Plays

video Henry V (The Hollow Crown, Series 1, Episode 4)

NBC Universal
Type: Video

Henry V has settled onto the throne and has the makings of a fine king when the French ambassador brings a challenge from the Dauphin. Inspired by his courtiers Exeter and York, Henry swears that he will, with all force, answer this challenge. The chorus tells of England's preparations for war and Henry's army sails for France. After Exeter's diplomacy is rebuffed by the French king, Henry lays a heavy siege and captures Harfleur. The French now take Henry's claims seriously and challenge the English army to battle at Agincourt.

Credits

Henry V: Tom Hiddleston, Mistress Quickly: Julie Walters, The Chorus: John Hurt, Alice: Geraldine Chaplin: Thomas Erpingham: Paul Freeman, Bardolph: Tom Georgeson; Duke of Burgundy: Richard Griffiths; Duke of York: Paterson Joseph: Westmorland: James Laurenson, Exeter: Anton Lesser, Pistol: Paul Ritter, Archbishop of Canterbury: Malcolm Sinclair, Captain Fluellen: Owen Teale, Princess Katherine: Melanie Thierry, Charles, King of France: Lambert Wilson, Louis, the Dauphin: Edward Akrout, Corporal Nym: Tom Brooke, Montjoy: Jeremie Covillault, The Constable of France: Maxime Lefrancois, Duke of Orleans: Stanley Weber, Williams: Gwilym Lee, Earl of Salisbury: Richard Clothier, Bishop of Ely: Nigel Cooke, Peto: John Dagleish, Falstaff's Boy: George Sargeant, Producer: Rupert Ryle-Hodges, Director: Thea Sharrock, Author: William Shakespeare

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

audio Julius Caesar

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

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

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

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

Julius Caesar (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

video Julius Caesar (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

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

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

video Julius Caesar (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

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

For teacher resources, visit this page.

King Henry IV Part 1 (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

King Henry IV Part 1 is the second play in Shakespeare’s Henriad tetralogy, following on from King Richard II.

The play was first printed in the First Quarto of 1598 (Q1), as 'The History of Henrie the Fovrth; With the battell at Shrewsburie, betweene the King and Lord Henry Percy, surnamed Henrie Hotspur of the North. With the humorous conceits of Sir Iohn Falstalffe'. It seems that it was an extremely popular play as it was reissued in a second edition in the same year, a rare occurrence at the time. The Arden text is taken from Q1 and from Q0, the surviving fragment of the quarto from which Q1 appears to have been taken.

The action of the play is based on part of the king's reign, from 1402–3. Shakespeare used multiple historical sources in the writing of King Henry IV Part 1, in particular Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles (1587) and the cautionary The Mirror for Magistrates (1559).

As the play begins, Bolingbroke, now King Henry IV of England, is plagued by guilt at the usurpation and murder of his predecessor, Richard II, and troubled by disquiet from rebellious nobles from two of the highest families in the land, the Percys and the Mortimers.

The king's son, Prince Hal (the future Henry V), has acquired a new friend in the merry-making Sir John Falstaff, a lover of sack (a type of early modern sherry), who takes him round taverns and introduces him to low-lifes and madams. Hal insists he is living this lifestlye only temporarily, so that when he decides to become princely once again, members of the court will have more respect for him.

The opportunity arises when the revolt of the nobles comes to a head at the Battle of Shrewsbury. Hal comes head to head with his foil, Henry Percy (or 'Hotspur'), and eventually kills him in combat. Having been coerced onto the battlefield, Falstaff steals money from fallen men and plays dead when under attack, surviving the battle, but declaring that from then on he will live an honourable life. The play ends with the king commanding his sons and allies to ride towards York and Wales to prepare to fight further rebellious nobles.

As is common in Shakespeare's history plays, King Henry IV Part 1 deals extensively with the idea of kingship: how legitimate is Henry's reign, and is he a good king? Hal learns that he too must decide what kind of prince (and later, king) he wants to be: he rejects his friends in order to become the man that will one day defeat the French at Agincourt, the most glorious of English victories to the early modern mind. Honour, chivalry and courtesy are always brought into question in the play's medieval courtly world view.

Falstaff, the opposite of all that is 'honourable', has remained throughout the centuries one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedic creations. Likely first portrayed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men popular clownish actor, Will Kemp, rumour has it that Queen Elizabeth I was so delighted with the character that she 'commanded' Shakespeare to write a further play that saw Falstaff in love: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

King Henry IV Part 2 (Arden Shakespeare Second Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

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.

audio King Henry IV: The Shadow of Succession

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

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

King Henry V (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

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.

King Henry VI Part 1 (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The history play King Henry VI, Part 1 can be seen as a mediation on history itself, on the mechanisms of genealogy, combat and heroism. The dominant character of Joan la Pucelle (otherwise Joan of Arc) is a locus of questions about gender and the supernatural.

Questions of authorship, date and place in a ‘historical cycle’ are attendant on the play, which was first printed in the Folio. Some editors claiming single authorship for Shakespeare; for others it is the result of a collaboration, probably including Thomas Nashe. The Arden edition argues that it was written after Parts 2 and 3. It may be the play which records show was performed in 1592 by the Lord Strange’s Men at the Rose theatre.

The young Henry VI is now king. At the funeral of Henry V, news arrives of military difficulties in France: cities have been lost, the Dauphin Charles has been crowned, and the military captain Talbot has been taken prisoner. The English nobles squabble over power. The rivalry between Richard Plantagenet (later Duke of York) and the Duke of Somerset escalates, and they pluck a white and a red rose respectively to represent the House of York and the House of Lancaster. Henry travels to France to be crowned.

In France, Joan la Pucelle has arrived at the siege of Orléans, promising that heaven-sent powers will help her to lead the French to victory. Put in charge of the army, she fights the English — led first by the Duke of Bedford and then by Talbot – for Orléans and Rouen. Joan also persuades the Duke of Burgundy, Henry’s uncle, to switch to the French side. The feud between Richard and Somerset results in the defeat of the British army at Bordeaux, and the death of Talbot. Joan is captured and condemned to death. The play ends with an uneasy peace, as Henry marries Margaret, the daughter of the Duke of Anjou, instead of the Earl of Armagnac’s daughter.

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).