BBC Television Shakespeare

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In 1978, Cedric Messina persuaded the British Broadcasting Corporation to take on the task of filming the whole canon of William Shakespeare's plays for television, under the title The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare. Throughout the project, which was finished in 1985, the BBC was able to secure leading actors of stage and screen and also big directing names. Whether as individual dramas or taken as a whole, the series is impressive, to say the least. The play Edward III was not included in the series, as the balance of scholarly opinion at the time was that it was not by Shakespeare. Today, the decision might have gone the other way. All of these productions of the plays have been sold to dozens of countries around the world and are used in the world of education more than they are for broadcasting. The major plays (such as Macbeth and Hamlet) are the most often repeated on television. The productions vary in length from 112 minutes for The Comedy of Er

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Episode Description

1

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo, heir of the lordly Montague family of the Italian city of Verona, goes wearing a mask to a dance held by the Capulets, their bitter rivals in the city. There, Romeo falls head over heels for Juliet Capulet, and they are secretly married by the obliging Friar Lawrence. Following a fight, Romeo is banished from the city, and Juliet's father promises her in marriage to another young fellow, Paris. Juliet unwisely agrees to a plan suggested by Friar Lawrence, takes a drug which will make her seem dead for two days and is put into the family vault, expecting Romeo to collect her when she wakes up. However, Romeo fails to get Friar Lawrence's message, believes Juliet is dead, kills Paris, then drinks poison and dies by Juliet's side. On waking up, she finds Romeo's body and stabs herself to death. As a result (if a rather unlikely one) the Montague and Capulet lords make up their ancient quarrel and a new friendship blossoms between the warring factions.

2

King Richard the Second

Bolingbroke wrongly accuses Mowbray of killing Gloucester, the uncle of King Richard II. Richard (who in fact arranged the murder) orders a trial by combat between Bolingbroke and Mowbray, then turns this into exile for both of them. Bolingbroke's father, John of Gaunt, dies and Richard seizes his estates to pay for a campaign in Ireland. While Richard is off fighting the Irish, leaving the Duke of York as Regent, Bolingbroke invades England and the country rises in support of him. York vacillates, Richard lands in Wales, is arrested, and surrenders the crown to Bolingbroke, who becomes King Henry IV. A plot against Henry is discovered, Henry pardons his cousin Aumerle, but Richard is murdered while imprisoned at Pontefract.

3

As You Like It

Duke Frederick has driven out the lawful Duke and usurped his duchy. Rosalind (daughter of the banished Duke) falls in love with Orlando de Boys, as he is beating Frederick's champion in a wrestling match. Frederick banishes her, too, and she leaves, disguised as a youth called Ganymede, taking Frederick's daughter Celia and his jester Touchstone with her. Rosalind's troupe heads for the Forest of Arden, where Rosalind's father is living quietly, with Orlando and his brother Jaques now members of the old Duke's rustic court. Rosalind decides to live for a time as Ganymede, and she/he finds Orlando hanging poems to Rosalind on trees (no doubt he knows what he's doing?)... Ganymede promises to cure Orlando of his love, while Touchstone woos a country girl, Audrey. Meanwhile, a shepherdess called Phebe falls in love with Ganymede, scorning the love of the bumpkin Silvius. Oliver de Boys, another brother of Orlando, arrives and falls heavily for Celia. At the end, Ganymede turns himself

4

Julius Caesar

Marcus Brutus is Caesar's close friend and a Roman praetor. Brutus allows himself to be cajoled into joining a group of conspiring senators because of a growing suspicion — implanted by Caius Cassius — that Caesar intends to turn republican Rome into a monarchy under his own rule.

5

Measure for Measure

This drama is classified as a comedy play by William Shakespeare. However it is also referred to as a 'problem play', because it cannot be easily described as either a tragedy or comedy. The story of the plot centres on Angelo who has been empowered by the Duke of Vienna to rule his land, whilst he wanders about disguised as a friar to investigate the moral decay of his dukedom. Resorting to an old law against fornication to enforce his strict standards of morality, Angelo proceeds to condemn fornicators to death. One of these fornicators is Claudio , a young man who has had pre-marital sex with his fiancee. Claudio's sister Isabella pleads for her brother's life. Angelo's lust is aroused and he uses his power to blackmail Isabella into his bed. Fortunately the Duke overhears. Angelo ends up in the bed of Mariana , a woman from his undisclosed past. Claudio is allowed to live happily ever after with his fiancee, and the virtuous Isabella ends up the Duke of Vienna's bride

