William Shakespeare

Plays by William Shakespeare

video All's Well That Ends Well (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

Helena loves the arrogant Bertram, and when she cures the King of France of his sickness, she claims Bertram as her reward. But her brand-new husband, flying from Helena to join the wars, attaches two obstructive conditions to their marriage – conditions he is sure will never be met Stage director: John Dove. Screen director: Robin Lough. Featuring: Michael Bertenshaw, Sam Cox, Sam Crane, Naomi Cranston, John Cummins, Janie Dee, Ben Deery, Mary Doherty, Sophie Duval, Will Featherstone, James Garnon, Peter Hamilton Dyer, Colin Hurley, Ellie Piercy, Laura Darrall, Nicholas Delvalle, Luke McConnell.

Antony and Cleopatra (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Antony and Cleopatra rival Romeo and Juliet for the title of most famous lovers in Western drama. Shakespeare’s play, probably written around 1606-7 (though not appearing in print until the First Folio of 1623), reflects the popularity of the story in the early modern imagination. Shakespeare’s play is heavily indebted to Plutarch’s Parallel Lives of the Greeks and Romans, written in the first century AD, and translated into English by Sir Thomas North in 1579.

Marc Antony is one of three triumvirs ruling Rome following the assassination of Julius Caesar. Neglecting his political duties, he lingers in Egypt with Cleopatra, a queen who sees herself as a demigod, an embodied Isis. When unrest threatens Rome, Antony must leave Cleopatra in order to solidify his power against threats from Pompey and fellow triumvir Octavius Caesar. Despite marrying Octavia, the passive sister of Caesar, for the sake of peace, he soon longs for his ‘wrangling queen’ and returns to Egypt. The ensuing war between the lovers and Octavius Caesar engulfs the Roman world. The eponymous lovers are unable to reconcile their martial defeat and its consequent shame with their hyperbolic self-images, and commit two of the most memorable suicides in the Shakespearean canon.

From its earliest audiences, Antony and Cleopatra has received criticism. Post-Restoration critics knocked the play for the way it disregarded the classical unities of drama, which stated that a play should cover one idea, in one place, at one time. With its action historically spanning a decade, and its scenes ranging from Europe to Africa and back again, the play affronted those who desired a neater retelling of the famous love story. John Dryden took it upon himself to rewrite the tragedy in his play All for Love, first performed in 1677: covering only the last day of the lives of Antony and Cleopatra, the play reaches for a grander love affair, removed from the lust, jealousy and self-inflation of Shakespeare’s play. Scholarly criticism has dwelt upon the play’s use of opposites, the imagery of instability, and the performance of gender on the early modern stage (to which Cleopatra metatheatrically refers, when she fears boy actors will portray her ‘squeaking [. . .] i’th’posture of a whore’ [5.2.219-20].

The staging of the play has long been of special interest to critics and theatre-makers alike: the play calls for a sea-battle, and a colossal monument to Cleopatra up to which the dying Antony must be hoisted. Notable Antonys have included John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier and Patrick Stewart; notable Cleopatras Peggy Ashcroft, Vanessa Redgrave and Mark Rylance, in the 1999 all-male production at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London.

video Antony and Cleopatra (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

Virtue and vice, transcendent love and realpolitik combine in Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare’s greatest exploration of the conflicting claims of sex and power, all expressed in a tragic poetry of breathtaking beauty and magnificence.

Featuring: Ignatius Anthony, Peter Bankole, Eve Best, Jonathan Bonnici, Philip Correia, Jolyon Coy, Phil Daniels, Kammy Darweish, Paul Hamilton, James Hayes, Rosie Hilal, Sean Jackson, Daniel Rabin, Sirine Saba, Obioma Ugoala, Clive Wood.

video Antony and Cleopatra (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Following Caesar’s assassination, Mark Antony has reached the heights of power. Now he has neglected his empire for a life of decadent seduction with his mistress, Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Torn between love and duty, Antony’s military brilliance deserts him, and his passion leads the lovers to their tragic end.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

audio As You Like It

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Love triumphs in As You Like It, Shakespeare’s joyous comic adventure! Rosalind, arguably Shakespeare’s greatest female character, is banished from court and follows her exiled father into the untamed Forest of Arden. Disguised as a man for safety, Rosalind’s great wit and good nature show through her male trappings as she engages with fools and philosophers adrift in the woods, and ultimately falls in love. An L.A. Theatre Works full cast performance featuring: Lynn Collins as Rosalind Jeff Gardner as Silvius/Jaques de Boys Alexis Jacknow as Audrey/Dennis/Lords/Pages Stacy Keach as Jaques James Marsters as Duke Frederick/Duke Senior André Sogliuzzo as Adam/Charles/Others Summer Spiro as Phebe/Amiens/Others James Waterston as Orlando Jules Wilcox as Celia Matthew Wolf as Touchstone/Oliver Directed by Barry Creyton. Recorded in Los Angeles before a live audience at The James Bridges Theater, UCLA in April of 2016. Featuring: Lynn Collins, Alexis Jacknow, Jeff Gardner, Stacy Keach, James Marsters, André Sogliuzzo, Summer Spiro, James Waterston, Jules Willcox, Matthew Wolf.

