two), but the new king dismisses him with the famous lines: ‘I know thee not, old man. Fall to thy prayers. / How ill white hairs becomes a fool and jester!’ For all his misspent hours with the fat knight, Hal has finally thrown off his youth and embraced the responsibilities of royalty. He will rise to great heights over the course of his reign.
Shakespeare’s riveting, epic drama of a family in crisis, and a country on the brink of civil war. Wracked by illness and tormented by guilt, King Henry IV fears for England’s future after his death. The heir to the throne, Prince Hal, seems intent only on a life of debauchery in the company of the dissolute – but hilarious – Sir John Falstaff. As war looms and the stakes increase, father and son struggle to face their destinies – and each other.
An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Harry Althaus as Earl Of Westmoreland and Justice Shallow William Brown as King Henry IV Wilson Cain III as Earl Of Northumberland and Bardolph Michael J. Cargill as Thomas, Duke Of Clarence and Peto Tony Dobrowolski as Earl Of Worcester and Chief Justice Lisa A. Dodson as Mistress Quickly & Nurse Shawn Douglass as Prince John and Poins Raul Esparza as Hotspur and Pistol Raymond Fox as Prince Henry Ned Mochel as The Douglas and The Messenger Nicholas Rudall as Sir John Falstaff Doran Schrantz as Humphrey, Duke Of Gloucester & Doll Tearsheet
Featuring: Harry Althaus, William Brown, Wilson Cain III, Michael Cargill, Tony Dobrowolski, Lisa Dodson, Shawn Douglass, Raul Esparza, Raymond Fox, Ned Mochell, Nicholas Rudall, Doran Schrantz
Henry V is the final play in Shakespeare’s second tetralogy. Having shaken off his less savoury companions at the end of Henry IV Part 2, Hal takes his place on the throne following his father’s death, proving himself a pious and sensible ruler, much to the court’s surprise. Following enquiries into his genealogical right to rule over France as well as England, and taunts from the French Dauphin about his youth in the form of tennis balls, Henry resolves to invade France. His old carousing companions, after hearing of the death of Sir John Falstaff, join Henry’s army, their quarrels forming the comic underbelly of the play. Following the English victory at the siege of Harfleur, the two armies prepare to confront one another at Agincourt. On the eve of battle, Henry disguises himself and goes into the camp, discussing with his soldiers the responsibilities of a king. The English win a spectacular victory, and the play ends with the promise of Henry’s marriage to the French Princess Katherine of Valois.
Shakespeare’s contemporary audience would have been familiar with the events at fifteenth-century Agincourt, following the anonymous play The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth (1594/8). At the time of performance of Shakespeare’s Henry V in 1599, the re-telling of the glorious English victory would have been ironically juxtaposed with contemporary attempts by the Earl of Essex to suppress rebellion in Ireland.
The first Quarto (Q1) was not published until 1600. This ‘Cronicle History’ is only half the length of the text printed in the First Folio of 1623 (F); it has been hypothesised that Q1 was the initial write-up of the play, and F the theatrical text pieced together after performance. We cannot be sure where the play was first performed: many have romanticized ‘this wooden O’ as the Globe theatre, newly built in 1599, but it is possible that it was originally performed at the Curtain theatre in Shoreditch, where Shakespeare’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, had been performing since 1596.
The critic William Hazlitt commented that the eponymous king is ‘a very amiable monster, a very splendid pageant’. These contradictions are characteristic of responses to the play itself: its treatment of warfare has been the topic of debate for almost as long as it has been in performance. Does the play speak of national pride and English glory, or of ironic disenchantment and authoritarian kingship? The divergence of twentieth-century screen versions has visualised this contrary nature: Laurence Olivier’s 1944 wartime film, intended as a morale boost for Allied troops before the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, creates a halcyon backdrop for ‘we few, we happy few, we band of brothers’, whereas Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 film portrays a starker and less sentimental picture of the potential horrors of war.
A play obsessed with historical, political and performative truth, King Henry VIII was first performed under the title All is True at the Globe in 1613, when the charging of a small cannon near the end of the play famously set fire to the thatch at the top of the playhouse, and burnt it to the ground. As well as possibly being staged at the indoor Blackfriars theatre (where Henry and Katherine’s divorce trial had been held 84 years previously), it has been hypothesised that the play was performed at the wedding of James I’s daughter, Elizabeth, to the Elector Palatine, in 1613: its Protestant moralising and mythologizing, as well as the significance it places on a young princess named Elizabeth, would have suited such an occasion. With the sudden death of the young Prince Henry the year before, England’s hope of a proselytising Protestant monarch had been shaken. Such a play, with its suggestion of James I as a mythic heir, may have soothed the national consciousness.