6

King Henry the Eighth

The Duke of Norfolk tells Buckingham of the meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. On the instigation of Cardinal Wolsey, Buckingham is arrested for high treason. The Queen interrupts the indictment of Buckingham to demand that the king rescind a tax imposed by Wolsey to finance the French war. At a party held by Wolsey, Henry meets Anne Bullen and falls in love with her. Buckingham is tried and executed. The Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk fail to turn the king against Wolsey. Henry, questioning the legality of his marriage to Katherine, sets up a tribunal, presided over by Wolsey and the papal representative Cardinal Campeius. Anne Bullen is made Marchioness of Pembroke. Katherine walks out of the tribunal, and demands that the case be decided in Rome. Wolsey and Campeius fail to convince the queen to throw herself on the king's mercy. Anne secretly marries Henry. A conspiracy by the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk to disgrace Wolsey is successful, and Wolsey falls. Cranmer is appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. Katherine is divorced, Anne is crowned queen. Katherine is told of Wolsey's death, and she herself dies. Anne gives birth to a girl, who will grow up to become Queen Elizabeth. Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, attempts to indict Cranmer for heresy. He fails through Henry's intervention. Elizabeth is christened and Cranmer predicts the glory of her reign.

7

King Henry the Fourth, Part I

Henry Bolingbroke—now King Henry IV—is having an unquiet reign. His personal disquiet at the murder of his predecessor Richard II would be solved by a crusade to the Holy Land, but broils on his borders with Scotland and Wales prevent that. Moreover, he is increasingly at odds with the Percy family, who helped him to his throne, and Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March, Richard II's chosen heir. Adding to King Henry's troubles is the behaviour of his son and heir, the Prince of Wales. Hal (the future Henry V) has forsaken the Royal Court to waste his time in taverns with low companions. This makes him an object of scorn to the nobles and calls into question his royal worthiness. Hal's chief friend and foil in living the low life is Sir John Falstaff. Fat, old, drunk, and corrupt as he is, he has a charisma and a zest for life that captivates the Prince.

8

King Henry the Fourth, Part II

Henry Bolingbroke—now King Henry IV—is having an unquiet reign. His personal disquiet at the murder of his predecessor Richard II would be solved by a crusade to the Holy Land, but broils on his borders with Scotland and Wales prevent that. Moreover, he is increasingly at odds with the Percy family, who helped him to his throne, and Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March, Richard II's chosen heir. Adding to King Henry's troubles is the behaviour of his son and heir, the Prince of Wales. Hal (the future Henry V) has forsaken the Royal Court to waste his time in taverns with low companions. This makes him an object of scorn to the nobles and calls into question his royal worthiness. Hal's chief friend and foil in living the low life is Sir John Falstaff. Fat, old, drunk, and corrupt as he is, he has a charisma and a zest for life that captivates the Prince.

9

King Henry the Fifth

Insulted by the Dauphin, the newly-crowned Henry V gathers his troops for war. But Henry must convince his men that he has left his wild days behind, and prove himself as a leader. Henry V tells a tale of intrigue and betrayal, courtly romance, and a heroic battle against outrageous odds. The lead, played here by David Gwillim, is one of the most coveted of roles with inspiring lines including the St Crispin's Day speech.

10

Twelfth Night, or, What You Will

Viola is shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria and she comes ashore with the help of a captain. She loses contact with her twin brother, Sebastian, whom she believes to be dead. Disguising herself as a young man under the name Cesario, she enters the service of Duke Orsino through the help of the sea captain who rescues her. Duke Orsino has convinced himself that he is in love with Olivia, whose father and brother have recently died, and who refuses to see charming things, be in the company of man and entertain love or marriage proposals from any one until seven years have passed, the Duke included. Duke Orsino then uses 'Cesario' as an intermediary to profess his passionate love before Olivia. Olivia however, forgetting about the seven years in his case, falls in love with 'Cesario', as she does not realise 'he' is Viola in disguise. In the meantime, Viola has fallen in love with the Duke Orsino, creating a love triangle between Duke Orsino, Olivia and Viola.