As You Like It (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In the Forest of Arden where the cross-dressed Rosalind meets her lover Orlando, folklore meets with classical ideals, the pastoral with ribaldry, and love poetry with parody and satire. As You Like It plays witty games with gender roles, and the nature of liberty and love.

As You Like It was probably written at the end of 1598, and perhaps first performed in 1599. This text is based on the Folio, where it was first printed.

Duke Fredrick has usurped his older brother Duke Senior and banished him to the Forest of Arden, where he lives with the faithful members of the court. He has left behind is his daughter Rosalind who is close friends with her cousin Celia, the daughter of Duke Fredrick. The changeable Fredrick banishes Rosalind from his court; Celia accompanies her into the forest, along with the clown Touchstone. Meanwhile Orlando, who Rosalind favours after seeing him wrestle, flees to the forest with his servant Adam after hearing his oldest brother Oliver plots to kill him.

Rosalind disguises herself as a young man called Ganymede, and Celia as ‘Aliena’, while Orlando joins the banished Duke and his men, who include the melancholy Jacques. In the guise of Ganymede, Rosalind meets Orlando and gives him lessons in wooing and women, pretending to be ‘Rosalind’ and receiving his mock-courtship. Secondary romance plots involve the rustic Silvius and Phoebe, and Audrey and Touchstone. When Oliver arrives in the forest too, Rosalind arranges several marriages and the dukedom is restored.

In her introduction to the current edition, Juliet Dusinberre writes ‘As You Like It, with its cross-dressed heroine, gender games and explorations of sexual ambivalence, its Forest of Arden and melancholy Jaques, speaks directly to the twenty-first century. Although the play is rooted in Elizabethan culture – literary, social, political, aesthetic – Shakespeare has placed a prophetic finger on the pulse of the future. Amongst the myths of classical pastoral and of the biblical Garden of Eden are a group of displaced persons fleeing family disruption and political corruption. In raising profound questions about the nature of liverty, renewal and regeneration posed by the new environment of the Forest, Shakespeare has created a comedy of extraordinary flexibility and depth.’

video As You Like It (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

As You Like It runs the glorious gamut of pastoral romance: cross-dressing and love-notes; poetry and brilliant conversation; gentle satire, slapstick and passion Stage director: Thea Sharrock. Screen director: Kriss Russman. Featuring: Michael Benz, Philip Bird, Naomi Frederick, Peter Gale, Brendan Hughes, Sean Kearns, Jack Laskey, Trevor Martin, Tim McMullan, Jamie Parker, Laura Rogers, Dominic Rowan, Ewart James Walters, Sophie Duval, Jade Williams, Gregory Gudgeon.

The Comedy Of Errors (Arden Shakespeare Second Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Shakespeare’s dextrous comedy of two twin masters and two twin servants continually mistaken for one another is both farce and more than farce. The Comedy of Errors examines the interplay between personal and commercial relationships, and the breakdown of social order that follows the disruption of identity, until the nightmarish cross-purpose dialogue ends in harmonious reunion.

The play is set in Ephesus, a city where anyone who is from Syracuse will be executed, unless he can pay the ransom. Egeon, who is from Syracuse, is arrested accordingly; he explains to the Duke that he is looking for his lost family. He and his wife Emilia had identical twin sons (both called Antipholus), but in a shipwreck Egeon and one son were separated from Emilia and the other. The son who grew up with Egeon, Antipholus of Ephesus, set off to search for his lost brother, accompanied by his servant Dromio of Ephesus, who had similarly lost a twin.

Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus have also arrived in Ephesus where, unknown to them, their twin brothers both live. Antipholus sends Dromio away on an errand, and the two sets of twins become muddled up. A jeweller presents the newly-arrived Antipholus with an expensive chain, and then pursues the native Antipholus for payment. The wife of Antipholus of Ephesus mistakes the stranger for her husband, and locks her real husband out of the house. Antipholus of Syracuse falls in love with the woman everyone else thinks is his sister-in-law. Both masters beat each other’s servants regularly for their apparent disobedience – the two Dromios try to obey the apparently contradictory instructions of a single master.

