Plays

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’.

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.

video Henry IV Part 1 (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

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.

Credits:

Starring: Anthony Quayle, Jon Finch, David Gwillim, Tim Piggott-Smith, Brenda Bruce

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

video Henry IV, Part 1 (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

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.

video Henry IV Part 1 (The Hollow Crown, Series 1, Episode 2)

NBC Universal
Type: Video

The heir to the throne Prince Hal defies his father King Henry by spending his time at Mistress Quickly's tavern in the company of the dissolute Falstaff and his companions. The king is threatened by a rebellion led by Hal's rival Hotspur, his father Northumberland and his uncle Worcester. In the face of this danger to the state, Prince Hal joins his father to defeat the rebels at the Battle of Shrewsbury and kill Hotspur in single combat.

Credits

Henry IV: Jeremy Irons, Falstaff: Simon Russell Beale, Prince Hal: Tom Hiddleston, Mistress Quickly: Julie Walters, Northumberland: Alun Armstrong, Hotspur: Joe Armstrong, Poin: David Dawson, Kate Percy: Michelle Dockery, Bardolph: Tom Georgeson, Worcester: David Hayman, Westmoreland: James Laurenson, Mortimer: Harry Lloyd, Doll Tearsheet: Maxine Peake, Glendower: Robert Pugh, Lady Mortimer: Alex Clatworthy, Peto: Ian Conningham, Douglas: Stephen McCole, Lancaster: Henry Faber, Vernon: Mark Tandy, Coleville: Dominic Rowan, Blunt: Jolyon Coy, Francis: John Heffernan, Sheriff: John Ashton, Bracy: Conrad Asquith, Hotspur's Servant: Jim Bywater, Producer: Rupert Ryle-Hodges, Director: Richard Eyre, Writer: Richard Eyre, Author: William Shakespeare

Find out more about The Hollow Crown films and Shakespeare's history plays in an introductory essay by Peter Kirwan here.

video Henry IV Part 2 (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

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.

Credits:

Starring: David Gwillim, Michele Dotrice, Jon Finch, Bruce Purchase and Brenda Bruce.

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

video Henry IV, Part 2 (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

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.

video Henry IV Part 2 (The Hollow Crown, Series 1, Episode 3)

NBC Universal
Type: Video

In the aftermath of the Battle of Shrewsbury, Northumberland learns of the death of his son. The Lord Chief Justice attempts on behalf of the increasingly frail king to separate Falstaff from Prince Hal. The rebels continue to plot insurrection. Falstaff is sent to recruit soldiers and takes his leave of his mistress, Doll Tearsheet. The rebel forces are overcome. This brings comfort to the dying king, who is finally reconciled to his son. Falstaff rushes to Hal's coronation with expectations of high office.

Credits

Henry IV: Jeremy Irons, Falstaff: Simon Russell Beale, Prince Hal: Tom Hiddleston, Mistress Quickly: Julie Walters, Northumberland: Alun Armstrong, Shallow: David Bamber, Lady Northumberland: Niamh Cusack, Poins: David Dawson, Kate Percy: Michelle Dockery, Bardolph: Tom Georgeson, Warwick: Iain Glen, Archbishop of York: Nicholas Jones, Westmoreland: James Laurenson, Lord Chief Justice: Geoffrey Palmer, Doll Tearsheet: Maxine Peake, Pistol: Paul Ritter, Hastings: Adam Kotz, Lancaster: Henry Faber, Mowbray: Pip Torrens, Silence: Tim McMullan, Gloucester: Will Attenborough, Coleville: Dominic Rowan, Gower: Pip Carter, Peto: Ian Conningham, Falstaff's Page: Billy Matthews, Producer: Rupert Ryle-Hodges, Director: Richard Eyre, Writer: Richard Eyre, Author: William Shakespeare

Find out more about The Hollow Crown films and Shakespeare's history plays in an introductory essay by Peter Kirwan here.

video Henry V (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

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.

video Henry VI Part 1 (The Hollow Crown, Series 2: The Wars of the Roses, Episode 1)

NBC Universal
Type: Video

Against the backdrop of wars in France, the English nobility quarrel. News of the English defeat at Orleans reaches the duke of Gloucester and other nobles. After the funeral of Henry V, his son, the infant Henry VI, is proclaimed king.