11

The Tempest

The Magician, Prospero, rightful Duke of Milan, and his daughter, Miranda, have been stranded for twelve years on an island after Prospero's jealous brother Antonio (aided by Alonso, the King of Naples) deposed him and set him adrift with the then-3-year-old Miranda. Gonzalo, Alonso's counselor, had secretly supplied their boat with some food, fresh water, "rich garments, linens, stuffs and necessaries," and "volumes" (books) that Prospero prizes. Possessing magic powers due to his great learning, Prospero is reluctantly served by a spirit, Ariel, whom Prospero had rescued from a tree in which he had been trapped by the cruel witch, Sycorax, after he had refused to obey her. Prospero maintains Ariel's loyalty by repeatedly promising to release the "airy spirit" from servitude. Sycorax had been exiled from Algiers to the island for wreaking havoc with her magic, and had died before Prospero's arrival. Her son, Caliban, a deformed monster and the only non-spiritual inhabitant before the arrival of Prospero, was initially adopted and raised by him. He taught Prospero how to survive on the island, while Prospero and Miranda taught Caliban religion and their own language. Following Caliban's attempted rape of Miranda, he had been compelled by Prospero to serve as the magician's so-called slave. In slavery, Caliban has come to view Prospero as a usurper and has grown to resent him and his daughter. Prospero and Miranda in turn view Caliban with disappointment, contempt and disgust. Prospero only performs one act of magic himself directly on stage: he disarms Ferdinand, causing his nerves to become "in their infancy again." The rest of his magic is through controlling spirits (or mentioned as happening previously), which is how magicians of the time were believed to operate.

12

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

A son avenges his father's murder, but his madness and indecision take its toll on everyone.

13

The Taming of the Shrew

Set in Padua, Italy in the late 1500s, the story concerns the shy Bianca and the mean-spirited Katarina, the two daughters of a rich merchant named Baptista. Though Bianca is being courted by a number of young men, Baptista announces that she may not marry until Katarina is wed. None of the men in town are willing to marry Katarina, so Bianca remains unwed, even as more suitors--such as Lucentio, a student who begins working as a tutor in the Hordern household just so he can be near Bianca--line up to wed the maiden. No man approaches Katarina until Petruchio--a wanderer who arrived in Padua just to find a rich wife--falls in love with her. After an intense, occasionally furious, courtship, Katarina eventually agrees to marry him, and they move to Petruchio's shoddy house, which is located outside of the city. Following the wedding, Lucentio reveals that he is not a student, but instead the son of one of the most respected men in town. Lucentio gets permission to marry Bianca and a mild-mannered Katarina shows up at the wedding, giving advice to her sister on how to be a good wife.

14

The Merchant of Venice

Antonio's best friend, Bassiano, is in love with Portia, a wise and wealthy heiress, and needs three thousand ducats to press his suit. With Antonio's money tied up in ships at sea, he approaches Shylock, a Jewish usurer, who agrees to lend the money under the provision that Antonio shall forfeit a pound of his flesh if the debt is unpaid. When Antonio's ships are wrecked, Shylock calls for the contract to be filled.

15

All's Well That Ends Well

Helen, orphaned daughter of a doctor, is under the protection of the widowed Countess of Rossillion. In love with Bertram, the countess' son, Helen follows him to court, where she cures the sick French king of an apparently fatal illness. The king rewards Helen by offering her the husband of her choice. She names Bertram; he resists. When forced by the king to marry her, he refuses to sleep with her and, accompanied by the braggart Parolles, leaves for the Italian wars. He says that he will only accept Helen if she obtains a ring from his finger and becomes pregnant with his child. She goes to Italy disguised as a pilgrim and suggests a 'bed trick' whereby she will take the place of Diana, a widow's daughter whom Bertram is trying to seduce. A 'kidnapping trick' humiliates the boastful Parolles, whilst the bed trick enables Helen to fulfil Bertram's conditions, leaving him no option but to marry her, to his mother's delight.

16

The Winter's Tale

King Leontes of Bohemia suspects his wife, Queen Hermione, of deceiving him with his good friend Polixenes. Leontes drives Polixenes out of his kingdom, but this leads to unforeseen consequences: the arrival of a dangerous bear, an infant abandoned in the snow, love, death, and a statue which comes to life.

17

Timon of Athens

Ancient Athenian Timon is well-known for his generosity - his many friends come to all his parties and like to get presents from him. But then Timon suffers losses and finds himself in debt, and his friends melt away. He loses faith in humanity and becomes a hermit.

