BBC Television Shakespeare

BBC Television Shakespeare
BBC Television Shakespeare
Shakespeare Collection Box.jpg
DVD Box-Set
Also known as The Shakespeare Collection (UK)
The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare (US)
Genre Drama, Comedy, Tragedy, History
Created by Cedric Messina
Written by William Shakespeare
Theme music composer William Walton
Country of origin UK
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 7
No. of episodes 37 (List of episodes)
Producer(s) Cedric Messina
Jonathan Miller
Shaun Sutton
Production company(s) Time Life Television
BBC Television
Distributor 2 Entertain
Original channel BBC2
Picture format 4:3
Audio format Monaural
Original run 1 December 1978 (1978-12-01) – 1 April 1985 (1985-04-01)
Related shows An Age of Kings
The Spread of the Eagle
External links
Production website

The BBC Television Shakespeare was a set of television adaptations of the plays of William Shakespeare, produced by the BBC between 1978 and 1985.




The concept for the series originated in 1976 with Cedric Messina, a veteran BBC producer, who was on-location at Glamis Castle in Angus, Scotland shooting J.M. Barrie's The Little Minister for the BBC Play of the Month series. During filming, it occurred to Messina that the castle would make a perfect location for an adaptation of Shakespeare's As You Like It for the series. By the time he had returned to London, however, the concept had grown considerably, and Messina now envisioned an entire series devoted exclusively to the dramatic work of Shakespeare; a series which would adapt all thirty-seven of Shakespeare's plays.[2]

At first, Messina envisioned the series as having six seasons of six episodes each, with the plan being to adapt the three Henry VI plays into a two-part episode. This idea was soon rejected however, as it was felt to be an unacceptable compromise, and it was decided to simply have one season with seven episodes. Initially, Messina also wanted to shoot the plays in chronological order of how they were written, but this was rejected because it was felt that doing so would necessitate the series beginning with a run of relatively little known plays. Another early concept of Messina's which had to be rejected was the idea of shooting the eight sequential history plays (Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, Henry V, Henry VI, Part 1, Henry VI, Part 2, Henry VI, Part 3 and Richard III) in chronological order of the events they depict, with linked casting and the same director for all eight adaptations (David Giles). During the early planning stages for Richard II and Henry IV, Part 1 however, the plan for linked casting fell apart when it was discovered that although Jon Finch (Henry Bolingbroke in Richard II) could return as Henry IV, Jeremy Bulloch as Henry 'Hotspur' Percy and David Swift as the Earl of Northumberland were unable to do so, and the parts had to be recast, thus undermining the concept of shooting the plays as one sequence. Ultimately, during the first season, Richard II, although still directed by Giles, was treated as a stand-alone piece, whilst Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V (all also directed by Giles) were treated as a trilogy during the second season, with linked casting between them. The second four plays were then directed by Jane Howell during the fifth season as one unit, with a common set and linked casting, with most of the cast playing multiple roles in the four plays. For example, Ron Cook, who played Richard III, also appeared in minor roles in Henry VI, Part 1 and Henry VI, Part 2.

Shakespeare on the BBC

The BBC had screened many Shakespearean adaptations before, but never on this scale. The first broadcast was on the afternoon of 5 February 1937; an eleven-minute scene from As You Like It, directed by Robert Atkins with Margaretta Scott as Rosalind and Ion Swinley as Orlando. Later that evening, a fourteen-minute segment from the wooing scene of Henry V was screened, directed by George More O'Ferrall and starring Henry Oscar as Henry and Yvonne Arnaud as Katherine.[3] O'Ferrall would oversee numerous productions of Shakespeare over the course of 1937;[4] a ten-minute excerpt from Mark Antony's funeral speech in Julius Caesar, starring Henry Oscar (11 February); a ten-minute excerpt from Much Ado About Nothing with Henry Oscar as Benedick and Margaretta Scott as Beatrice (also 11 February); a twenty-five minute extract from Macbeth, with Henry Oscar as Macbeth and Margaret Rawlings as Lady Macbeth (25 March); a thirty-minute extract from Twelfth Night, with John Wyse as Orsino and Greer Garson as Olivia (14 May); and a sixty seven-minute extract from Othello starring Baliol Holloway as Othello, D.A. Clarke-Smith as Iago and Celia Johnson as Desdemona. O’Ferrall also produced a 1938 broadcast of a live thirty-minute extract from an Old Vic production of Macbeth, directed by Michel Saint-Denis and starring Laurence Olivier and Judith Anderson. 1938 also saw the first full-length broadcast of a Shakespeare play; Dallas Bower's modern dress production of Julius Caesar at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre starring Ernest Milton as Caesar and D.A. Clark-Smith as Mark Antony. These transmissions came to an end with the onset of war in 1939 and none of them survive now.