Eventually, Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse take refuge in a priory. The Duke arrives with Egeon, who is going to be executed. Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus, having just escaped arrest, also arrive. The Abbess of the priory brings out Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse, and the confusion is cleared when the Abbess herself is revealed to be Emilia, Egeon’s long lost wife and the mother of the Antipholuses. Egeon is reprieved, and Antipholus of Syracuse proposes to his brother’s sister-in-law.

video The Comedy of Errors (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

Basing his plot on a farce by Plautus, Shakespeare caps the mayhem of his Roman original to build up a hectic tale of violent cross-purposes, furious slapstick and social nightmare. Stage Director: Blanche McIntyre; Screen Director: Ross MacGibbon. Featuring: Hattie Ladbury, Simon Harrison, Stefan Adegbola, Andy Apollo, Paul Brendan, Linda Broughton, Gershwyn Eustache Jr, Becci Gemmell, Peter Hamilton Dyer, Emma Jerrold, James Laurenson, Matthew Needham, Anne Odeke, Brodie Ross, Jamie Wilkes.

Coriolanus (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Coriolanus was first published in the First Folio of 1623; we have no recording of a first performance contemporary with Shakespeare. As a result, dating the play has proven to be a difficult task, with most modern critics placing the writing of the play in the second half of the 1610s.

Affording Coriolanus a genre is similarly tricky: it is ‘The Tragedy of Coriolanus’ in the First Folio, but it is deeply indebted to the sub-genre of ‘Roman plays’ that form a significant part of the Shakespearean oeuvre. As with Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare draws on Thomas North’s 1579 translation of Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans for both historical detail and literary tropes.

The exploration of the public voice and the body politic in Coriolanus is immediately displayed in the play’s opening, where Roman citizens are rising up against the mounting price of grain. (It has been argued that this is a contemporary reference to the Midland Revolt of 1607, where peasants in the Midlands of Britain rioted against the enclosure of common land.) Menenius, a wise old Roman generally respected by the people, recites a parable narrating the breakdown of the body when its individual parts are not in accord. For the body politic to function, the head (here, the General; in Shakespeare’s England, King James I) and the belly (the people) must support each other.

One of the play’s central explorations, that of the battle between public and private identity, and political and personal duty, is encapsulated in the figure of Coriolanus, much as it is in other Roman figures (e.g. Brutus in Julius Caesar and Mark Antony in Antony and Cleopatra). His identity is unfixed, and manipulated by the patricians and his ambitious mother, Volumnia.

Unlike other Shakespearean tragic heroes, Coriolanus only has one lengthy soliloquy, in which he laments the ‘dissension’ and ‘bitterest enmity’ to which ‘friends now fast sworn’ have turned. As his affinity shifts from Romans to Volscians, his own identity gets lost, until he cries at the end of Act IV that ‘only that name remains’ – the irony being that ‘Coriolanus’ is not the name he started off with at the beginning of the play (he was ‘Caius Martius’ until he was granted the toponym Coriolanus, after his defeat of the town of Corioles). He is murdered at the end of the play in a bloody attack perpetrated by conspirators, mirroring Caesar’s death in his eponymous Roman tragedy. The opacity of the play’s central figure has rendered theatrical and cinematic interpretations of Coriolanus manifold in the past century especially: Laurence Olivier (twice), Anthony Hopkins, Richard Burton, Ian McKellan and Ralph Fiennes have all portrayed the general.

video Coriolanus (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Caius Martius Coriolanus is a fearless soldier but a reluctant leader. His ambitious mother attempts to carve him a path to political power, but he struggles to change his nature and do what is required to achieve greatness. In this new city state struggling to find its feet, where the gap between rich and poor is widening every day, Coriolanus must decide who he really is and where his allegiances lie.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

Cymbeline

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The intricate plot of Cymbeline folds comic, romantic, tragic and historical modes into a bittersweet and experimental play. Though listed under the ‘Tragedies’ in its first appearance in the 1623 First Folio, the play’s diverse elements of murderous jealousy, Roman invasion, dark schemes of sexual assault, female transvestism, passionate love, court, country and fairy-tale are all harmoniously and peacefully reconciled in marriage. Thought to have been written around 1608-10, the playgoing doctor Simon Forman noted seeing the play at the Globe in April 1611. Some critics have wondered if Cymbeline, as other late Shakespeare plays, could be a collaboration; the play’s similarity to Beaumont and Fletcher’s Philaster (c.1608-10) has led to debate as to which may have borrowed from which. Sources for Cymbeline include Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae (c.1136), Boccaccio’s Decameron (1353), Holinshed’s Chronicles (1577-87), and the anonymous romantic drama The Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune (1582).

Cymbeline, King of Britain is furious with his daughter Imogen for marrying Posthumus, because he wanted to marry her step-brother Cloten (son of Cymbeline’s second wife, the Queen). Posthumus is banished. In Rome, he meets Iachimo, who wagers that he will be able to sleep with Imogen.

Iachimo, failing to seduce Imogen, hides in a chest and is carried into her bedchamber. Once she is asleep he steals a bracelet given to her by Posthumus. Back in Rome, this convinces Posthumus of Imogen’s infidelity.