18

Antony and Cleopatra

Octavius Caesar (later known as Augustus), Mark Antony, and Lepidus form a triumvirate to rule the Roman Empire. Antony will rule in the east and goes to Egypt, where he becomes the lover of Queen Cleopatra. When Pompey raises an army to fight the triumvirate, Antony returns to Rome and marries Caesar's sister, Octavia. Cleopatra becomes jealous and plans to win Antony back. Caesar breaks a deal with Pompey and defeats him. Antony sends Octavia home to Rome and goes back to Cleopatra, and in Egypt he raises an army and a navy to fight Caesar. Antony's forces lose a critical sea battle when Cleopatra's ship flees. Antony hears Cleopatra has committed suicide and falls on his own sword. Cleopatra is taken prisoner and kills herself.

19

Othello

Set in 16th-century Venice and Cyprus, Othello the Moor, a noble black warrior in the Venetian army, has secretly married a beautiful white woman called Desdemona, the daughter of a prominent senator, Brabantio. When he finds out, he is outraged, and promptly disowns her. Othello’s ensign, Iago, harbours a secret jealousy and resentment towards the Moor, partly because another soldier, lieutenant Cassio, has been promoted ahead of him, and also because he suspects that Othello has had an affair with his wife. Intent on revenge, Iago hatches a devious plan to plant suspicions in Othello’s mind that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him with Cassio. He orchestrates a street fight, for which Cassio is wrongly blamed, and is then dismissed from his post by Othello. Desdemona takes up Cassio’s case with her husband, which only further inflames his suspicions that the pair are lovers. In the meantime, Iago manages to procure a treasured handkerchief from Desdemona that was given to her by Othello. He plants it on Cassio so that Othello sees it, then concludes that it is proof of their affair. Maddened by jealousy, he orders Iago to murder Cassio, and then he strangles Desdemona. Immediately afterwards her innocence is revealed, and Iago’s treachery exposed. In a fit of grief and remorse Othello kills himself. Iago is taken into custody by the Venetian authorities.

20

Troilus and Cressida

Calchas, a soothsayer, foresees the fall of Troy and abandons the city in favour of the Greeks; his daughter, Criseyde, receives some ill will on account of her father's betrayal. Troilus, a warrior of Troy, publicly mocks love and is punished by the God of Love by being struck with irreconcilable desire for Criseyde, whom he sees passing through the temple. With the help of sly Pandarus, Criseyde's uncle, Troilus and Criseyde begin to exchange letters. Eventually, Pandarus develops a plan to urge the two into bed together; Troilus swoons when he thinks the plan is going amiss, but Pandarus and Criseyde revive him. Pandarus leaves, and Troilus and Criseyde spend a night of bliss together. Calchas eventually persuades the Greeks to exchange a prisoner of war, Antenor, for his daughter Criseyde. Hector, of Troy, objects; as does Troilus, although he does not voice his concern. Troilus speaks to Criseyde and suggests they elope but she offers a logical argument as to why it would not be practical. Criseyde promises to deceive her father and return to Troy after ten days; Troilus leaves her with a sense of foreboding. Upon arriving in the Greek camp, Criseyde realizes the unlikeliness of her being able to keep her promise to Troilus. She writes dismissively in response to his letters and on the tenth day accepts a meeting with Diomede, and listens to him speak of love. Later, she accepts him as a lover. Pandarus and Troilus wait for Criseyde: Pandarus sees that she will not return and eventually Troilus realizes this as well. Troilus curses Fortune, even more so because he still loves Criseyde; Pandarus offers some condolences. The narrator, with an apology for giving women a bad name, bids farewell to his book, and briefly recounts Troilus's death in battle and his ascent to the eighth sphere, draws a moral about the transience of earthly joys and the inadequacy of paganism, dedicates his poem to Gower and Strode, asks the protection of the Trinity, and prays that we be worthy of Christ's mercy.

21

A Midsummer Night's Dream

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" focuses on three parallel stories: the trials and experiences of two sets of lovers camping in a magical forest, the world of the Fairy King and Queen and their elves, and a group of rough craftsmen attempting to stage a production of "Pyramus and Thisby" for the wedding of the Duke of Athens. Hermia is in love with Lysander, but her father wants her to marry Demetrius. To escape the arranged marriage, she and Lysander elope into the woods. Demetrius follows them, and he is pursued by Helena, who nurses an unrequited passion for him. A love quadrangle develops among the young lovers when mischievous Puck plays Cupid. "The course of true love never did run smooth" says Lysander. Meanwhile, a group of amateur actors rehearses a badly-written play in the woods, and soon all find their lives changed by the doings of Oberon and Titania, the warring king and queen of the fairies. Magic, action, love and humor are the ingredients for this unforgettable spell.