As the play begins, Norfolk, Buckingham and Abergavenny are talking about the meeting of Henry VIII and Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. They complain about Cardinal Wolsey, who ensures that Buckingham is accused of high treason and executed. At a dinner given by Wolsey, Anne Bullen (Boleyn) attracts the attention of Henry, who is married to Queen Katherine of Aragon, and is made Marchioness of Pembroke. Henry sets up a court judged by Wolsey and Cardinal Campeius from Rome to consider his divorce; Katherine pleads with him and then leaves. The court is adjourned until she returns; the two Cardinals persuade her to relent.
Henry secretly marries Anne. Some of Wolsey’s letters to the Pope and an account of his wealth have found their way to Henry; Wolsey is disgraced, and Sir Thomas More is appointed Lord Chancellor in his place. Henry’s new marriage is announced, and Anne is crowned. Katherine is dying, and sees a vision of spirits of peace. After commending her daughter Mary to Henry, she dies. Anne falls pregnant. Henry’s secretary Gardiner plans to bring down Cranmer and Cromwell who are close to the King, but Henry intervenes. There is great rejoicing for the christening of Anne’s new-born daughter, who will become Queen Elizabeth I.
The play was a collaboration between the ageing Shakespeare and the young John Fletcher, who would go on to work together on The Two Noble Kinsmen (c.1613-4). It differs from other Henrican plays of the era which focus on or parody ‘Bluff King Harry’; here, the eponymous king is treated with gravitas as his marital meanderings enable a providential outcome for the English church and crown, as implied in Samuel Rowley’s earlier play When You See Me, You Know Me (1605), which was probably the play’s principal source. Generically, the play has been subject to debate: categorised under ‘Histories’ at its first appearance in the 1623 Folio, it has also been labelled a tragicomedy, a romance, and a late play by critics.
The Folio text is uniquely detailed in Shakespeare’s plays for its abundance of stage directions. As a result, the play has often been staged for its theatrical effect over its dramatic content. It was perennially popular throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in productions dominated by static sequences of tableaux and grandiose set speeches. Throughout the twentieth century, however, this spectacular performance style began to wane in favour of more ‘authentic’ renderings, and the play is now one of the most rarely performed of the Shakespearean canon.
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.
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
Love’s Labour’s Lost is a comedy fascinated by the world of the court, by art, and most of all by language, knotted together with jokes, symbols, letters, poems, rhetoric and verbal trickery. It has been linked to contemporary humanist culture and to Sir Philip Sidney’s works, and touches on the traditions of Roman New Comedy and commeddia dell’arte. Written around the time of Shakespeare’s other ‘lyrical plays’, Richard II, Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the play is generally dated to 1594-5, though evidence is scarce. It follows a vogue for social comedies of humours, epitomised by Ben Jonson by the end of the decade in Every Man in his Humour (1598), and was possibly influenced by the ongoing French Wars of Religion and the recent coronation of Henry of Navarre, King of France. This text is based on the first surviving Quarto, from 1598, from which the Folio text is also taken.
The King of Navarre and three of his lords, Dumaine, Longaville and Berowne, swear to renounce the company of women for three years, and retreat to the forest to study and fast. The Princess of France arrives on an embassy to recover money owed to her father. She is accompanied by a lord, Boyet, and three ladies, Maria, Katherine and Rosaline. The King falls in love with the Princess, Katherine with Dumaine, Maria with Longaville and Berowne with Rosaline. The lords overhear one another reading out their love poems, and excuse themselves from their vows; they dress up as Russians to talk to the ladies, who decisively outwit them. A messenger arrives and tells them of the Princess’s father’s death. Before they leave, the ladies impose year-long tasks on the lords, promising (more or less) after that period to return to marry them.
Francis Meres’ Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury (1598) lists a supposed sequel to the play, Love’s Labour’s Won. Usually presumed to be a lost play, some scholars have speculated that it may be an alternative title for Much Ado About Nothing or The Taming of the Shrew.
When the King of Navarre and his three courtiers forswear all pleasure - particularly of the female variety - in favour of a life of study, the arrival of the Princess of France and her ladies plays havoc with their intentions Stage director: Dominic Dromgoole. Screen director: Ian Russell. Featuring: Philip Cumbus, Seroca Davis, Jack Farthing, Christopher Godwin, Trystan Gravelle, Fergal McElherron, Rhiannon Oliver, Thomasin Rand, Paul Ready, Sian Robins-Grace, Tom Stuart, Michelle Terry, Andrew Vincent.
