William Shakespeare

Plays by William Shakespeare

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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).