22

King Lear

First screened in 1982, this timeless Shakespeare story of an ageing King who decides to divide his Kingdom between his three daughters stars Michael Hordern as Lear, with Brenda Blethyn as Cordelia, Gillian Barge as Goneril, Penelope Wilton as Regan, Michael Kitchen as Edmund and Anton Lesser as Edgar.

23

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Sir John Falstaff, staying in Windsor and down on his luck, decides to restore his fortunes by seducing the wives of two wealthy citizens. He sends Mistress Page and Mistress Ford identical love letters, but they discover his double dealing and set about turning the tables, arranging an assignation at Mistress Ford's house. The jealous Frank Ford has heard of Falstaff's plan and decides to test his wife's fidelity. Pretending to be Master Broom, he pays Falstaff to seduce his wife on his behalf, twice almost catching them together. The Pages' daughter Anne is pursued by three suitors. The French physician Doctor Caius is her mother's choice, whilst her father favours Slender, Justice Shallow's kinsman. Anne herself is in love with Fenton. Mistress Quickly is being paid by all three suitors to advance their cause. A duel between Doctor Caius and Parson Evans is averted when the Host of the G arter Inn plays a trick on them, and they in turn pay him back. In Windsor Great Park at night, Falstaff is set up for his final punishment - and one of Anne Page's suitors is successful.

24

King Henry the Sixth, Part I

Following the death of his father, Henry V, the young Henry VI is proclaimed king under the protectorship of his uncles, the Dukes of Gloucester and Exeter. There is conflict between Gloucester and his long-term rival, the Bishop of Winchester, and their respective supporters. Richard Plantagenet, having established a claim to the throne through the Mortimer line of his family, declares his animosity towards the Duke of Somerset. Each adopts a rose as an emblem for his faction: white for York, red for Lancaster. Charles the Dauphin, fortified by his alliance with the mysterious maid Joan la Pucelle (Joan of Arc), dominates the battles in France. The Duke of Bedford, Henry's uncle, is killed. The English captain Talbot is also killed. His death occurs as a direct result of the enmity between York and Somerset, both of whom failed to reinforce the English troops. Fortunes turn and Joan is captured and burned. An uneasy peace is concluded between England and France. In light of this, Gloucester engineers a politically astute marriage between Henry and the Earl of Armagnac's daughter. Meanwhile, in France, Suffolk is enchanted by Margaret, the daughter of the Duke of Anjou. Suffolk woos Margaret to be Henry's queen and in order to gain her father's consent cedes the newly conquered French territories of Anjou and Maine. Suffolk returns to England and persuades Henry, against opposition from the court, to marry Margaret and make her Queen of England.

25

King Henry the Sixth, Part II

Despite the recently concluded peace between England and France, dissension is rife in the English court. Suffolk's influence, both at court and with the new Queen Margaret, intensifies. The fractious English nobles unite in their common aim to get rid of the Duke of Gloucester. His wife Eleanor, the Duchess of Gloucester, aspires to the crown and is lured by a priest, John Hume, who is in the pay of Suffolk, to consult a witch about her ambitions. She is brought to trial and banished. Gloucester resigns his staff of office, allowing Henry to become king in his own right. Somerset returns from France with the news of the loss of all English territories. York and others seize this opportunity to implicate Gloucester in the loss of France and to accuse him of treason. Suffolk, Margaret, Winchester and York agree that Gloucester should be murdered. Meanwhile, there is a rebellion in Ireland and York is sent by Suffolk to deal with the crisis. York incites Jack Cade, a clothier posing as Mortimer, to promote further dissension by rebelling in Kent. Gloucester is murdered and the king turns against Suffolk, who is subsequently banished and murdered. Cardinal Beaufort (Winchester) outlives his old enemy by only a few hours. Cade's rebellion is finally quashed but York returns to claim the crown, supported by his sons, Edward, Richard and George, and by Salisbury and Warwick. The two sides take up arms, Henry supported by Margaret, Somerset, Buckingham and the Cliffords. For the first time, Lancastrians face Yorkists at the battle of St Albans. The play ends with the king and queen in flight and the Yorkists contemplating the crown.