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
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.
In a city swamped by impotent law and sexual decadence, Shakespeare reveals repressed desire, skewed hypocrisy and arbitrary justice. His only play to be set in Vienna, Measure for Measure has, along with Troilus and Cressida and All’s Well That Ends Well, been labelled a ‘problem play’, although in its first appearance in print in the 1623 First Folio, it is listed under the ‘Comedies’. Using conventional literary and dramatic devices such as the bed trick and the disguised ruler (whose humanist piety some critics have seen as a direct nod to the newly crowned James I), the play’s main source lies in the Italian writer Cinthio’s prose Hecatommithi (1565) (whence Shakespeare had also drawn the inspiration for Othello). Shakespeare reworks Cinthio’s tragic ending of rape and execution so that his play ends, as is usual for a comedy, in multiple marriages.
The Duke of Vienna lends his power to the uncompromising Angelo and pretends to leave the city, but remains disguised as a friar. Angelo begins to enforce the city’s neglected laws, and condemns Claudio to death for getting Juliet pregnant out of wedlock. Claudio’s sister Isabella, who is about to become a nun, begs Angelo for mercy, but he falls in love with her. He offers her a bargain: Claudio will be released if Isabella sleeps with Angelo. Isabella will not consent, even when her brother encourages her.
The Duke, who was visiting Claudio in prison still disguised as a friar, overhears Isabella talking to Claudio. He suggests they trick Angelo into thinking that he is sleeping with Isabella, but he will really be sleeping with Marianna, his ex-fiancée whom he abandoned.
Their trick is successful but Angelo does not pardon Claudio: he is still to be executed, and his head sent to Angelo. The Duke intervenes, and gets the Provost to agree to send another prisoner’s head instead – initially Barnadine’s, but then Ragozine’s when Barnardine refuses to be executed.
The Duke ‘returns’ to the city as himself. Isabella, not recognising him as the Friar who helped her, begs him for justice. The Duke pretends to dismiss her. Mariana arrives as a witness. The Duke re-enters as the Friar. When he reveals himself, Angelo confesses and the Duke orders him to marry Mariana then condemns him to death: Angelo is pardoned when Mariana pleads for him. Claudio is revealed to be alive. The Duke proposes to Isabella.
The first record of performance for Measure for Measure was at the Banqueting Hall, Whitehall, on 26th December 1604, though it was probably composed and performed earlier that year. The play’s exploration of illicit sexuality led to it being underperformed or bowdlerised throughout the centuries that followed its publication; at the start of the twentieth century, critics and practitioners ‘uncovered’ the play’s emphasis on grace and divine atonement.
A modern dress version directed by David Thacker with Corin Redgrave as Angelo and Juliet Aubrey as Isabella. Modern themes are explored in an age-old play as William Shakespeare explores the darker side of society. Sexually transmitted disease is reaching epidemic proportions. Prostitution, licentiousness and petty crime are on the increase and a new government reintroduces capital punishment for sexual offences.
Director: David Thacker; Adapted by: David Thacker; Producer: Peter Cregeen; Starring: Tom Wilkinson, Juliet Aubrey, Corin Redgrave, Sue Johnstone.
Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP
The Merchant of Venice, technically a comedy, has proven controversial in its portrayal of the complex figure of the money-lender Shylock. Debate continues over the presence of distressing anti-Semitism, and the extent to which Shylock can be considered victimised or villainous. Shylock as a character has in some ways gradually disengaged from the play as a whole, becoming a famous topic of study that stands independent from Shakespeare’s original text.
Like Othello, The Merchant of Venice is a play which has evolved dramatically since its creation due to the changing contexts in which it is now read and performed. Although the texts themselves stay the same, the societal significance of an issue like anti-Semitism, as well as racism more generally, give greater weight to those elements within the play. Therefore, modern productions and interpretations must carefully consider these changes in attitude along with the original contexts of the plays.