After the war, Shakespearean adaptations were screened less frequently, although there were numerous live transmissions of actual plays; for example, a one hundred-minute abridged version of Orson Welles' legendary modern dress Mercury Theatre production of Julius Caesar, starring Welles himself; a twenty five-minute extract from Stephen Thomas' Regent's Park production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, starring Alexander Knox as Oberon and Thea Holme as Titiana; and a one hundred and forty-minute version of Dallas Bower's production of The Tempest, with Peggy Ashcroft as Miranda and John Abbott as Prospero. In 1948, George More O'Ferrall directed and produced a made-for-TV two-part adaptation of Hamlet with John Byron as Hamlet, Sebastian Shaw as Claudius, Margaret Rawlings as Gertrude and Muriel Pavlow as Ophelia.

There were also three multi-part Shakespearean adaptations shown during the 1950s and 1960s. The first was The Life and Death of Sir John Falstaff (1959). Produced and directed by Ronald Eyre and starring Roger Livesey as Falstaff, the series took all of the Falstaff scenes from the Henry IV plays and The Merry Wives of Windsor and adapted them into seven half-hour episodes. The second was An Age of Kings (1960). Produced by Peter Dews and directed by Michael Hayes, the show comprised fifteen one-hour episodes which adapted all eight of Shakespeare's sequential history plays. The third was the Peter Dews produced The Spread of the Eagle (1963), which featured nine one-hour episodes adapting, in chronological order of the real life events, Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra.

However, The Spread of the Eagle was not a huge success, and afterwards, the BBC returned to smaller screenings with less financial risk.[5] In 1964, for example, the John Barton adaptation of the three Henry VI plays and Richard III into a three-parter called The Wars of the Roses by the Royal Shakespeare Company was aired over a four-week period. Another 1964 production was Hamlet at Elsinore, directed by Philip Saville and produced by Peter Luke. Starring Christopher Plummer as Hamlet, Robert Shaw as Claudius, Michael Caine as Horatio and Donald Sutherland as Fortinbras, the entire play was shot on-location in Denmark at the real Elsinore Castle. Additionally, The Play of the Month series screened several Shakespearian adaptations over the years; Romeo and Juliet (1967), The Tempest (1968), Julius Caesar (1969), Macbeth (1970), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1971), The Merchant of Venice (1972), Love's Labour's Lost (1974) and King Lear (1975).


As such, the BBC Television Shakespeare project was the most ambitious engagement with Shakespeare ever undertaken by either a television or film production company. So large was the project that the BBC couldn't finance it alone and required an American partner who would guarantee access to the United States market, deemed essential for the series to recoup its costs. Financing took over two years to secure, with Time–Life acting as the series' largest underwriter. Later, Exxon, Metropolitan Life and Morgan Guaranty Trust also provided financing. However, because they had invested so much in the project, the backers were able to suggest terms.