Cymbeline refuses to pay the tribute due to Augustus Caesar, and the Roman ambassador Lucius promises war. Posthumus writes to his servant Pisanio instructing him to kill Imogen; instead Pisanio advises Imogen to dress as a man and accompany Lucius to Rome. She goes as ‘Fidele’ to Milford-Haven to meet the departing Lucius. Cloten, believing that Posthumus will also be at Milford-Haven, wears Posthumus’ clothes and follows Imogen there. He intends to kill her husband and rape her.

On her way ‘Fidele’ meets Belarius and his two sons Guiderius and Arviragus – who are actually Cymbeline’s sons, stolen away in their infancy. Cloten arrives and Guiderius kills him.

‘Fidele’ is ill, and drinks a potion given to her by Pisanio, thinking it is a remedy. The Queen thought it was poison and intended it for Posthumus, but the potion creates the only the appearance of death. Her brothers, believing ‘Fidele’ to be dead, place her next to Cloten’s body - still in Posthumus’ clothes. Imogen wakes to what appears to be her husband’s headless corpse. She is found by Lucius and taken into his service.

The returned Posthumus, disguised as a peasant, fights against the Roman invaders. Belarius, Guiderius and Arviragus also fight, saving Cymbeline. Posthumus re-disguises as a Roman, hoping for death; in prison he has an apparition of ghosts and Jupiter. The characters gather in front of Cymbeline. The Queen has died and her trick with the poison is exposed, as is Iachimo’s deception. Posthumus and Imogen are reunited, the identity of Belarius and Cymbeline’s sons is revealed, and Cymbeline makes peace with Rome.

video Cymbeline (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Britain is in crisis. Alienated, insular and on the brink of disaster. Can it be saved? An ineffectual Queen Cymbeline rules over a divided dystopian Britain. Consumed with grief at the death of two of her children, Cymbeline’s judgement is clouded. When Innogen, the only living heir, marries her sweetheart Posthumus in secret, an enraged Cymbeline banishes him. Behind the throne, a power-hungry figure plots to seize power by murdering them both. In exile, Innogen’s husband is tricked into believing she has been unfaithful to him and, in an act of impulsive jealousy, begins a scheme to have her murdered. Warned of the danger, Innogen runs away from court in disguise and begins a journey fraught with danger that will eventually reunite Cymbeline with a longlost heir and reconcile the young lovers.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

Double Falsehood or the Distressed Lovers

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Double Falsehood, or The Distressed Lovers has long been the subject of scholarly and theatrical doubt. In 1728, Lewis Theobald, Shakespeare editor and struggling man of letters, published the play, claiming it to be his revision of a work ‘Written Originally by W. SHAKESPEARE’, of which he happened to be in the possession of three manuscript copies. Whilst many over the years have slammed this work as forgery (perhaps a play by James Shirley or Philip Massinger masquerading as Shakespeare), perhaps an attempt to jump on the bandwagon of the revivifying English theatre in the patriotic cultural politics of the eighteenth century, in the 1780s, Edmond Malone discovered records dating from the 1600s confirming a play by Shakespeare and his sometime collaborator, John Fletcher. This lost play, The History of Cardenio, performed by the King’s Men in 1613, and entered into the Stationer’s Register in 1652, has a plot and characterisation very close to Theobald’s revision. Any manuscripts Theobald may have had are thought to have perished in the fire that destroyed the Covent Garden Theatre Museum in 1808, and thus, the original play remains lost to a modern readership.

A story of passionate love and devastating betrayal, Double Falsehood follows the story of ‘Cardenio’, found in Cervantes’ Don Quixote (1605). At the hypothesised time of the play’s composition in the early 1610s, English literary culture was having a Cervantic ‘moment’, with Thomas Shelton translating the novel into English in 1607, publishing it in 1612. A Spanish play based on Cervantes’ work, Don Quixote de la Mancha (?1605-8) by Guillén de Castro, may also have been a direct source. In Theobald’s version, the libertine Henriquez has forced himself on the humble Violante, and abandoned her, leaving a heartless letter. He now sets about pursuing Leonora, who is engaged to his friend Julio. With the collusion of Leonora’s father Don Bernard, he forces her to the altar, having first lured Julio to court on a false errand. Warned by Leonora, Julio turns up in time to prevent the wedding and Leonora’s suicide. Julio is ejected from the house.

The grief-stricken Julio is living in a mountainous plateau. Violante is dressed as a shepherd and living nearby. Leonora has taken refuge in a nunnery in the same region; Henriquez is still pursuing her. Henriquez’s virtuous elder brother Roderick arrives in time to save Violante from being assaulted by the Master of the Flocks, who has seen through her transvestite disguise. Violante and Julio discover that they have both been wronged by Henriquez.

Roderick arranges for Leonora’s father, Julio’s father, Leonora and Violante to meet at a lodge. Violante, who is disguised as a page, confronts Henriquez with his cruel letter to her; she leaves and returns dressed as a woman, and Henriquez seems to fall in love with her anew. Leonora is reunited with Julio.