Apart from the complicating presence of Shylock and various other anti-Semitic elements, scholars traditionally classify The Merchant of Venice as a comedy because it includes a number of classical comedic conventions, such as a complicated courtship process, mistaken identities, and transvestism. Bassanio needs 3,000 ducats in order to woo a wealthy heiress, Portia. His best friend, the merchant Antonio, is waiting on some ships he has invested in to return to Venice; in the meantime, he arranges a short-term loan with Shylock, a Jewish usurer. Shylock hates Antonio for his past insults, but agrees that the merchant can have 3,000 ducats, but they must be repaid within three months; if not, he may take a pound of Antonio’s flesh. When Antonio’s ships go missing and he defaults on the loan, Shylock demands his flesh. Hearing of her husband’s best friend’s dilemma, Portia disguises herself as a lawyer and defends him in court, overturning the bargain with her own logic. Various other love stories and hijinks ensue amongst the supporting characters while the main action takes place, and as in most comedies, the difficulties faced by the main characters (with the exception of Shylock) are resolved by the close of the play.
The Arden Third Series edition of The Merchant of Venice is based on the first quarto text printed in 1600.
The Merry Wives of Windsor is Shakespeare’s only English comedy (though it has arguably Italianate roots), following the trend for comedies of ‘humours’ that were popular on the late Elizabethan stage. It continues the story of Sir John Falstaff, who the audience had last seen being taken away to the Fleet prison at the end of Henry IV Part 2. Now a poor knight of Windsor (a retired soldier given accommodation and a small allowance), Falstaff once again plays the lovable rogue in this merry conceit of cozening, linguistic delight and social cross-sectioning.
As the play begins, Falstaff has been poaching deer from his old nemesis Justice Shallow. He soon starts on his next scheme: to seduce both Mistress Ford and Mistress Page in order to get at their husbands’ money. He writes identical love letters to each of them, but his companions Pistol and Nim reveal his plans to the wives. Mistress Ford and Mistress Page plan to accept his overtures in order to trick him in return. Meanwhile, Mistress Ford’s jealous husband disguises himself to test her fidelity; as ‘Brook’, he pays Falstaff to woo his wife.
Ford arrives as Falstaff begins to woo Mistress Ford, so the wives hide Falstaff in a laundry basket, and throw him in the Thames, as they’d planned all along. After his dunking, Falstaff once again pursues Mistress Ford; once again Ford arrives, and the wives disguise Falstaff as the ‘fat woman of Brentford’. His final humiliation comes as the wives tell Falstaff to disguise himself as ‘Herne the Hunter’ and wait in Windsor Park that night. There he is confronted by children dressed as fairies, and the two laughing couples.
A secondary plot concerns Anne Page and her several suitors. Her mother wants her to marry the French Doctor Caius; her father wants her to marry the foolish Slender; she loves Fenton, a gentleman. While her suitors squabble and her mother and father both separately plot her elopement, Anne takes matters into her own hands and marries Fenton.
The play’s first performance is uncertain. Some critics argue that it was first conceived as a court entertainment to celebrate the election of five new knights to the Order of the Garter on St. George’s Day in 1597; while it is unlikely that the full-length comedy was acted here, it is possible that the fairy masque was presented for the Queen, with the lecherous Falstaff and his motley crew acting as anti-masque. Most likely written in full after 1599, perhaps ‘compensating’ for Falstaff’s recorded death in Henry , the play first appears in quarto in 1602 (a much abridged ‘acting version’ of that which appears in the 1623 Folio). Its first recorded performance was at the Banqueting Hall at Whitehall in 1604, in front of the new king. Perenially popular onstage, The Merry Wives of Windsor has been operatized several times since the eighteenth century, most famously in English in Vaughan Williams’ Sir John in Love (1933). Hailing from a medieval English background, the figure of Falstaff has come to be seen, since the twentieth century, as a universally recognizable figure of folklore across cultures.
Imagining that Mistress Ford and Mistress Page have each fallen for him, the fat knight Sir John Falstaff decides to seduce them both, as much for their husbands’ money as for their personal charms. Wise to the old rogue’s tricks, the women turn the tables on him with a series of humiliating assignations and a very damp, extremely smelly laundry basket. Stage director: Christopher Luscomeb. Screen director: Robin Lough. Featuring: Nathan Amzi, Gareth Armstrong, William Belchambers, Christopher Benjamin, Edward Holtom, Philip Bird, Serena Evans, Peter Gale, Michael Garner, Gregory Gudgeon, Andrew Havill, Jonty Stephens, Sue Wallace, Paul Woodson, Sarah Woodward, Gerard McCarthy, Ceri-Lyn Cissone, Barnaby Edwards, Richard Linell.
Shakespeare combined his love of theater with Greek mythology and the supernatural to create what is arguably his most playfully imaginative work. From love potions to bizarre transformations to the unforgettable play-within-a-play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a non-stop delight, and remains one of the milestones of the Bard’s canon.
