BBC Simon Schama's John Donne (57:56)For Columbia University’s Simon Schama, John Donne is the poet who transformed English verse through a raw emotional honesty coupled with a virtuosic skill with language. Drawing upon the observations of John Carey, literary critic and author of John Donne: Life, Mind, and Art, and insightful readings by actress Fiona Shaw, Schama undertakes a passionate appraisal of Donne’s work. Simon Schama’s John Donne vividly brings to life the brilliant and ambitious poet, his ardent writings, and his turbulent times. “To His Mistress Going to Bed,” “The Canonization,” “The Good-Morrow,” and “Holy Sonnet XIV” are given particular attention. A BBC Production. (58 minutes) A BBC Production.
Ben Jonson (22:30)As arrogant and brash as he was talented and innovative, Ben Jonson lived a life as rife with drama as any of his many plays. He was jailed more than once for staging dramas that satirized the powers that be, and nearly had his ears and nose mutilated after collaborating on a play that lampooned King James I. Friend and colleague of Shakespeare, he is considered by many to have been the first poet laureate of England.
The Metaphysical Poets (29:44)In a reaction against Elizabethan-period poetry, 17th-century English poets such as John Donne, George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, and Andrew Marvell began writing in a new style.
Milton by Himself (27:08)This program examines the life and times of John Milton through his major and autobiographical writings. The visuals—period art and location photography of the London and Cambridge sites associated with Milton—combined with the music of the time and Milton’s own words, together trace the rise and fall of a tragic figure caught between the worlds of ancient glory and contemporary politics—a Renaissance man in the maelstrom of the Baroque.
PBS In Search of Shakespeare, with Michael Wood Series (4 part series)The details of William Shakespeare's life are often shrouded in obscurity. In this four-part series, Michael Wood takes the viewer on an adventurous journey through Elizabethan England as he uncovers the life story of the most iconic figure in literary history. Through a mixture of travel sequences, scholarly interviews, and re-created adventure, we see the Bard's life, set against the backdrop of his turbulent era of militarism, domestic surveillance, and foreign wars.
Shakespeare's Globe (50:46)An intimate look inside a living time capsule, this program explores the planning and reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, presenting a day in the working life of the unique artistic institution. The video guides viewers through the facility, painstakingly designed and built to resemble the original Elizabethan playhouse, and offers commentary from the actors, artisans, and educators who practice their craft there. Illustrating how the Globe’s productions breathe life into the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, the program features thrilling performances from Romeo and Juliet, including the balcony scene and the death of Mercutio.
The Shakespeare Enigma (51:35)Long considered the world's greatest writer, Shakespeare the man all but eludes biographers—leading some scholars to doubt they are one and the same. Filmed at salient locations around England, this program explores the four main theories of the Bard's true identity. Professor Stanley Wells of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust defends Shakespeare's authorship. Francis Carr and Mark Rylance, artistic director of The Globe Theatre, argue for Francis Bacon. A. D. Wraight of the Marlowe Society proposes that poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe is the real author, while Elizabeth Imlay champions Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. Manuscripts, excerpts, and scenes from the plays are used to support each theory.
This Earth, This Realm, This England (51:42)Has any single person shaped English more than William Shakespeare? This program uses unparalleled access to some of the greatest English texts, including the first English dictionary and a rare first folio of Shakespeare’s plays, to illustrate the great Bard’s influence. John Barton, honorary associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, discusses the sound and accessibility of Shakespeare’s words. His impact is also examined in the larger context of Elizabethan England and the Renaissance.
William Shakespeare (45:41)This program tells the story of Shakespeare and his works. Featuring delightful dramatized extracts from some of Shakespeare’s best-known plays, the program also includes memorable depictions of life in Elizabethan times. The program also features expert commentary and critical analysis by Stanley Wells, Director of the Shakespeare Institute, and Robert Smallwood, Deputy Director of the Shakespeare Centre in Stratford-upon-Avon. The well-regarded Shakespearean actor Brian Blessed also makes a special appearance in this program.
Performances & Readings
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BBC A Midsummer Night's Dream Series (2 part series)In the tyrannical court of Athens, the pitiless dictator Theseus plans his wedding to Hippolyta, a prisoner of war, and young Hermia is sentenced to death by her own father. Meanwhile, in the rickety township on the hillside, amateur theatre group the Mechanicals rehearse, with all their comic rivalries. And beyond Athens, in the wild wood, dark forces are stirring… Celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare, Russell T Davies’ full-blooded adaptation has more attitude and invention than anything that’s gone before. This is a production for everyone, brought to life by an award-winning cast of established stars and exciting newcomers. It’s a dream that will never be forgotten.