First produced at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1727, Double Falsehood has had no subsequent professional stage performance. Put on through the eighteenth century for private entertainment, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries it has been reworked by scholars for private readings or university performances. Oxford general editor Gary Taylor attempted to work back and ‘undo’ Theobald’s emendations in order to recreate a work closer to the hypothesised Shakespeare and Fletcher original: first appearing at a private reading in New York in 2006, the play was staged as a public performance in Wellington, New Zealand, in 2009.

audio Hamlet

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

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

Hamlet (adapt. Norfolk)

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Remember me . . . Denmark, a Black Empire of modern England, where an intelligent young student discovers the world he once knew has crumbled. Implored to defend what is left of his father's decaying legacy, Hamlet now faces the greatest moral challenge: to kill or not to kill. Adapted with Shakespeare's text by award-winning playwright Mark Norfolk, this fast-moving version gets straight to the heart of a young man's dilemma.

Contains interviews with adaptor, Mark Norfolk, and director Jeffery Kissoon, and a Preface, 'Performing Dialogues of Race and Culture', by Dr David Linton. An Education Resource Pack gives teachers and students information about the play, this production, and practical classroom games and exercises linked to the National Curriculum; presentation, discussing, role play and performance, improvisation, and writing (download on BTL website).

This fast-paced, all-Black, contemporary version of Hamlet has appeal across audiences young and old, those studying English and Drama at school, those recently introduced to Hamlet through popular TV adaptations and classic drama audiences. In particular, lovers of traditional drama and Shakespeare, schools and Black African & Caribbean audiences (including previous Black Theatre Live tours), as well as students studying Shakespeare and/or drama studies.

video Hamlet (Globe on Screen 2)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

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'.

video Hamlet (Maxine Peake as Hamlet)

Genesius Pictures
Type: Video

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.

video Hamlet (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Hamlet has the world at his feet. Young, wealthy and living a hedonistic life studying abroad. Then word reaches him that his father is dead. Returning home he finds his world is utterly changed, his certainties smashed and his home a foreign land. Struggling to understand his place in a new world order he faces a stark choice. Submit, or rage against the injustice of his new reality. Simon Godwin (The Two Gentlemen of Verona 2014) directs Paapa Essiedu as Hamlet in Shakespeare's searing tragedy. As relevant today as when it was written, Hamlet confronts each of us with the mirror of our own mortality in an imperfect world.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

Hamlet (The First Folio, 1623, 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 text presented here is taken from the 1623 First Folio, a collection of thirty-six Shakespeare plays collated by John Heminges and Henry Condell (two actors from Shakespeare’s company, the King’s Men), where it appears as The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke. It is the longest play in the Folio, and, although 4% shorter than Q2, it contains 1,914 words not found in Q2. It has been argued that this version is from a copy prepared for performance, possibly by Shakespeare and fellow company members, as the play contains fuller and more systematic stage directions than Q1 and Q2. It has been posited that F is based partly on a copy of Q2 annotated in the playhouse or after performance, and thus is authoritative given its derivation from the authorial ‘foul papers’ theorised to be the basis of Q2. Character names and the placing of key soliloquies are on the whole consistent between Q2 and F, although F lacks Hamlet’s final soliloquy in Q2, ‘How all occasions do inform against me...’, in which he decides once and for all to ‘be bloody’.

Hamlet (The First Quarto, 1603, 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 Tragicall Historie of HAMLET Prince of Denmarke, printed in quarto version (Q1) in 1603, is often known as the ‘bad’ quarto due to its significant differences from both the Q2 and F texts, rendering it ‘artistically inferior’ in the eyes of some readers. The plot, though essentially the same as in the older versions, is much abridged – Q2 is 79% longer than Q1. Several characters names are reworked: ‘Gertred’, ‘Leartes’, ‘Ofelia’, ‘Rossencraft’, ‘Gilderstone’, ‘Voltemar’, ‘Cornelia’ and ‘Fortenbrasse’ are all recognisable alternate spellings of characters familiar from Q2, whilst Polonius and his man Reynaldo undergo a sea-change to become ‘Corambis’ and ‘Montano’ respectively. In addition, many iconic monologues, particularly ‘To be or not to be’, will seem odd, both in position and wording, to readers familiar with Q2 and F. Q1 also includes an important scene between Gertred and Horatio, absolving the queen from knowledge of her new husband’s guilt, that does not appear in either of the other versions of the texts. Since its discovery in 1823, many theories have been posited regarding Q1, with some readers suggesting that it is a ‘first draft’ of the play, others that it is a ‘memorial reconstruction’ compiled from players’ memories, and still others that it is a theatrical abridgement, Q2 and F both being too long to have comfortably appeared on the early Jacobean stage as ‘two hours’ traffic’ (though in recent years the duration of early modern performances has been disputed as anywhere between two hours and up to three and a quarter hours long). Q1’s unique stage directions have, since the quarto’s discovery, become standardised: despite only appearing in Q1, stage business such as Ophelia’s mad lute-playing and Hamlet and Laertes jumping into the grave have become iconic moments in the play.