An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Tara Barr as Hermia Erin Bennett as Moth and Second Fairy Jamie Bamber as Oberon Janine Barris as Peaseblossom and First Fairy Brendan Bradley as Lysander Chris Butler as Theseus Kyle Colerider-Krugh as Egeus and Robin Starveling Sue Cremin as Hippolyta Hector Elizondo as Peter Quince Logan Fahey as Francis Flute Glenne Headley as Titania Simon Helberg as Demetrius Stacy Keach as Nick Bottom David Krumholtz as Puck Danny Mann as Snug Jon Matthews as Cobweb and Mustardseed Kira Sternbach as Helena André Sogliuzzo as Philostrate and Tom Snout Directed by Martin Jarvis.
Featuring: Jamie Bamber, Tara Barr, Janine Barris, Erin Bennett, Brendan Bradley, Chris Butler, Kyle Colerider-Krugh, Sue Cremin, Hector Elizondo, Logan Fahey, Glenne Headly, Simon Helberg, Stacy Keach, David Krumholtz, Danny Mann, Jon Matthews, Andre Sogliuzzo, Kira Sternbach
Midsummer was a significant part of the early modern calendar, falling between 21st and 24th June. The point of the year when the sun is at its highest in relation to the equator, by Shakespeare’s time, the festival was a Christianized pagan celebration of life, love and fertility. Midsummer’s Eve was a night of mirthful misrule, where bonfires were lit and spirits thought to roam freely.
Written c.1590-1595, around the time of Shakespeare’s other ‘lyrical plays’ (Love’s Labour’s Lost, Romeo and Juliet and Richard II), A Midsummer Night’s Dream is unusual in Shakespeare, in that it has no direct source for the narrative of the play, although it draws on Chaucer, Lyly and Spenser for some of its characters and imagery.
Theseus, Duke of Athens, is preparing to marry Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Egeus wants his daughter Hermia to be married to Demetrius, but she is in love with Lysander. Theseus rules that she must decide between Demetrius, a nunnery or death. Lysander and Hermia plan to elope; they confide in Hermia’s friend, Helena. Helena is hopelessly in love with Demetrius, and informs him of the lovers’ plan.
In the woods outside the city, the ‘mechanicals’ Quince, Snug, Bottom, Flute, Snout and Starveling are rehearsing a play about Pyramus and Thisbe to be performed at the Duke’s wedding. Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen of the Fairies, are quarrelling over Titania’s adoption of a human boy. In retaliation, Oberon orders his servant, the mischievous fairy Puck, to drop the juice of the flower ‘love-in-idleness’ into her eyes. This will make her love the first thing she sees – Puck ensures that this is Bottom, with an ass’s head instead of his own.
Oberon overhears Helena pleading with the uninterested Demetrius, and orders Puck to anoint Demetrius’ eyes also. But Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius, and it is Lysander that falls in love with Helena. Puck tries to fix his error, and makes Demetrius fall in love with Helena as well; both men who were pursuing Hermia now pursue Helen.
Oberon discovers the quarrelling four, and commands Puck to fix everything. Oberon removes the spell from Titania and they are reconciled. Theseus finds the four lovers asleep in the forest, now neatly paired off: Demetrius with Helena, and Hermia with Lysander. The triple wedding is celebrated with a ludicrous performance of ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’.
Though no record of first performance exists, it has been hypothesised that the play was composed for an aristocratic wedding, possibly in the presence of the queen, who would have been flattered by Oberon’s reference to the ‘imperial votress’. During the Interregnum, the mechanicals’ subplot was often played as a ‘droll’, and in 1692, Henry Purcell adapted the play as a new masque, The Fairy Queen. It has spawned multiple ballets, operettas and film versions, whilst remaining perennially popular onstage thanks to its mirth and magic. Recent criticism, however, has challenged the play’s reliance on male dominance and the sublimation of female independence in inevitable marriage.
Hermia loves Lysander and Helena loves Demetrius – but Demetrius is supposed to be marrying Hermia… When the Duke of Athens tries to enforce the marriage, the lovers take refuge in the woods and wander into the midst of a dispute between the king and queen of the fairies. Stage director: Dominic Dromgoole. Screen director: Robin Lough. Featuring: Fergal McElherron, Michelle Terry, Pearce Quigley, Huss Garbiya, Tom Lawerence, John Light, Sarah MacRae, Edward Peel, Olivia Ross, Joshua Silver, Luke Thompson, Tala Gouveia, Christopher Logan, Molly Logan, Stephanie Racine, Matthew Tennyson.