26

King Henry the Sixth, Part III

Having won the battle of St Albans and with Richard Plantagenet on the throne of England, the Yorkists confront the Lancastrians. King Henry, to his wife's dismay, agrees to York's demand that he disinherit his son, Edward, Prince of Wales. Margaret vows to destroy York and his followers. She enlists the support of Clifford and others to raise an army. Margaret's forces meet with those of York in battle, during which York's youngest son, Rutland, is killed by Clifford. York is then captured by Clifford and Northumberland, taunted with details of Rutland's death and brutally murdered. Edward and Richard are informed of their father's murder and unite with Warwick, who proclaims Edward the new Duke of York. They raise an army and defeat the Lancastrians at Towton. Henry, Margaret and their son are forced to flee north; Clifford is killed. Henry is captured and brought to London, where he is placed in the Tower by the new King Edward. In France, Margaret and Warwick meet at the court of King Lewis. News reaches them that Edward has married Lady Elizabeth Grey, in spite of his earlier betrothal, instigated by Warwick, to King Lewis' sister, Lady Bona. This insult turns both Warwick and Lewis against Edward. Warwick pledges support to Margaret, releasing Henry from the Tower and reinstating him as King of England. Warwick leaves London to muster his army, during which time Edward returns and recaptures Henry. The forces of Edward and Warwick meet at Barnet, where Warwick is killed. Margaret arrives in England with reinforcements. Her forces encounter Edward's for the last time at Tewkesbury, where, after much bloodshed, the Wars of the Roses seem finally to be over.

27

The Tragedy of Richard III

After years of civil unrest between the royal Houses of York and Lancaster, the Yorkist Edward IV is undisputed king. His brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester, plots to seize the throne for himself, removing anybody in his path. Richard decides he needs a wife and sets out to woo Lady Anne, widow of Henry VI's heir. Against all the odds he wins her and celebrates by having his brother Clarence covertly killed in the Tower. On hearing of Clarence's death, Edward IV is taken ill and dies. In his new role as Lord Protector, Richard has Edward's heirs confined in the Tower, supposedly for safe-keeping and to await the coronation. Edward IV's widow, Queen Elizabeth, mistrusts Richard and is proved right when he orders the execution of her brother Rivers and son (by her first marriage) Grey. The Duke of Buckingham becomes Richard's chief adviser and together they mastermind and manipulate Richard's accession to the throne. Richard promises Buckingham an earldom for his help but refuses to grant it when Buckingham will not kill the princes held in the Tower. Richard finds other killers. Fearing for his safety, Buckingham flees to join the last Lancastrian heir Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who is leading an army from France against Richard. Having willed the death of his wife Anne, Richard plans to marry Edward IV's daughter (also Elizabeth, not seen in the play) in order to prevent Richmond from doing so and thereby strengthening his claim to the throne; Queen Elizabeth tricks him by pretending that she will assist him in this. Richmond and his followers arrive in England and the two armies' camp close at Bosworth Field. The night before the battle, the Ghosts of his victims torment Richard in his dreams. The next day Richard is killed in battle and Richmond claims the crown as Henry VII. He announces he will marry Elizabeth of York and finally unite the two warring factions.

28

Cymbeline

Cymbeline, King of Britain when Augustus Caesar was Emperor of Rome, has a daughter, Imogen, and two sons who were stolen in infancy. The queen, his second wife, has a son, Cloten, whom Cymbeline wishes Imogen to marry; but she has secretly married a commoner, Posthumus Leonatus. Cymbeline banishes Posthumus to Rome, where he meets Jachimo, who wagers with him that he can seduce Imogen. Arriving in Britain, Jachimo realizes that she is incorruptible, but, hiding in her bedroom, obtains evidence which convinces Posthumus that he has won the wager. Posthumus orders his servant Pisanio to kill Imogen at Milford Haven, but instead Pisanio advises her to disguise herself as Fidele, a page; in Wales, she meets her brothers, who were stolen twenty years before by the banished nobleman Belarius. Cloten pursues Imogen to Wales in Posthumus' clothes, determined to rape her and kill Posthumus. Instead, he is killed by one of her brothers, and his decapitated body laid beside Imogen, who has taken a potion that makes her appear dead. When she revives, Imogen/ Fidele joins the Roman army, which is invading Britain as a result of Cymbeline's failure to pay tribute to Rome. Posthumus and the stolen princes are instrumental in defeating the Roman army. A final scene of explanations leads to private and public reconciliation.