The most important of these was that the productions must be traditional interpretations of the plays set in either Shakespeare's time (1564 to 1616) or in the period of the events depicted (such as ancient Rome for Julius Caesar or c1400 for Richard II). A two and a half hour maximum running time was also required but this was swiftly jettisoned when it became clear that the major tragedies in particular would have suffered severely if truncated too heavily. The restriction regarding conservative interpretations was non-negotiable. The financiers were primarily concerned with ratings and the restrictions worked to this end, ensuring the plays had "maximum acceptability to the widest possible audience."[6] Partly because of this, although later productions under Messina's successors Jonathan Miller and Shaun Sutton, would be more experimental, in its early years the series developed a reputation for being overly conventional. Later in the series when Miller tried to persuade directors such as Peter Brook, Ingmar Bergman, William Gaskill and John Dexter to direct adaptations, he failed.[7]

During Messina's tenure as producer (seasons one and two), as per the financiers' restrictions the adaptations tended to be conservative, but when Jonathan Miller took over at the start of season three, he revamped things. Messina had favoured a broadly 'realistic' approach which worked to simplify the texts for audiences unfamiliar with Shakespeare. Miller was against dilution. According to Martin Wiggins, Miller came from,

outside the BBC's tradition of painstaking research and accurate historical verisimilitude. Messina's approach had treated the plays in realistic terms as events which had once taken place and which could be literally represented on screen. Miller saw them as products of a creative imagination, artefacts in their own right to be realised in production using the visual and conceptual materials of their period. This led to a major reappraisal of the original production guidelines."[8]

A change by Miller that was met with great delight by directors was his tendency to encourage the adaptations to be more adventurous than Messina had permitted, pushing the definition of "traditional". Miller adopted a visual and design policy of sets and costumes inspired by great paintings of the era in which the play were written, though the style was dominated by the post-Shakespearean 17th century artists Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt. This allowed directors to stamp more of their aesthetic credo on the productions. Miller's aesthetic policies continued under Shaun Sutton who took over at the start of season six. The project was Sutton's retirement job after twelve years as the head of BBC Drama and he was under strict orders to bring the series to a close as it had run over by twelve months during Miller's reign. Sutton was successful and the series closed with a broadcast of Titus Andronicus roughly twelve months late. Messina's gamble in 1978 proved successful as the series was a financial success, having more than broken even by 1982.[9]

All productions were shot on video with multiple cameras in Studio 1 at the BBC Television Centre studios, with the exception of two first season episodes, As You Like It and Henry VIII, which were shot on location. Also worth noting is that composer William Walton, who had scored Olivier's three Shakespearean films (Henry V, Hamlet and Richard III) came out of retirement to write the theme music for the show.

The 37 Plays

Season one; Cedric Messina, producer

Romeo and Juliet


Rebecca Saire was only fourteen when the production was filmed, an unusually young age for an actress playing Juliet (even though she is only thirteen in the play itself).

King Richard the Second

As You Like It


Filmed at Glamis Castle in Scotland, this was one of only two productions shot on location, the other being Henry VIII. Director Basil Colemen initially felt that the play should be filmed over the course of a year, with the change in seasons from winter to summer marking the ideological change in characters, but he was forced to shoot entirely in May, even though the play begins in winter.

Julius Caesar


Director Herbert Wise felt that Julius Caesar should be set in the Elizabethan era, but he was compelled by the financiers to set it in a Roman milieu. Wise felt that Shakespeare had written the play specifically as a commentary on Elizabethan culture, and that interpreting it literally as being a play about Ancient Rome trivialised the story.

Measure for Measure


Director Desmond Davis based the brothel in the play on a traditional Western saloon and the prison on a typical horror film dungeon.

The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight


Shot at Leeds Castle, Penhurst Place and Hever Castle and in the actual rooms in which some of the real events took place.

Season two; Cedric Messina, producer

The First Part of King Henry the Fourth, with the life and death of Henry surnamed Hotspur

The Second Part of King Henry the Fourth, including his death and the coronation of King Henry the Fift

The Life of Henry the Fift

Twelfth Night


Director John Gorrie interpreted the play as an English country house comedy, and incorporated influences ranging from Luigi Pirandello's Il Gioco delle Parti to ITV's Upstairs, Downstairs. Gorrie also set the play during the English Civil War, hoping the use of cavaliers and roundheads would help focus the dramatisation of the conflict between festivity and Puritanism.