Fusing music, dance and some serious comedy, Emma Rice’s first production as Artistic Director brings the Dream crashing into the Globe’s magical setting. Naughty, tender, transgressive and surprising, it promises to be a festival of theatre. Let the joy begin!
Razor-sharp wit inflames a competitive game of survival in the salons of 17th century France where, in this world of "finest appearances," one man's blunt honesty shatters his society's delicate web of manners. Often considered to be Moliere's Hamlet, The Misanthrope is a wickedly scathing satire.
An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Harry Althaus, Amy Farrington, Bradford Farwell, Sean Fortunato, David Frutkoff, Kevin Gudahl, Ora Jones, Chad Kelderman, John Reeger, Hollis Resnik and Larry Yando.
Featuring: Harry Althaus, Amy Farrington, Bradford Farwell, Sean Fortunato, David Frutkoff, Kevin Gudahl, Ora Jones, Chad Kelderman, John Reeger, Hollis Resnik, Larry Yando
This timeless comedy of manners is considered one of Molière’s most probing and mature works. While it’s still an exemplar of 16th century farce, Molière went beyond his usual comic inventiveness to create a world of rich, complex characters, especially in the cynical title character Alceste, played here by the Tony Award-winning actor Brian Bedford.
Lead funding for this production is provided by the Sidney E. Frank Foundation. This recording also includes an interview with Larry F. Norman author of “The Public Mirror: Molière and the Social Commerce of Depiction”. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Brian Bedford as Alceste JD Cullum as Clitandre Sarah Drew as Eliante Martin Jarvis as Philinte Darren Richardson as Basque, Du Bois Susan Sullivan as Arsinoe Nick Toren as Oronte Matt Wolf as Acaste, Guard Bellamy Young as Celimene Directed by Rosalind Ayres. Translated by Richard Wilbur.
Featuring: Brian Bedford, JD Cullum, Sarah Drew, Martin Jarvis, Darren Richardson, Susan Sullivan, Nick Toren, Matthew Wolf, Bellamy Young
Much Ado About Nothing, probably composed in 1598-9 and first appearing in quarto in 1600, is a play of two pairs of lovers: the meek Hero and the impressionable Claudio, and the acerbic Beatrice and chauvinistic Benedick.
After Claudio is told by the troublesome Don John that Hero is unfaithful, he humiliates her on her wedding day. Hero faints and is presumed dead. The repentant Claudio agrees to marry whoever Hero’s father chooses for him: he prepares to marry a veiled bride, who, at the last minute, is revealed to be the still-living Hero. Meanwhile, friends trick old sparring partners Beatrice and Benedick into admitting their love for one another, by means of forged letters and overheard conversations.
Much Ado is one of Shakespeare’s best-loved and most frequently performed comedies. Having its sources in Italianate literature of the preceding centuries, scholars have argued that Shakespeare’s play takes on an expanded psychological scope from the usual tales of mistaken cuckoldry and bawdy flirtation. While earlier writing on the play was exuberant in its delight in Beatrice and Benedick’s ‘merry war’, recent criticism has concentrated just as much on the Hero and Claudio plot, and in particular on the gender conventions that the play propagates. Hero becomes the silent woman, veiled and playing dead, whose worth is lost along with the notion of her chastity to the patriarchal world the play inhabits. Beatrice, on the other hand, becomes the embodiment of the period’s stereotype of the shrew, the overly talkative woman, who must be dealt with by the clichéd banter of the misogynistic Benedick.The play’s performance history has thus been of note more for its portrayals of Beatrice and Benedick than those of Hero and Claudio. A nineteenth-century trend to sentimentalize Beatrice as one who is struck by her own sudden longing gave way, in the twentieth century, to spunkier Beatrices unashamed of their wilful tongues.
One of Shakespeare's most popular comedies, Much Ado about Nothing contrasts the happiness of lovers Claudio and Hero, and the cynicism of sparring partners Beatrice and Benedick, who are united in their scorn for love. Stage director: Jeremy Herrin. Screen director: Robin Lough. Featuring: Matthew Pidgeon, Eve Best, Philip Cumbus, Charles Edwards, Marcus Griffiths, Adrian Hood, Paul Hunter, Joseph Marcell, Lisa McGrillis, David Nellist, Ewan Stewart, Ony Uhiara, Helen Weir, John Stahl, Joe Caffrey.