BBC Hamlet Starring David Tennant (03:02:26)Called “the greatest Hamlet of his generation” by Guardian reviewer Robert McCrum, Scottish actor David Tennant headlines this edgy film version of the acclaimed 2008 Royal Shakespeare Company stage production. Tennant is supported by a host of gifted players—including the impeccable Patrick Stewart as Claudius and Oliver Ford Davies in an astonishing performance as a doddering yet strangely leonine Polonius. Modern costumes, shrewd textual abridgements, and a recurring motif of high-tech video surveillance all connect the play to 21st-century anxieties, but these attributes in no way eclipse Tennant’s forceful mixture of rage, sorrow, and manic humor.
Doctor Faustus (5:15:32)his classic play is aimed at the student, teacher, lecturer and theater lover alike. Staged using professional actors and directors at London's award-winning Greenwich Theatre, “The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus” was first published in 1604 by Christopher Marlowe. Having decided he has accumulated all he can of conventional knowledge, Doctor Faustus turns to magic in a quest for greater truths. Before long, he ends up selling his soul to the devil: the famous "Faustian pact" that's entered the language. Dr Faustus gradually realizes his terrible mistake.
The Jew of Malta (1:46:14)Masterfully filmed using detailed period costumes and professional performers, this pitch-black comedy from the satirical pen of Christopher Marlowe—the only film adaptation of Marlowe’s brilliant drama—depicts hypocritical Christians, bloodthirsty Muslims, and one murderous Jew at his stereotypical worst. How popular and influential was The Jew of Malta in its time? Shakespeare himself drew upon the play’s characters to create Shylock and Jessica for The Merchant of Venice and borrowed liberally from a balcony scene to write his own for Romeo and Juliet.
Romeo and Juliet: Live from Shakespeare's Globe (02:51:07)“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” Performed at Shakespeare’s Globe, London’s faithful reconstruction of the open-air playhouse designed in 1599, Romeo and Juliet is arguably the best-loved of all love stories in Western literature. The play’s masterful combination of lyricism, suspense, and dramatic changes of mood is dramatized by an energetic cast that stars Adetomiwa Edun—called “a Romeo to die for” by The Independent (London)—and, in her stage debut as Juliet, Ellie Kendrick.
Royal Shakespeare Company King Lear (3:01:42)King Lear has ruled for many years. As age overtakes him, he divides his kingdom amongst his children. Misjudging their loyalty, he soon finds himself stripped of all the trappings of state, wealth and power that had defined him.
Othello by William ShakepeareLaurence Fishburne stars in this well-acted adaptation of the tragedy, set in 16th-century Venice. Irene Jacob, Kenneth Branagh.
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HamletPrince of Denmark, Hamlet, returns home to find his father murdered and his mother remarrying the murderer. Meanwhile, war is brewing.
Henry V"Prince Hal" has ascended to the throne of England. He proceeds to assert his hereditary claim to the throne of France, gathers an army and embarks on a course that will lead to one of England's greatest battlefield triumphs--the bloody Battle of Agincourt--and forever change the face of Europe. King Henry V unites his people, deals justly with traitors, leads his soldiers to victory, and in the end ensures the peace by marrying the French princess Katherine.
MacbethA thrilling interpretation of one of Shakespeare's most famous and compelling characters, Macbeth is a dramatic re-imagining of the realities of war-torn times and a tale of all-consuming passion and ambition.
Much Ado About NothingWith his wedding a week away, Claudio can't wait to marry the beautiful young Hero. To distract him, his best friend Don Pedro devises mischief: a romantic trap for the sharp-tongued Beatrice and the man she loves to hate, Benedick. Their amusement is almost spoiled by the jealous scheming of Don John, but love and laughter prevail when the local constable unwittingly exposes the plot--and all the trouble proves to be much ado about nothing
Othellon this dramatization of William Shakespeare's tragedy a great man's vanity is manipulated by a jealous aide to bring about his downfall. Betrayal, deception and murder end the friendship between Othello and Iago and culminate in the tragic death of Desdemona.
Richard III"Prince Hal" has ascended to the throne of England. He proceeds to assert his hereditary claim to the throne of France, gathers an army and embarks on a course that will lead to one of England's greatest battlefield triumphs--the bloody Battle of Agincourt--and forever change the face of Europe. King Henry V unites his people, deals justly with traitors, leads his soldiers to victory, and in the end ensures the peace by marrying the French princess Katherine.
Romeo and JulietFilm version of Shakespeare's tragedy in which two teenagers who fall in love, encounter opposition from their families, and take their own lives.
William Shakespeare's The Taming of the ShrewElizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton sparkle and amuse as Katharina and Petruchio in this adaptation of William Shakespeare's comic look at male chauvinism and women's lib in 16th century Padua.