29

Macbeth

Shakespeare's dark tragedy tells of ambition and guilt amidst a background of regicide, violence and the supernatural. When a trio of witches tells the returning hero warrior Macbeth that he is fated to become King of Scotland, he attempts to forge his own destiny. Aided and encouraged by his wife, he embarks on a guilt-ridden reign of terror.

30

The Comedy of Errors

Any Syracusan found in Ephesus will be executed unless he can pay a ransom of a thousand marks. AEgeon, an old Syracusan merchant, has been arrested. He explains how he has come to Ephesus: he and his wife Emilia had identical twin sons and identical twin slaves, purchased for the purpose of serving the sons. In a shipwreck many years ago, he was separated from his wife, one son and one slave. The survivors are renamed in memory of the lost ones: Antipholus for the son and Dromio for the slave. Once grown to manhood, Antipholus of Syracuse, with his Dromio, had set off in search of his brother and mother. AEgeon is now in search of them. The Duke gives him until evening to find the ransom money. By chance Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse have also just arrived in Ephesus. The other Antipholus and Dromio have been living there since the wreck. And so the comedy of errors ensues. The locals constantly mistake the visiting twins for the natives even Antipholus of Ephesus' wife Adriana and her sister Luciana are fooled. The confusions result in Antipholus of Ephesus being arrested for debt and declared mad, while Antipholus of Syracuse take refuge from his brother's angry wife in a Priory where the abbess turns out to be Egeon's long-lost wife. All is resolved and AEgeon is freed.

31

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Valentine sets off from Verona for Milan to see the world. Proteus stays at home because of his love for Julia. She is in love with him, but neither knows of the other's love until Lucetta shows Julia a love letter from Proteus. He is reading her reply when his father, Antonio, informs him of his decision to send him to the duke's court to join Valentine. The lovers take their leave and swear eternal constancy. In Milan, Proteus finds that Valentine has fallen in love with Silvia, the duke's daughter, and plans to elope with her to foil her father's plan to marry her to Turio. Valentine confides his plan to his friend but Proteus, infatuated with Silvia at first sight, betrays the plan to the duke and Valentine is banished from Milan. In the wilderness he encounters a band of outlaws and is elected their leader. Meanwhile Julia, disguised as Sebastian, has come to Milan in search of Proteus. Overhearing him declare his passion for Silvia, she is devastated but, under cover of her disguise, enters his service as a page. When Proteus sends her with a message to Silvia, Julia is encouraged to find that his advances are again rejected and that Silvia remains faithful to Valentine. Silvia escapes into the forest to join Valentine. The duke and Turio set out in pursuit, followed by Proteus and Julia. Silvia is captured by the outlaws but then rescued by Proteus who, seeing that she still spurns him, tries to force himself on her. Valentine intervenes and Proteus is forced to confront his act of betrayal. Julia reveals her identity and reconciliation begins.

32

The Tragedy of Coriolanus

Famine in Rome is kindling unrest between the common people and the patricians. The people particularly resent the arrogant Caius Martius, son of Volumnia, who makes no secret of the fact that he despises them. The citizens rise up against the patricians, whom they suspect of hoarding corn for themselves. They are rewarded with the creation of two people's representatives, or tribunes, who are given new powers to sit in the Senate. War with the neighbouring Volscians halts the rioting, however, and, in the battle for the town of Corioli, Caius Martius leads the Roman army with such spectacular bravery that he is honoured with the title 'Coriolanus'. Back in Rome, the patricians urge Coriolanus to seek the consulship. Reluctantly, he agrees to submit himself to the necessary public display of humility in order to win the assent of the citizens, but once again his inability to mask his contempt turns them against him. Not only do they refuse their assent but, incited by their tribunes, they banish Coriolanus from Rome. In revenge, he joins the Volscians and his former enemy Tullus Aufidius. Together they march on Rome. Coriolanus refuses all attempts at conciliation by his former comrades and only through the intercession of his mother, wife and son is he finally persuaded to spare the city. He establishes a peace, but is killed by the resentful Volscians.

