Plays

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

Romeo and Juliet (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Unsurpassed and unforgettable, Shakespeare’s tragedy about star-crossed lovers is one of his most frequently performed plays. On first read, Romeo and Juliet is particularly interesting in its subversion of comedic plot devices for tragic ends. Recent criticism has also focused on issues of gender roles and sexuality within the play. Its most enduring features, however, are the brilliance of its incandescent language, and its hauntingly familiar depiction of young love.

The prologue sets out the scheme of the tragedy: in the city of Verona live two families locked in an ancient feud, the Montagues and the Capulets. Juliet, a daughter of the Capulets, is engaged to marry Paris, while Romeo, a Montague, is mooning over his own unrequited love affair. The instant their eyes meet at a party, however, both of their lives are forever changed.

The play is also distinguished by the excellence of its supporting characters. Juliet’s Nurse is an outstanding comedic character whose dialogue is rife with puns and sexual innuendo. Romeo’s friend Mercutio delivers the famous ‘Queen Mab’ speech, and ultimately dies in a spectacular duel sequence.

Romeo and Juliet was first performed at the Curtain in 1596-7. The First Quarto was printed in 1597, and the longer Second Quarto in 1599. This was reprinted in 1609, and followed by the Fourth Quarto in 1622, which was the basis for the Folio text. This text is based on the Second Quarto.

video Romeo and Juliet (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

A violent street brawl between their rival families is the prelude to Romeo’s first encounter with Juliet. Despite this, and the fact that Juliet has been promised to another man in marriage, they fall in love. Stage director: Dominic Dromgoole. Screen director: Kriss Russman. Featuring: Holly Atkins, Philip Cumbus, Adetomiwa Edun, Jack Farthing, Ellie Kendrick, James Lailey, Penny Layden, Fergal McElherron, Michael O'Hagan, Rawiri Paratene, Ukweli Roach, Ian Redford, Tom Stuart, Graham Vick, Andrew Vincent, Miranda Foster.

audio Shakespeare's Greatest Hits

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Shakespeare's Greatest Hits contains some of the most memorable scenes from 13 of the Bard’s greatest plays, including Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello and many more. Intertwined with the greatest hits of music, this highly engaging introduction to William Shakespeare is performed by the famous Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Peter Aylward, Johnny Lee Davenport, Henry Godinez, Kevin Gudahl, Susan Hart, Amy Irving, Linda Kimbrough and Ross Lehman.

Featuring: Peter Aylward, Johnny Lee Davenport, Henry Godinez, Kevin Gudahl, Susan Hart, Amy Irving, Linda Kimbrough, Ross Lehman

Tamburlaine the Great: Part One

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Tamburlaine is Marlowe’s seminal play: with the story of a complex and ruthless conqueror he created a magnificent theatrical architecture of power and ambition and proclaimed a new kind of verse.

From humble beginnings as a Scythian shepherd, Marlowe’s conquering hero rises, through his ferocity in war and the sheer force of his personality and imaginative ambition, to become Emperor of the Turks, King of Persia and Arabia and mighty sultan of vast tracts of what is now the Middle East. The play follows his ascent, his triumph and his destruction in two parts full of theatrical splendour and spectacular cruelty, and Marlowe’s ‘high-astounding’ as well as lyrical poetry.

Part one follows Tamburlaine from his origins as a shepherd under threat from the Persian emperor, through his defeat of that ruler, up to the peak of his powers, having consolidated his control, and expanded the reach, of the Perisan empire.

Tamburlaine was a major success in the theatres of the 1580s and 1590s. Marlowe’s blasphemous hero was a challenge to the orthodoxies of his culture, and whether the play constitutes a tragedy, a celebration or an ironically ambivalent study of the heroic is still a much debated question.

Tamburlaine The Great: Part Two

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Tamburlaine is Marlowe’s seminal play: with the story of a complex and ruthless conqueror he created a magnificent theatrical architecture of power and ambition and proclaimed a new kind of verse.

From humble beginnings as a Scythian shepherd, Marlowe’s conquering hero rises, through his ferocity in war and the sheer force of his personality and imaginative ambition, to become Emperor of the Turks, King of Persia and Arabia and mighty sultan of vast tracts of what is now the Middle East. The play follows his ascent, his triumph and his destruction in two parts full of theatrical splendour and spectacular cruelty, and Marlowe’s ‘high-astounding’ as well as lyrical poetry.