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 (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

With his crown under threat from enemies both foreign and domestic, Henry IV prepares for war. Having deposed the previous king, he is only too aware how tenuous his position is, and the price to be paid if he falters. As his father prepares to defend his crown, Prince Hal is languishing in the taverns and brothels of London, revelling in the company of his friend, the notorious Sir John Falstaff. With the onset of war, Hal and Falstaff are thrust into the brutal reality of the battlefield, where Hal must confront his responsibilities to family and throne.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

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 (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

King Henry's health is failing as a second rebellion against his reign threatens to surface. Intent on securing his legacy, he is uncertain that his son Hal is a worthy heir, believing him more concerned with earthly pleasures than the responsibility of rule. Sir John Falstaff is sent to the countryside to recruit fresh troops. Amongst the unwitting locals, opportunities for embezzlement and profiteering prove impossible to resist as Falstaff gleefully indulges in the business of lining his own pockets. As the King's health continues to worsen, Hal must choose between duty and loyalty to an old friend.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

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 VIII (Globe on Screen)

Globe on Screen
Type: Video

The Tudor Court is locked in a power struggle between its nobles and the Machiavellian Cardinal Wolsey, the King's first minister and the most conspicuous symbol of Catholic power in the land. Stage director: Mark Rosenblatt. Screen director: Robin Lough. Featuring: Michael Bertenshaw, Sam Cox, John Cummins, Ben Deery, Mary Doherty, John Dougall, Will Featherstone, Peter Hamilton Dyer, Anthony Howell, Colin Hurley, Miranda Raison, Dominic Rowan, Dickon Tyrell, Kate Duchene, Amanda Lawrence, Ian McNeice.

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.

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

NBC Universal
Type: Video

After the Battle of St Albans, Plantagenet and the Yorkists ride to London to claim the throne. Henry negotiates to keep the crown for his lifetime but agrees to disinherit his son Prince Edward.

Margaret is outraged and attacks Plantagenet at his house, slaughtering the duke and his youngest son Edmund. Elder brothers Edward, George and Richard escape and swear to avenge the murders and destruction of their house.

The Yorkists are victorious at the Battle of Towton and Plantagenet's eldest son is crowned Edward IV. Henry VI is imprisoned in the tower and Margaret escapes to France with her son Prince Edward.

Warwick travels to the French court to find Edward a bride. Word arrives that Edward is already betrothed to Elizabeth Woodville. Humiliated, Warwick switches sides and joins the House of Lancaster. Together with Margaret and the French king, Warwick forms an alliance to place Henry back on the throne.

George, Edward IV's brother, also joins with Warwick after failing to secure a good marriage or advance at court, but returns to the Yorkist cause moments before the Battle of Tewkesbury. The Lancastrians are defeated and Warwick is killed.

In the aftermath of battle, Richard slays Prince Edward in front of a distraught Margaret. Richard returns to London and murders the former King Henry in his cell. The court of Edward IV congregates for the christening of a new heir to the throne. The Yorkist dynasty seems secure.

Credits

Producer: Rupert Ryle-Hodges, Author: William Shakespeare, Director: Dominic Cooke, Adaptor: Dominic Cooke, Adaptor: Ben Power, Production Company: Neal Street Productions, Richard: Benedict Cumberbatch, Buckingham: Ben Daniels, Plantagenet: Adrian Dunbar, Hastings: James Fleet, Anne: Phoebe Fox, Queen Elizabeth: Keeley Hawes, Exeter: Anton Lesser, Somerset: Ben Miles, Margaret: Sophie Okonedo, King Louis: Andrew Scott, Clifford: Kyle Soller, Edward IV: Geoffrey Streatfeild, Henry VI: Tom Sturridge, Warwick: Stanley Townsend, George: Sam Troughton, Suffolk: Jason Watkins, Grieving Father: Simon Armstrong, Grieving Son: Jamie Ballard, Young Ned: Archie Bradfield, Bishop of Ely: Alan David, Lady Bona: Mariah Gale, Shepherd II: Christopher Godwin, Shepherd I: Tom Godwin, Ned: Barney Harris, Edmund: Angus Imrie, Westmorland: Richard Lynch, Brackenbury: John MacKay, Young Soldier: Jordan McCurrach, Vernon: Stuart McQuarrie, Oxford: Steffan Rhodri, Young Cecily: Lucy Robinson, Stanley: Jo Stone-Fewings, Soldier: Patrick Tolan, Messenger: Gerald Tyler, Grey: Samuel Valentine, Rivers: Al Weaver

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

video Henry V (RSC)

The Royal Shakespeare Company
Type: Video

Henry IV is dead and Hal is King. With England in a state of unrest, he must leave his rebellious youth behind, striving to gain the respect of his nobility and people. Laying claim to parts of France and following an insult from the French Dauphin, Henry gathers his troops and prepares for a war that he hopes will unite his country. Gregory Doran continues his exploration of Shakespeare’s History Plays with Henry V performed in the 600th anniversary year of the Battle of Agincourt. Following his performance as Hal in Henry IV Parts I & II Alex Hassell returns as Henry V.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

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 (Donmar)

Donmar Warehouse
Type: Video

Power, betrayal, justice. Phyllida Lloyd directs a cast including Harriet Walter in Shakespeare’s great political drama, part of the Donmar Warehouse’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy.

