William Shakespeare

Share

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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).