Part two sees Tamburlaine grow more vicious as his imperial power becomes permanent. Family members are dispensed with; rivals and local chieftains summarily murdered; even God is challenged. Tamburlaine dies unrepentant, telling his sons to continue to conquer the world in his memory.

Tamburlaine was a major success in the theatres of the 1580s and 1590s. Marlowe’s blasphemous hero was a challenge to the orthodoxies of his culture, and whether the play constitutes a tragedy, a celebration or an ironically ambivalent study of the heroic is still a much debated question.

Copyright © 1997 A & C Black Publishers Limited

The Taming of the Shrew (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The story of a ‘shrewish’ woman who is roughly courted and subjugated by her husband cannot fail to be controversial, and often disturbing. The Taming of the Shrew has been considered a portrait of the trials of marriage, a love story, a historical treatise on the treatment of women, a sexist polemic, and an exuberant farce - the perceived balance between misogyny and sympathy changing with every production and interpretation. The text is further complicated by its stress on fiction and performance.

The likely period of composition is between 1590-1594. This text is based on the 1623 First Folio text, as the 1594 quarto of an anonymous play entitled The Taming of a Shrew is here considered related but independent.

The drunken Christopher Sly is thrown out of a pub and falls asleep, and a Lord decides to play a trick on him. The Lord’s servants dupe Sly into believing that he is a rich Lord. A group of players act ‘a kind of history’ for him, and the story of Christopher sly becomes a ‘frame narrative’ for their performance.

The play-within-a-play begins with the arrival of Lucentio and his servant Tranio in Padua. Lucentio hopes to court the beautiful Bianca, as do Hortensio and Gremio, but Bianca’s father will not allow her to marry until her sharp-tongued older sister Katherina is married. Both Lucentio and Hortensio disguise themselves as tutors in order to woo Bianca in private, while Tranio takes the place of his master Lucentio.

Petruccio is also newly arrived in Padua and, hearing about Katherina’s wealth, decides that he will marry her. Their combative first meeting ends in Petruccio announcing their engagement. He turns up to their wedding late and ludicrously attired, and whisks Kate away to his house. There he deprives her of food and sleep in order to tame her.

After having the true identities of Hortensio and Lucentio revealed to her, Bianca choses Lucentio. So that they can be married, Tranio tricks a Merchant into pretending he is Vincentio, Lucentio’s father. The plan works for long enough for Bianca and Lucentio to marry; it is spoiled by the appearance of the real Vincentio, but Lucentio confesses and all is settled. At a banquet that evening, Petruccio reveals the newly obedient Katherina.

video The Taming of the Shrew (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

Two wealthy sisters in Padua must be married off. The modest, demure Bianca has no shortage of suitors, but who on earth will take the wild, ungovernable, shrewish Katherina?  Stage director: Toby Frow. Screen director: Ross MacGibbon. Featuring: Samantha Spiro, Simon Paisley Day, Michael Bertenshaw, Pearce Quigley, Joseph Timms, Helen Weir, Tom Anderson, Jamie Beamish, David Beames, Pip Donaghy, Patrick Driver, Tom Godwin, Chris Keegan, Sarah MacRae, Rick Warden.

Titus Andronicus (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Dismemberment, rape, cannibalism and murder make Titus Andronicus Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy. The boundless grief and savage justice of Titus explores the expression of tragic passion, the Senecan tradition, Roman history and government, the body and structures of interpretation.

This text is based on the 1594 First Quarto, with corrections from the 1600 Second Quarto and the addition of III.ii from the 1623 First Folio. It has been suggested that the first act shows signs of the involvement of George Peele, whose work Shakespeare may have revised.

Titus returns to Rome from war against the Goths, in which two of his sons have died. He has captured Tamora, Queen of the Goths, and her three sons Alarbus, Chiron and Demetrius, as well as her servant and lover Aaron the Moor. Titus gives Alarbus up for sacrifice. Titus suggests Saturninus for emperor. Saturninus offers to marry Titus’ daughter Lavinia, but her fiancé Bassianus (Saturninus’ brother) claims her. There is a struggle, and Titus kills one of his sons for assisting Bassianus. Saturninus marries Tamora instead, who privately promises to avenge her son.

Demetrius and Chiron fight over Lavinia; Aaron interrupts them and advises them on how they may rape Lavinia during the hunt the next day. Aaron and Tamora conspire to bring Lavinia and Bassianus to a pit, where Bassianus is killed by Chiron and Demetrius. Lavinia begs Tamora for mercy, but is dragged away to be raped by her sons. Aaron and Tamora frame Titus’ sons Martius and Quintus for Bassianus’ murder. They are condemned to death; Titus’ other son Lucius is banished.