Seventeen years later, Henry sits on the throne whilst the rivalries at court continue - Plantagenet has learned of his own strong claim to the crown. After Rouen falls to the French, Plantagenet, Exeter and Talbot pledge to recapture the city from the Dauphin, but the French, led by Joan of Arc, defeat the English. The valiant English commander Talbot and his son John are killed.

Warwick and Somerset arrive too late for the battle but join forces with the survivors and retake Rouen. Somerset captures and woos Margaret of Anjou as a potential bride for Henry VI. Plantagenet takes Joan of Arc prisoner and orders for her to be burnt at the stake.

Despite Gloucester's protests, Margaret is introduced to the court as Henry's queen. Margaret complains that Eleanor, Gloucester's wife, behaves like an empress. Eleanor is banished and warns Gloucester that he is in great danger.

Gloucester is accused of high treason and is murdered at the Tower of London on the orders of Somerset while he and Margaret make love in the palace.

Henry banishes Somerset and Suffolk after Gloucester is found dead. Plantagenet is incensed when Margaret is able to bully Henry into reversing the sentence. Plantagenet makes his claim for the throne and sets the Houses of York and Lancaster in open opposition.

Credits

Producer: Rupert Ryle-Hodges, Author: William Shakespeare, Director: Dominic Cooke, Adaptor: Dominic Cooke, Adaptor: Ben Power, Gloucester: Hugh Bonneville, Plantagenet: Adrian Dunbar, Mortimer: Michael Gambon, Talbot: Philip Glenister, Eleanor: Sally Hawkins, Exeter: Anton Lesser, Somerset: Ben Miles, Margaret: Sophie Okonedo, Henry VI: Tom Sturridge, Warwick: Stanley Townsend, Suffolk: Jason Watkins, Bishop of Winchester: Samuel West, Sir William Lucy: Tom Beard, John Talbot: Max Bennett, Dauphin Charles: Tom Byam Shaw, Murderer: Sean Cernow, Joan's Mother: Pandora Colin, Joan of Arc: Laura Frances-Morgan, Brakenbury: John MacKay, Vernon: Stuart McQuarrie, Basset: Matthew Needham, Young Cecily: Lucy Robinson, Young Cecily: David Troughton, Production Company: Neal Street Productions

Find out more about The Hollow Crown films and Shakespeare's history plays in an introductory essay by Peter Kirwan here.

English drama during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558–1603) showcased England’s first great era of the theatre, crowned by the emergence of the world’s most renowned dramatist, William Shakespeare. Other prominent writers of the Elizabethan age included the University Wits – Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, John Lyly, and others – whose work for the stage shows the influence of ancient Greek and Roman playwrights, especially Seneca.

The first English tragedy, Gorboduc, was written and performed by law students of London’s Inner Temple in 1562 with Elizabeth in the audience. The first extant English comedy, Ralph Roister Doister by Nicholas Udall, was performed around 1563. Distinct genres to emerge during the era include Revenge Tragedy and the Citizen Comedy.

Some 21,000 Londoners, or one-eighth of the population, attended the theatre at least once a week. Elizabeth herself saw only about five professional productions a year, for which she paid each company about ten pounds. She banned plays about religious or political subjects because these had been used as propaganda in earlier reigns; the mystery play was also prohibited.

As unlicensed actors were classified as vagabonds, they often sought the patronage of noblemen; among the companies supported in this way were the Chamberlain’s Men and the Admirals’ Men, together with several boy companies. During plague periods, the London theatres closed and actors went on gruelling tours of the regions in order to survive. Many actors became famous, however, such as Richard Burbage, Edward Alleyn, and William Kempe, while those who had financial interests in the theatres in which they performed also became wealthy.

The first permanent public playhouse in England, the Theatre, was opened in 1576 by James Burbage, Richard’s father. Others quickly followed: the Curtain Theatre in 1577, the Rose Theatre in 1587, the Swan Theatre in 1594, and the famous Globe Theatre, at which many of Shakespeare’s works were given their first performances, in 1599. The average audience capacity was 2000 to 3000 people. The venues were classified as ‘liberties’ beyond the city’s jurisdiction.

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