Plays

audio A Midsummer Night’s Dream

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

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

A Midsummer Night's Dream (Arden Shakespeare Second Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

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.

video A Midsummer Night's Dream (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

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.

video A Midsummer Night's Dream (Globe on Screen 2)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

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!

Much Ado About Nothing (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

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.

video Much Ado About Nothing (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

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.

video Richard II (Globe on Screen 2)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

Dazzlingly eloquent and ceremonious, Richard II invests a weak and self-dramatising man with tragic status and represents Shakespeare’s most searching exploration of the meaning of kingship and the rising powers that can destroy it.

video Richard III (The Hollow Crown, Series 2: The Wars of the Roses, Episode 3)

NBC Universal
Type: Video

At Westminster, Richard speaks about his deformity, the evil plots he has laid, and the decadence at court. George, brother to Richard and the king, is arrested during a birthday feast for Prince Edward and led away to the tower. King Edward takes ill and collapses at the end of the feast. Richard arranges for George's murder in the Tower of London.

King Edward makes one last effort to end family disputes, but Richard interrupts with the news of George's death. After Edward also dies, Richard starts to take control.

Rivers and Grey are executed for treason and Prince Edward and Prince Richard are sent to the Tower for safe keeping. After a council meeting, Hastings is also executed. Buckingham persuades the citizens of London to plead with Richard to take up the throne. Richard is crowned at Westminster Abbey with Anne as his queen. Unrewarded for his efforts, Buckingham distances himself from Richard and his regime. Now, without the support of his main henchman, Richard III hires Tyrell to murder the princes in the tower.

The Duke of Richmond and his supporters join forces to seize the crown and overthrow Richard. In his underground quarters at Westminster, Richard becomes isolated and paranoid. He takes Stanley's son hostage and arranges for the murder of Anne.

Richard is forced to lead his army to confront Richmond at Bosworth Field. Buckingham is executed for desertion.

Stanley joins forces with Richmond and Richard's army is outnumbered. Richmond delivers the fatal blow to Richard in single combat and Richmond is crowned Henry VII.

The Houses of York and Lancaster are united, the white rose with the red.

Credits

Producer: Rupert Ryle-Hodges, Author: William Shakespeare, Director: Dominic Cooke, Adaptor: Ben Power, Richard III: Benedict Cumberbatch, Buckingham: Ben Daniels, Cecil: Judi Dench, Hastings: James Fleet, Anne: Phoebe Fox, Queen Elizabeth: Keeley Hawes, Exeter: Anton Lesser, Margaret: Sophie Okonedo, Edward IV: Geoffrey Streatfeild, Henry VI: Tom Sturridge, Richmond: Luke Treadaway, George: Sam Troughton, Murderer II: Josef Altin, Prince Richard: Isaac Andrews, Catesby: Paul Bazely, Murderer I: Geoff Bell, Mayor of London: Robert Bowman, Bishop of Ely: Alan David, Ratcliffe: Keith Dunphy, George Stanley: Simon Ginty, Ned: Barney Harris, Blunt: Ivanno Jeremiah, Princess Elizabeth: Madison Lygo, Brackenbury: John MacKay, Prince Edward: Caspar Morley, Basset: Matthew Needham, Messenger: Jude Owusu, Tyrell: Gary Powell, Lady-in-Waiting: Penny Ryder, Torch Bearer: Sid Sagar, Stanley: Jo Stone-Fewings, Grey: Samuel Valentine, Rivers: Al Weaver, 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.

video Richard II (The Hollow Crown, Series 1, Episode 1)

NBC Universal
Type: Video

King Richard is called upon to settle a dispute between his cousin Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas Mowbray. Richard calls for a duel but then halts it just before swords clash. Both men are banished from the realm. Richard visits John of Gaunt, Bolingbroke's father, who, in the throes of death, reprimands the king. After seizing Gaunt's money and land, Richard leaves for wars against the rebels in Ireland. Bolingbroke returns to claim back his inheritance. Supported by his allies, Northumberland and the Duke of York, Bolingbroke takes Richard prisoner and lays claim to the throne.

Credits

King Richard: Ben Whishaw, Bolingbroke: Rory Kinnear, Duke of York: David Suchet, Earl of Northumberland: David Morrissey, Duchess of York: Lindsay Duncan, Thomas Mowbray: James Purefoy, Queen Isabella: Clemence Poesy, Duke of Aumerle: Tom Hughes, Gardener: David Bradley, John of Gaunt: Patrick Stewart, Abbot of Westminster: Richard Bremmer, Groom: Daniel Boyd, Lord Ross: Peter De Jersey, Sir Stephen Scroop: Tom Goodman-Hill, Sir Henry Green: Harry Hadden-Paton, Sir John Bushy: Ferdinand Kingsley, The Queen's Serving Lady: Isabella Laughland, Lord Marshall: Finbar Lynch, Bishop of Carlisle: Lucian Msamati, Bagot: Samuel Roukin, Lord Willoughby: Adrian Schiller, Gardener's Assistant: Simon Trinder, Producer: Rupert Ryle-Hodges, Director: Rupert Goold, Writer: Rupert Goold, Writer: Ben Power, 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 Romeo and Juliet

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

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

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

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

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).