Titus’ brother Marcus discovers Lavinia with her tongue cut out and her hands cut off. Aaron brings word that if Titus cuts off his hand his sons will be spared; Titus does so but his sons are executed anyway. Lavinia silently explains who raped her. Aaron flees the city with his son, the black baby that Tamora has given birth to. He meets the army of the Goths outside Rome, who are led by the banished Lucius.

Tamora visits Titus disguised as the spirit of Revenge, with her sons as Rape and Murder. Titus kills her sons and serves them to Tamora baked in a pie. Titus kills Tamora; Saturninus kills Titus; Lucius kills Saturninus and is elected emperor.

video Titus Andronicus (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

The smash hit of Shakespeare's early career, Titus Andronicus is one of the Bard's most experimental works, a revenge tale of the utmost brutality that centres around the honoured Roman general who fatally refuses to show mercy to the eldest son of Tamora, Queen of the Goths, whom he has defeated in war. Director Lucy Bailey's staging of the Roman tragedy sees the great London theatre transformed into a temple of death, one in which swathes of black fabric coalesce with horrific violence and stand-out performances to create shatteringly powerful drama.

Featuring: Obi Abili, Steffan Donnelly, Dyfan Dwyfor, Samuel Edward-Cook, Ian Gelder, Paul Ham, Nicholas Karimi, William Houston, Jake Mann, Brian Martin, Matthew Needham, Bryonie Pritchard, David Shaw-Parker, Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Indira Varma, Jamie Wilkes, Jude Willoughby.

video Titus Andronicus (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Titus has returned from a brutal 10-year war having lost 21 sons in battle. Betrayed by his nation, and with his family in pieces, a series of bloody events follows as he and Tamora, Queen of the Goths, begin a violent cycle of revenge. Rape, cannibalism, mutilation and murder are the gruesome tools in Shakespeare’s bloodiest play.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

Troilus and Cressida

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In staging the famous story of the Trojan war and the doomed relationship of Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare stages the demystification of the classical heroes and the deflation of their chivalric ideals. The play is generically indeterminable, combining history, comedy and tragedy into a sceptical analysis of war-politics, potent sexuality and disillusionment.

Troilus and Cressida was written around 1601-2, in the aftermath of the abortive rising of the Earl of Essex. The play’s earliest extant text is the 1609 Quarto, whose preliminary pages exist in two states; this text is based on the 1623 First Folio, supplemented and corrected from the 1609 Quarto.

The city of Troy has been besieged by the Greek army for seven years. The Trojan prince Troilus is preoccupied by his love for Cressida; Cressida’s uncle Pandarus is assisting him. In the Greek camp outside the city walls, the commander Agamemnon complains about his army’s listlessness; Ulysses blames the renowned warrior Achilles, who spends all day in his tent with Patroclus instead of fighting. Hector sends a challenge to single combat, and Ulysses suggests choosing Achilles’ rival Ajax.

The Trojans debate whether keeping Helen (who eloped with the Trojan prince Paris from her husband the Greek Menelaus) is worth the lives that have been lost, but Troilus persuades his brother Hector that it is the honourable thing to do. Pandarus has arranged for Troilus and Cressida to meet privately, attended by himself. But Cressida’s father Calchus, who defected to the Greeks, arranges an exchange: Cressida will come to the Greek camp and the Greeks will release their Trojan prisoner Antenor.

After the lovers’ farewells, Cressida is escorted out of Troy by the Greek Diomedes. The Trojans arrive at the Greek camp for the combat between Hector and Ajax, but it is interrupted because they are cousins. Achilles swears to meet Hector in battle the next day. Having accompanied Hector, Troilus sees Cressida being familiar with Diomedes, and furiously vows to kill the Greek. In battle the next day, Troilus fights with Ajax, Patroclus is killed, and Achilles treacherously kills Hector.

Twelfth Night (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Throughout the medieval and early modern periods, twelfth night celebrations were a much-anticipated part of the New Year festivities, marking the end of the Christmas period and the coming of Epiphany. The Lord of Misrule would instigate a feast that would revel in the subversion of social roles, accompanied by drinking, merriment and ‘what you will’, as this play’s subtitle suggests. Shakespeare’s play was probably written for one such celebration: its first recorded performance was at Middle Temple Hall in February 1602. It does not appear in print, however, until it is listed under the ‘Comedies’ in the First Folio of 1623. One of his last Elizabethan plays, Twelfth Night shares such tropes of Shakespearean comedy as crossdressing, mistaken identity and ambitious social climbers.