33

The Life and Death of King John

King Richard I, the revered 'Lionheart', is dead. His brother John has become King of England, but the French argue that the throne should belong to the boy Arthur, son of John's deceased older brother Geoffrey. Matching the dispute over the throne is a dispute over inheritance in the noble Falconbridge family. It is discovered that Philip Falconbridge (the 'Bastard') is the illegitimate son of Richard I; he is accordingly knighted 'Sir Richard and Plantagenet'. French and English forces fight for the town of Angiers in France; a citizen proposes that the opponents should be united by a marriage between Lewis the Dauphin, heir to France, and John's niece, Lady Blanche. Arthur's mother Constance is furious that the French have given up on her son's claim. John is excommunicated for failing to agree to the Pope's choice for the post of Archbishop of Canterbury. The papal legate Cardinal Pandulph stirs the French to resume war against the English. Arthur is captured and John commissions his servant Hubert to execute the boy; young Arthur dies from a fall while trying to escape. John changes his mind and agrees to the Pope's wishes. A French invasion force is shipwrecked. John falls sick and dies. His son Henry becomes king, though the Bastard remains the most forceful character.

34

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Prince Pericles, visiting Antioch, solves King Antiochus's riddle to his daughter's suitors - the answer is that the King has had an incestuous relationship with his daughter. Pericles realizes he must escape to Tyre, and from there he goes to Tarsus to relieve a famine. Pursued by Antiochus's men, his ship is wrecked on the shores of Pentapolis and he marries Thaisa, the daughter of its King. Thaisa gives birth to a daughter, Marina, at sea, and in a great storm Thaisa is thrown overboard in a sea-chest. Coming to land at Ephesus, she believes Pericles is drowned and becomes a priestess of Diana.Pericles arranges for Marina to be brought up by Cleon of Tarsus and his wife Dionyza, and returns to Tyre. Fourteen years go by, and Dionyza, jealous of Marina, is about to have her murdered, when Marina is kidnapped by pirates, who send her to a brothel in Mytilene. Cleon tells Pericles that Marina is dead. Meanwhile, in Mytilene Marina's purity triumphs, startling the governor of the city,

35

Much Ado About Nothing

Claudio and Benedick come home from the wars, having fought under Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, to suppress a rebellion by his weird brother, Don John. Leonato, Governor of Messina, welcomes Claudio and Benedick into his house. Claudio woos Hero, Leonato's daughter, while Benedick quips and quarrels with Beatrice, Hero's cousin. Claudio and Hero get engaged to marry and try to trick Benedick and Beatrice into also falling in love. Don John sets out to make mischief and persuades Claudio and Don Pedro that Hero is a scarlet woman. Claudio denounces Hero in front of her family and refuses to marry her, Hero faints. Friar Francis helpfully suggests that Hero be said to have died until her name can be cleared.Left alone in the church, Benedick and Beatrice exchange vows of love and Beatrice gets Benedick to promise he will kill Claudio for the harm he has done Hero. A duel is planned, but before it can take place Don John's dastardly plot is uncovered and Hero is restored to favour, then to

36

Love's Labour's Lost

The King of Navarre and three of his lords swear themselves to three years of study and chastity, but they begin to change their minds when the Princess of France and three of her ladies arrive at court to discuss the debts France owes to Navarre. A clown called Costard mixes up two letters, so that one from Armado to Jacquenetta (a village girl) is read to the Princess, while Jacquenetta receives a love sonnet from Berowne to Rosaline... this leads to some confusion. In the final Act, the lords meet the ladies in a mock-Russian entertainment, and news is received that the King of France has died. The Princess and her ladies prepare to leave Navarre and give their lovers a series of tasks for a year and a day.

37

Titus Andronicus

Saturninus and Bassianus, sons of the late Emperor of Rome, are struggling over the succession to the throne, but Titus Andronicus, a triumphant general, is preferred. Titus has brought Tamora, Queen of the Goths, her sons and her Moorish lover, Aaron, to Rome as prisoners of war, and he orders the sacrifice of Tamara's son Alarbus. Titus then refuses the throne and supports the claim of Saturninus, offering him his daughter Lavinia in marriage, but she runs off with Bassianus. Saturninus then plans to marry Tamora, and her sons Chiron and Demetrius kill Bassianus, ravish Lavinia, and cut off her hands and tongue. Aaron plants the blame for Bassianus's murder on Titus's sons, who are sentenced to death, and Titus is tricked into cutting off his right hand as a ransom, but it fails to save them. Lucius goes off to the Goths to raise a revenging army, Lavinia accuses Chiron and Demetrius, and Titus goes mad. Tamora has a black child by Aaron, who takes it away for its safety, but they ar