The Tempest


The special effects seen in this episode were not developed especially for use here. They had been developed for Top of the Pops and Doctor Who.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

Season three; Jonathan Miller, producer

Petruchio (John Cleese) and Katherine (Sarah Badel)

The Taming of the Shrew


The casting of John Cleese as Petruchio was not without controversy at the time. Cleese had never performed Shakespeare before, and was not a fan of the first two seasons of the BBC Television Shakespeare, and took some persuading from Miller that the BBC Shrew would not be, as Cleese feared "about a lot of furniture being knocked over, a lot of wine being spilled, a lot of thighs being slapped and a lot of unmotivated laughter."[10] As such, Miller told Cleese that the episode would interpret Petruchio as an early Puritan, and that the part was not to be acted along the traditional lines of the swaggering bully a la Richard Burton in Franco Zeffirelli's adaptation. In tandem with this interpretation, the song sung at the end of the play is a musical version of Psalm 128, which was often sung in Puritan households at the end of a meal during Shakespeare's own day.

The Merchant of Venice

All's Well That Ends Well


In line with producer Jonathan Miller's new aesthetic policy, director Elijah Moshinsky composed many of the shots of the film as live action replicas of the work of Johannes Vermeer.

The Winter's Tale

Timon of Athens


Michael Bogdanov was originally hired to direct this episode, but he resigned after his modern-dress interpretation was considered too radical.

Antony and Cleopatra[11]


During the shooting of the scene with the snake, the snake crawled down the back of Jane Lapotaire's dress.

Season four; Jonathan Miller, producer



James Earl Jones was originally hired to play the role of Othello, but Equity, the English Actor's Guild, refused to issue a work permit. During production itself, Jonathan Miller based the visual design on the work of El Greco.

Troilus and Cressida


Director Jonathan Miller used the work of gothic painter Lucas Cranach as a visual influence during the production, and several of Cranach's paintings can be seen in Ajax's tent.

A Midsummer Night's Dream


Elijah Moshinsky based the fairies in the play on the baroque eroticism of Rembrandt and Peter Paul Rubens.

Season Five; Jonathan Miller and Shaun Sutton, producers

King Lear


Jonathan Miller had previously directed an adaptation of King Lear in 1975 for the BBC series Play of the Month. Like the BBC Shakespeare version, Miller's previous production starred Michael Hordern as Lear and Frank Middlemass as the Fool. Originally, however Robert Shaw was cast as Lear but died in 1978 before production began.


The Merry Wives of Windsor


Director David Jones originally wanted to shoot the episode in Stratford-upon-Avon but was restricted to a studio setting. Jones got around this by basing his set on the house which belonged to Shakespeare's son-in-law, John Hall.

The First Part of Henry the Sixt

York (Bernard Hill), Margaret (Julia Foster), Somerset (Brian Deacon), Iden (Antony Brown) and Henry (Peter Benson)

The Second Part of Henry the Sixt


This episode was filmed on the same set as The First Part of Henry the Sixt. However, designer Oliver Bayldon altered the set so it would appear that the paint work was flaking and peeling, and the set falling into a state of disrepair, as England descended into an ever increasing state of chaos.

The Third Part of Henry the Sixt


This episode was filmed on the same set as The First Part of Henry the Sixt and The Second Part of Henry the Sixt. However, designer Oliver Bayldon altered the set so it would appear to be completely falling apart, as England descended into an even worse state of chaos.

The Tragedy of Richard III


This episode was filmed on the same set as the three Henry VI plays. However, designer Oliver Bayldon altered the set so it would appear to be a ruin, as England reached its lowest point of chaos. At 239 minutes, Howell's The Tragedy of Richard III was the longest episode in the entire series, and when the series was released on DVD in 2005, it was the only adaptation split over two disks.

Season six; Shaun Sutton, producer


The Comedy of Errors

Proteus (Tyler Butterworth) and Valentine (John Hudson)

The Two Gentlemen of Verona


The music in this episode was created by Anthony Rooley, who wrote new arrangements of works from Shakespeare's own time, such as John Dowland's piece 'Lachrimae'. Performed by The Consort of Musicke, other musicians whose music was used include William Byrd, Thomas Campion, Anthony Holborne, John Johnson, Thomas Morley and Orazio Vecchi. According to director Don Taylor, the use of the young actors dressed as cherubs was to convey the idea that the characters lived in a 'Garden of Courtly Love', which was slightly divorced from every day reality.