Twins Viola and Sebastian are shipwrecked upon the shores of Ilyria, separated following a storm. Viola disguises herself as a eunuch, Cesario, and becomes a trusted servant of the Duke Orsino. Orsino loves the countess Olivia, but she is in mourning for her late brother, and has rejected Orsino’s courtship several times already. Orsino sends Cesario to woo Olivia on his behalf, but Olivia falls in love with Cesario, who is in turn falling in love with Orsino.

Meanwhile, Olivia’s steward, Malvolio, is attempting to control the hijinks of the amorous Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Olivia’s drunkard uncle, Sir Toby Belch. After receiving a letter from ‘Olivia’ (actually forged by her waiting-woman, Maria), Malvolio adapts his sober appearance and stern behaviour to please the countess, who he believes is smitten with him: these drastic changes, however, lead to him being declared mad, imprisoned, and tormented by Olivia’s fool, Feste.

Viola’s twin-brother, Sebastian, re-appears with his new-found friend Antonio. On seeing him, Olivia mistakes him for Cesario, and they wed in secret. Viola reveals her true identity, and she and Orsino prepare to marry.

Literary critics and theatre-practitioners alike have returned repeatedly to Tweflth Night for its exploration of identity and acting, encapsulated in Viola’s confessional ‘I am not that I play’. It is a play abounding in disguise and doubling, the crossdressing of Viola (like the crossdressing of Rosalind in As You Like It, first performed c.1599) highlighting the ambiguities of the Elizabethan transvestite theatre, in which a boy actor was, in this instance, playing a woman playing a eunuch. Trends in modern criticism have led to a focus on the subjectivity of the female body, and to an exploration of homoeroticism both within the playtext and within the context of all-male performance of the play. The self-fashioning of upstarts such as Sir Toby Belch, the impact on self-hood of Malvolio’s ‘madness’ and the linguistic trickery of the fool, Feste have also sparked discussions of the flexibility of identity in Twelfth Night.

video Twelfth Night (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

Filled with a cast of unforgettable characters, Twelfth Night combines cruelty with high comedy and the pangs of unrequited love with some of the subtlest poetry and most exquisite songs Shakespeare ever wrote. Stage director: Tim Carrol. Screen director: Ian Russell. Featuring: Paul Chahidi, Samuel Barnett, Liam Brennan, John Paul Connolly, James Garnon, Peter Hamilton Dyer, Colin Hurley, Mark Rylance, Ian Drysdale, Johnny Flynn, Stephen Fry, Jethro Skinner, Ben Thompson, Roger Lloyd Pack.

video Twelfth Night (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Twins are separated in a shipwreck and forced to fend for themselves in a strange land. The first twin, Viola, falls in love with Orsino, who dotes on Olivia, who falls for Viola but is idolised by Malvolio. Enter Sebastian, who is the spitting image of his twin sister… Twelfth Night is a tale of unrequited love – hilarious and heart-breaking.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Two Gentlemen of Verona is a comedy with a controversial ending, built around the interruption of male friendship by heterosexual love and the confusion sparked by a cross-dressed heroine. The play probes the early modern discourse of idealised male friendship, explores metamorphosis, constancy and the boundaries of gender identity – and features the only animal role in Shakespeare, the scapegrace dog Crab.

The play was written no later than 1594. It first appears in print in the 1623 First Folio, on which this text is based – no quarto edition is known to have existed.

In his introduction to the current edition, editor William C. Carroll writes ‘Like all of Shakespeare’s plays, Two Gentlemen has attracted the attention, if not the unfailing admiration, of the greatest editors and actors of the past four centuries and its stage history proves surprisingly rich. However, many readers and audiences have judged Two Gentlemen, as one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, to be aesthetically inferior to most of his others: ‘early’ comes to connote ‘immature’, hence relatively incompetent, in contrast to a play written later, which is more ‘mature’ (how could it not be?) and (almost by definition) therefore more successful . . I aim to break this critical cycle, not by mounting a new (and doomed) argument about the play’s aesthetic perfections, but by enlisting and, if possible, augmenting some stimulating recent critical and theoretical work on the early modern period and also related texts to cast light on Shakespeare’s dramatic strategies in Two Gentlemen . . . I hope that this edition, in exploring the early modern discourse of male friendship, will show how Shakespeare’s use of the tradition is more complicated and indeed more searching than what has sometimes been seen as a rather immature, incompetent appropriation of it.’

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).