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.