The Tragedy of Coriolanus[11]


Director Elijah Moshinsky modelled the relationship between Coriolanus and his mother after that between Rose Kennedy and her sons.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre[11]

Season seven; Shaun Sutton, producer

Much Ado About Nothing[11]


A production of Much Ado About Nothing directed by Donald McWhinnie and starring Penelope Keith and Michael York was the first production to be recorded in the series, but was thought unsatisfactory for US audiences, and never broadcast.[12] During the reshoot for season seven, director Stuart Burge initially thought about shooting the entire episode against a blank tapestry background, with no set whatsoever, but it was felt that audiences may not respond well to this, and the idea was scrapped.

The Life and Death of King John

Love's Labour's Lost


Director Elijah Moshinsky used the paintings of Jean-Antoine Watteau, the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the writing of Pierre de Marivaux as inspiration during the making of this episode, which is the only play of the thirty-seven to be set in the eighteenth century.

Titus Andronicus[11]

  • Directed by Jane Howell
  • Taping dates: 10–17 February 1985
  • First transmitted in the US: 19 April 1985
  • First transmitted in the UK: 27 April 1985
  • Paul Davies Prowles as Young Lucius
  • Edward Hardwicke as Marcus
  • Walter Brown as Aemilius
  • Brian Protheroe as Saturninus
  • Nicholas Gecks as Bassianus
  • Derek Fuke as Sempronius/3rd Goth
  • Eileen Atkins as Tamora
  • Peter Searles as Alarbus/Valentine/4th Goth
  • Neil McCaul as Demetrius
  • Michael Crompton as Chiron
  • Hugh Quarshie as Aaron
  • Gavin Richards as Lucius
  • Crispin Redman as Quintus
  • Tom Hunsinger as Martius
  • Michael Packer as Mutius
  • Trevor Peacock as Titus Andronicus
  • Anna Calder-Marshall as Lavinia
  • Paul Kelly as Publius/2nd Goth
  • John Benfield as 1st Goth/Caius
  • Deddie Davies as Nurse
  • Tim Potter as Clown

Because Titus was broadcast several months after the rest of the seventh season, it was rumoured that the BBC were worried about the violence in the play and that disagreements had arisen about censorship. This was inaccurate however, with the delay caused by a BBC strike in 1984. Initially, director Jane Howell wanted to set the play in present day Northern Ireland, but she ultimately settled on a more conventional approach.[13] All the body parts seen throughout were based upon real autopsy photographs, and were authenticated by the Royal College of Surgeons. The costumes of the Goths were based on punk outfits, with Chiron and Demetrius specifically based on the band KISS.[14] According to Howell, the reason the Roman populace all wear identical generic masks without mouth was to convey the idea also that the Roman people were faceless and voiceless.

Omissions and changes

With the exception of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, all of the productions were based on the texts of the First Folio (1623),[15] however, numerous changes were made throughout the series.