Set in the present-day in the world of a women’s prison, Julius Caesar could not be more timely as it depicts the catastrophic consequences of a political leader’s extension of his powers beyond the remit of the constitution. As Brutus (Harriet Walter) wrestles with his moral conscience over the assassination of Julius Caesar (Jackie Clune), Mark Antony (Jade Anouka) manipulates the crowd through his subtle and incendiary rhetoric to frenzied mob violence. There follows the descent of the country into factions and the outbreak of civil war.

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.

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 VIII (All is True)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A play obsessed with historical, political and performative truth, King Henry VIII was first performed under the title All is True at the Globe in 1613, when the charging of a small cannon near the end of the play famously set fire to the thatch at the top of the playhouse, and burnt it to the ground. As well as possibly being staged at the indoor Blackfriars theatre (where Henry and Katherine’s divorce trial had been held 84 years previously), it has been hypothesised that the play was performed at the wedding of James I’s daughter, Elizabeth, to the Elector Palatine, in 1613: its Protestant moralising and mythologizing, as well as the significance it places on a young princess named Elizabeth, would have suited such an occasion. With the sudden death of the young Prince Henry the year before, England’s hope of a proselytising Protestant monarch had been shaken. Such a play, with its suggestion of James I as a mythic heir, may have soothed the national consciousness.

As the play begins, Norfolk, Buckingham and Abergavenny are talking about the meeting of Henry VIII and Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. They complain about Cardinal Wolsey, who ensures that Buckingham is accused of high treason and executed. At a dinner given by Wolsey, Anne Bullen (Boleyn) attracts the attention of Henry, who is married to Queen Katherine of Aragon, and is made Marchioness of Pembroke. Henry sets up a court judged by Wolsey and Cardinal Campeius from Rome to consider his divorce; Katherine pleads with him and then leaves. The court is adjourned until she returns; the two Cardinals persuade her to relent.

Henry secretly marries Anne. Some of Wolsey’s letters to the Pope and an account of his wealth have found their way to Henry; Wolsey is disgraced, and Sir Thomas More is appointed Lord Chancellor in his place. Henry’s new marriage is announced, and Anne is crowned. Katherine is dying, and sees a vision of spirits of peace. After commending her daughter Mary to Henry, she dies. Anne falls pregnant. Henry’s secretary Gardiner plans to bring down Cranmer and Cromwell who are close to the King, but Henry intervenes. There is great rejoicing for the christening of Anne’s new-born daughter, who will become Queen Elizabeth I.

The play was a collaboration between the ageing Shakespeare and the young John Fletcher, who would go on to work together on The Two Noble Kinsmen (c.1613-4). It differs from other Henrican plays of the era which focus on or parody ‘Bluff King Harry’; here, the eponymous king is treated with gravitas as his marital meanderings enable a providential outcome for the English church and crown, as implied in Samuel Rowley’s earlier play When You See Me, You Know Me (1605), which was probably the play’s principal source. Generically, the play has been subject to debate: categorised under ‘Histories’ at its first appearance in the 1623 Folio, it has also been labelled a tragicomedy, a romance, and a late play by critics.

The Folio text is uniquely detailed in Shakespeare’s plays for its abundance of stage directions. As a result, the play has often been staged for its theatrical effect over its dramatic content. It was perennially popular throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in productions dominated by static sequences of tableaux and grandiose set speeches. Throughout the twentieth century, however, this spectacular performance style began to wane in favour of more ‘authentic’ renderings, and the play is now one of the most rarely performed of the Shakespearean canon.

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.

King Henry VI Part 2 (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Discussion of King Henry VI, Part 2 has been dominated by examinations of the providential pattern of God in history and the insurrectional eruption of rebels in society: of the high and the low forces of history. The play has also been viewed from the perspectives of Senecan poetics, feminism, the carnivalesque and burlesque.

This text uses the 1613 Folio as the control text. The play also appeared in a shorter, reconstructed form in three quartos entitled The Contention . . . The play was composed and performed before 1592, an issue that is linked to the dating of Henry VI, Part 1. The question of authorship — whether Shakespeare is the sole author, or collaborated, or revised an earlier play—is unresolved.

