Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tim Curry as Will Shakespeare

Will Shakespeare [a.k.a. Life of Shakespeare]. By John Mortimer. Perf. Tim Curry and Ian McShane. Dir. Mark Cullingham and Robert Knights. 1978. DVD. A & E Home Video, 2008.
Yesterday, the recently-released-on-DVD Will Shakespeare arrived! I had ordered it, sight unseen, back in November, as you remember.

At first, I was thrilled. Then I was slightly disappointed. Now, I'm back to excited again—it was well worth the purchase price, and it's well worth watching. I had mistakenly thought that this was a brand-new mini-series; instead, it's a release of 1978's Life of Shakespeare with a savvier, classier title. I noticed the BBC-in-the-1970s production values at once, but the story does hold up despite them.

The plot does pull up some old and tired turnips of the Shakespeare biography industry: Shakespeare merely holds the horses outside the Rose Theatre, Christopher Marlowe's death isn't merely a pub brawl, there's something more than meets the eye about the Earl of Southampton, Ann Shakespeare is a shrew, et cetera. But it's still well-written (thanks, John Mortimer!) and interesting.

As a bonus, John McEnery (who played Lucio in the BBC's Measure for Measure) plays Hamnet Sadler, down to London from Stratford to visit his old friend Will. Additionally, Shakespeare wears a red cap (watch for him—he appears sooner than you expect him to), Hamnet Sadler carries a chicken, London in 1590 is a dirty and noisy place, and the BBC of 1978 wanted its audience to know that it was broadcasting in colour:



Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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