  • Richard II
    • The trial/multiple challenges portion of Act IV is omitted.
    • All mention of Henry IV's son, later Henry V, is omitted.
  • Henry IV, Part 2
    • The Epilogue is omitted.
    • Much other material, especially involving Falstaff, is cut.
  • Twelfth Night
    • Act 2, Scene 2 follows immediately after Act 1, Scene 5.
  • The Taming of the Shrew
    • The Induction and the interjection of Sly at the end of Act 1, Scene 1 are absent.
    • Several lines are omitted from the conversation between Grumio and Curtis in Act 4, Scene 1.
    • The brief conversation between Biondello and Lucentio which opens Act 5, Scene 1 is absent.
    • Act 5, Scene 2 ends differently to the play. The last line spoken is Petruchio's "We three are married, but you two are sped;" thus omitting Petruchio's comment to Lucentio "'Twas I won the wager, though you hit the white, And being a winner, God give you good night", as well as Hortensio's line, "Now go thy ways, thou has tamed a curst shrew", and Lucentio's closing statement, "'Tis a wonder, by your leave, she will be tamed so." Additionally, Petruchio and Katherina do not leave the banquet prior to the end of the play, but remain, and engage in a song with all present.
  • Henry VI, Part 1
    • Lines are omitted from almost every scene. Some of the more notable omissions include, in Act 1, Scene 1, Bedford's references to children crying and England becoming a marsh since Henry V died; (ll.48-51). In Act 1, Scene 2, Alençon's praise of the resoluteness of the English army is absent (ll.29-34). In Act 1, Scene 5, Talbot's complaint about the French wanting to ransom him for a prisoner of less worth is absent (ll.8-11). In Act 1, Scene 7, some of Charles' praise of Joan is absent (ll.21-27). In Act 4, Scene 6, some of the dialogue between Talbot and John is absent (ll.6-25). In Act 4, Scene 7, twelve of Joan's sixteen lines are cut; the entire seven line speech where she says John Talbot refused to fight her because she is a woman (ll.37-43); the first three lines of her five line mockery of Lucy's listing of Talbot's titles (ll.72-75); and the first two lines of her four line speech where she mocks Lucy about to take over Talbot's position (ll.86-88).
    • The adaptation opens differently to the text, as we see Henry VI singing a lament for his father.
    • Fastolf's escape from Rouen is seen rather than merely mentioned.
    • Act 5, Scene 1 and Act 5, Scene 2 are reversed so that Act 4, Scene 7 and Act 5, Scene 2 now form one continuous piece.
    • The character of Warwick as portrayed by Mark Wing-Davey is Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick. In the play however, the character is Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick, Neville's father-in-law.
  • Henry VI, Part 2
    • Lines are omitted from almost every scene. Some of the more notable omissions include, in Act 1, Scene 1, both of Humphrey's references to Bedford are absent (ll. 82-83, 95-96), as is the reference to Suffolk's demands that he be paid for escorting Margaret from France (ll. 131-133), and York's allusion to Althaea and Calydon in his closing soliloquy (ll.231-235). York's outline of Edward III's seven sons is absent from Act 2, Scene 2 (ll.10-17), as is Salisbury's reference to Owen Glendower (l.41). Suffolk's accusation that Humphrey was involved in necromancy with Eleanor is omitted from Act 3, Scene 1 (ll.47-53), as is Humphrey's outline of how he dealt with criminals during his time as Lord Protector (ll.128-132). Also absent from 3.1 is York's reference to how he fought alongside Cade in Ireland (ll.360-370). In Act 4, Scene 1, all references to Walter Whitmore's name as Gualtier are absent. The entirety of Act 4, Scene 5 (a brief scene showing Scales and Gough on patrol at the Tower of London) is absent. In Act 5, Scene 1, some of the dialogue between Clifford and Warwick is absent (ll.200-210).
    • Some lines have also been added to the play. In Act 1, Scene 1, two lines are added to Salisbury's vow to support York if he can prove he is a legitimate heir to the crown; "The reverence of mine age and the Neville's name/Is of no little force if I command" (between ll.197 and 198). In Act 1, Scene 3, two lines are added to the conversation between Margaret and Thump, where Thump mistakes the word 'usurper' for 'usurer' and is corrected by Margaret (between ll.31 and 32). In Act 2, Scene 1, the conversation between Humphrey and Beaufort is extended, wherein Humphrey says that Beaufort was born "in bastardy". All of these additional lines are taken from the 1594 quarto of the play, The First part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster.
    • Several lines are spoken by characters other than who speak in the Folio text. In Act 1, Scene 3, Humphrey's line "This is the law and this Duke Humphrey's doom" is given to Henry. In Act 1, Scene 4, during the conjuration, there is no separate spirit in the scene; all the spirit's dialogue is spoken 'through' Magarey Jourdayne. Also, later in that scene, it is Buckingham who reads the prophecies, not York. In Act 4, Scene 1, the second half of line 139 ("Pompey the Great and Suffolk dies by pirates") is given to the Lieutenant.
    • The character of George Plantagenet is introduced towards the end of the play, just prior to the Battle of St Albans, with which the play closes. In the text however, George is not introduced until 3 Henry VI, Act 2, Scene 2
    • The play ends slightly differently to how it is indicated in the text. After the battle, the victorious House of York leave the stage, all except Salisbury, who sadly looks around the field of battle at the many dead bodies.
  • Henry VI, Part 3