The English court is still fractious, and ill at ease with Henry’s marriage to Margaret of Anjou, which was arranged by Margaret’s very close confidant Suffolk. The Cardinal (Bishop of Winchester) and Buckingham are suspicious of the King’s Protector and uncle, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, and they conspire with Margaret and Suffolk to disgrace him, tricking his wife Eleanor into meeting a witch. She is banished, and Henry takes away Gloucester’s Protectorate; the conspirators accuse him of treason and losing the remaining territories in France, and secretly plan to kill him.

Meanwhile York has persuaded Salisbury and Warwick of his claim to the throne, and told them he is biding his time. The King sends him to quell the rebellion in Ireland. York explains that he has persuaded a man called Jack Cade to pose as York’s dead ancestor and start a rebellion against Henry’s rule.

Henry discovers Gloucester’s murder and exiles Suffolk. The Cardinal dies raving; Suffolk is killed at sea. Cade’s violent insurrection swells, until the memory of Henry V quiets the rebels. York returns from Ireland with an army and two of his sons Edward and Richard, and fights the Lancastrians at St Albans. The King and Queen flee the battlefield; the Yorkists pursue them.

King Henry VI Part 3 (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

King Henry VI Part 3 is effectively shaped from dense historical narratives, drawing out the complexities of morality and justice in the chaos of the Wars of the Roses. Criticism has examined integrity of characters, on feminist and psychoanalytic perspectives, on the Senecan influence, on the play’s context, on magical thinking, and on the play’s use of the morality play tradition.

The play was known in the theatre by 1592. Like the two other parts of Henry VI, questions surrounding its authorship remain unsolved. The play exists in a 1595 Octavo called The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York…, and in the Folio, on which this text is based.

In parliament, the victorious Yorkists confront Henry VI and the Lancastrians. They agree that on Henry’s death his crown will pass to Richard, Duke of York, passing over Henry’s son Prince Edward. Queen Margaret is furious, and leaves with their son to join the Northern lords and fight against the agreement. Once alone, York’s sons Edward and Richard persuade him to break his oath.

At the Battle of Wakefield between York and Margaret’s forces, Clifford kills York’s youngest son, and then with Margaret torments and kills York himself. His sons, Edward and Richard, hear first of their deaths and then of the defeat of their ally Warwick at the second Battle of St Albans. At the Battle of Towton, the Lancastrians are defeated, Clifford is killed. Margaret and Prince Edward flee to France; Henry is captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London; Edward (York’s son) is made King.

Both the Lancastrian Margaret and the Yorkist Warwick entreat the assistance of the French King Lewis. Warwick confirms Edward’s betrothal to Lewis’s sister, but news arrives that King Edward has married Lady Jane Grey instead, and this turns both Warwick and Lewis to the Lancastrian cause. Warwick returns to England with French reinforcements , captures King Edward, and frees King Henry. King Edward escapes to France, and then returns, capturing King Henry.

King Edward defeats Warwick’s forces at the Battle of Barnet, where Warwick is killed. Margaret returns from France for the Battle of Tewkesbury, where Prince Edward is killed by the three brothers King Edward, Clarence and Richard. Richard goes to the Tower and kills King Henry; Margaret is banished.

Picture of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English dramatist, poet, and actor, generally regarded as the greatest playwright of all. His works have been performed more frequently and in more languages than those of any other dramatist in history. The official Shakespearean canon comprises the 36 plays of the first folio (1623), two collaborative contributions, the Sonnets, the long poems The Rape of Lucrece and Venus and Adonis, and a few lyrics. Most scholars now accept that he also wrote some scenes and speeches in the chronicle plays Edward III and Sir Thomas More.

Of Shakespeare's life little is certainly known apart from the approximate dates of his birth, marriage to Anne Hathaway, and death. From 1592 it is possible to find references to Shakespeare's early plays in the works of other writers and contemporary records show that he was also much admired for his poetry. Despite this, reliable information about Shakespeare's personal life, character, and beliefs remains virtually nonexistent, leading to much speculation on the basis of the plays.

Shakespeare's first work for the stage is usually considered to be the three parts of Henry VI, although the imprecise dating of his plays makes even this uncertain. By the mid 1590s Shakespeare was a shareholder in the Chamberlain's Men, who were later to become the King's Men. From 1599 his plays were presented at the new Globe Theatre, in which he owned a tenth share. The great tragedies that are usually seen as the summit of his achievement were written over the next six or seven years. By about 1610 he had made enough money to retire to the second largest house in Stratford. He had been dead for seven years before two of his friends arranged and paid for the publication of the First Folio.

The theory that Shakespeare was not the writer of the works attributed to him was first put forward by Herbert Lawrence in 1769. 'The striking peculiarity of Shakespear's mind was its generic quality, its power of communication with all other minds - so that it contained a universe of thought and feeling within itself, and had no one peculiar bias, or exclusive excellence more than another. He was just like any other man, but that he was like all other men. He was the least of an egotist that it was possible to be. He was nothing in himself; but he was all that others were, or that they could become', William Hazlitt: Lectures on the English Poets (1818).