    • Lines are omitted from almost every scene. Some of the more notable omissions include the opening twenty-four lines of the first scene. Instead the play begins with Warwick proclaiming, "This is the palace of the fearful king". Also in Act 1, Scene 1, all references to Margaret chairing a session of parliament are absent (ll.35-42), as are her references to the pains of child birth, and Henry's shameful behaviour in disinheriting his son (ll.221-226). Absent from Act 1, Scene 3 is Rutland's appeal to Clifford's paternal instincts (ll.41-43). In Act 2, Scene 1, all references to Clarence's entry into the conflict are absent, as he had already been introduced as a combatant at the end of 2 Henry VI. During the debate between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians in Act 2, Scene 2, Richard's "Northumberland, I hold thee reverentially" is absent (l.109). In Act 3, Scene 3, Warwick's reference to Salisbury's death and the incident with his niece are both absent (ll.186-188). In Act 4, Scene 4, the first twelve lines are absent (where Elizabeth reports to Rivers that Edward has been captured). In Act 5, Scene 6, Henry's references to Daedalus and Icarus are absent (ll.21-25).
    • Some lines are also added to the play. In Act 1, Scene 1, four lines are added at the beginning of Henry's declaration that he would rather see civil war than yield the throne; "Ah Plantagenet, why seekest thou to depose me?/Are we not both Plantagenets by birth?/And from two brothers lineally descent?/Suppose by right and equity thou be king...". Also in Act 1, Scene 1, a line is inserted when York asks Henry if he agrees to the truce and Henry replies "Convey the soldiers hence, and then I will." Most significant is in Act 5, Scene 1, where the incident involving Clarence's return to the Lancastrian side is completely different to the text found in the Folio, and is taken entirely from the octavo text of The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York (1595).
    • Several lines are spoken by characters other than who speak in the Folio text, particularly in relation to Clarence. For example, in Act 2, Scene 1, it is Clarence who says Edward's "I wonder how our princely father scaped,/Or whether he be scaped away or no/From Clifford and Northumberland's pursuit". Clarence also speaks Richard's "Three glorious suns, each one a perfect sun,/Not separated with the racking clouds/But severed in a pale clear-shining sky"; Edward's "Sweet Duke of York, our prop to lean upon/Now thou art gone, we have no staff, no stay"; and Richard's "Great lord of Warwick, if we should recount/Our baleful news, and at each word's deliverance/Stab poniards in our flesh till all were told,/The words would add more anguish than the wounds".
    • The presentation of the character of Montague also differs from the Folio text. Montague is not present in Act 1, Scene 1, and as such, his lines are either spoken by Clarence or omitted. He is introduced in Act 1, Scene 2, but with some notable changes to the text; when York is giving his men instructions, his order to Montague, "Brother, thou shalt to London presently" (l.36) is changed to "Cousin, thou shalt to London presently", York's reiteration of the order "My brother Montague shall post to London" (l.54) is changed to "Hast you to London my cousin Montague", and Montague's "Brother, I go, I'll win them, fear it not" (l.60) is changed to "Cousin, I go, I'll win them, fear it not." Additionally, the report of the death of Warwick and Montague's brother Thomas Neville in Act 2, Scene 3 is different from the text; 'son' in line 15 is replaced with 'father', 'brother' in line 19 is replaced with 'son', and 'gentleman' in line 23 is replaced with 'Salisbury'.
  • Cymbeline
    • Acts 4 and 5 are heavily cut, and scenes and speeches are freely rearranged.
  • Timon of Athens
    • Act 3, Scene 3 is heavily cut; the servant's monologue is totally omitted, though Lucilius appears in the background for the scene. Various smaller cuts.
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona
    • Act 1, Scene 1 begins with Mercatio and Eglamour attempting to formally woo Julia; Mercatio by showing her a coffer overflowing with gold coins, Eglamour by displaying a parchment detailing his family history (there is no dialogue in this scene).
    • The capture of Silvia and the flight of Eglamour is seen, as opposed to merely being described.
    • Eglamour is also present at the end of Act 5, Scene 4 (once again without any dialogue).
  • Titus Andronicus
    • Some minor lines are omitted from various scenes, such as Lavinia's "Ay, for these slips have made him noted long" (2.3.87), Titus' "Ah, wherefore dost thou urge the name of hands,/To bid Aeneas tell the tale twice o’er,/How Troy was burnt and he made miserable?" (3.2.26-28), Marcus' "What, what! The lustful sons of Tamora/Performers of this heinous, bloody deed" (4.1.78-79), and Titus and Marcus' brief conversation about Taurus and Aries (4.3.68-75).
    • Several lines from the Q1 text which were removed in subsequent editions are used; at 1.1.35 Titus' "bearing his valiant sons/in coffins from the field" continues with "and at this day,/To the Monument of that Andronicy/Done sacrifice of expiation,/And slaine the Noblest prisoner of the Gothes." These lines work in tandem with a rearrangement of the opening scenes to avoid a continuity problem. The lines concern the sacrifice of Alarbus, which hasn't happened yet in the text. However, Howell got around this problem by beginning the play at 1.1.64 – the entrance of Titus. Then, at 1.1.168, after the sacrifice of Alarbus, lines 1.1.1 to 1.1.63 (the introductions of Bassianus and Saturninus) take place, thus Titus' reference to Alarbus' sacrifice makes chronological sense.
    • The character of Young Lucius is a much more important figure in the adaptation than in the play; he is present throughout Act 1, he retrieves the murder weapon after the death of Mutius; it is his knife which Titus uses to kill the fly; he aids in the capture of Chiron and Demetrius; he is present throughout the final scene.
    • Also changed is the fate of Aaron's baby, who is seen dead in a coffin in the final scene. In the play, and most productions, it is implied that the child lives.


  1. ^ Unless otherwise stated, all background information in this section and all behind-the-scenes information in the next is taken from Martin Wiggins, The (BBC DVD) Shakespeare Collection: Viewing Notes (booklet included with the DVD box-set)
  2. ^ At the time, Shakespeare's complete canon was considered to be thirty-seven plays; seventeen comedies, ten tragedies, and ten histories. These comprised the thirty-six plays from the First Folio of 1623, plus Pericles, Prince of Tyre (which had been added to the Third Folio in 1664). As The Two Noble Kinsmen was considered to be primarily the work of John Fletcher and Shakespeare's authorship of Edward III was still in doubt, these two plays were not included in the series.
  3. ^ "Kenneth S. Rothwell, 'The Television Revolution' (2002)". Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  4. ^ All information taken from the British Universities Film & Video Council
  5. ^ Michael Brooke, Screenonline: The Spread of the Eagle'
  6. ^ Susan Willis, The BBC Shakespeare Plays: Making the Televised Canon, (Chapel Hill & London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 10-11
  7. ^ "Michael Brooke, Screenonline: The BBC Television Shakespeare". Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  8. ^ Martin Wiggins, The (BBC DVD) Shakespeare Collection: Viewing Notes (booklet included with the DVD box-set). 6
  9. ^ "Michael Brooke, Screenonline: Shakespeare on Television". Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  10. ^ "Michael Brooke, Screenonline: The Taming of the Shrew". 23 October 1980. Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g The first transmission date in the United States is earlier than that in the United Kingdom.
  12. ^ See here here for details
  13. ^ Michael Brooks, Screenonline; Titus Andronicus; Retrieved 22 January 2010.
  14. ^ Sylvan Barnet(ed.) The Tragedy of Titus Andronicus (Signet Classic Shakespeare; New York: Signet, 1963; revised edition, 1989; 2nd revised edition 2005), 159)
  15. ^ Pericles was not included in the First Folio, and wasn't published under Shakespeare's name until the Third Folio in 1664

See also

Shakespeare: The Animated Tales


External links

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