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In Search of Shakespeare [DVD]

Price: £7.81 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Product details

  • Actors: Michael Wood
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: 2 Entertain Video
  • DVD Release Date: 25 Aug. 2003
  • Run Time: 235 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00009PBTJ
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,592 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

Complete four part series exploring the life of the world's greatest and most famous writer. Presenter-led, mixing travel, adventure, live action interviews and specially shot documentary and live action sequences with the RSC on the road.

A history series - it focuses not on the plays, but on the history and sets the life of the poet in the extraordinary times in which he lived. We are introduced to the dark world of Queen Elizabeth's police state - a time of surveillance, militarism and foreign wars. We are reminded that Shakespeare lived through the Spanish Armada, the Gunpowder Plot, the colonisation of the New World and the beginnings of British power in America. But most importantly Shakespeare also lived through England’s Cultural Revolution: an enforced split with the old medieval English spirit world which was to lead the English people into a brave new Protestant future. A split which defined Shakespeare’s life -and our modern world.

Running time: 240 mins approx.


The BBC series In Search of Shakespeare could be the English teacher's most important ally yet. With his typical mixture of intensive research, detective work, boyish enthusiasm and popular appeal, television historian Michael Wood comes closer than anyone to bringing the Bard to life. There are some astonishing discoveries along the way, which help to give a documentary cohesion to Shakespeare's story. But Wood is never arrogant enough to claim to have pinned the playwright's character down. The ifs, buts and maybes are all part of the fascination. The man himself remains tantalisingly just out of reach, which is probably as it should be.

Instead, Wood takes us on an exhilarating journey through Elizabethan and Jacobean England, building a picture of his subject through painstaking reference to the climate of the age: a police state in which Shakespeare's family was devastated by the persecution of Catholics. Social, familial and political influences are all unravelled and pieced together, counterpointed with scenes from the plays--RSC actors conveniently to hand--and the life and times of the travelling actor and playwright are evoked in front of our eyes, becoming tangible and relevant.

Wood gives us the chance to consider the plays in context, products of a great mind living in interesting times, rather than in academic isolation. It's a compelling tale, full of bloody danger, sex, celebrity and social history, and densely packed with layers of detail. Wood's great gift is to tell it in such an accessible way and without the sense of superiority that some of his peers bring to popular history. --Piers Ford

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By JM Blackie on 11 Sept. 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I never had the pleasure or even the opportunity to view this series on TV. Reading the reviews of the show and being a Shakespeare addist, I knew I had to see this, had to own the set. What with the new multi-region player (bought primarily for this very DVD) and the discs and the postage, this must have cost me $150. Well worth the price! I sat right down and watched it and in 2 sessions, had seen it all.
Beat out my Shakespeare 101 classes at university hands down for interest and content! Not only was the information exciting and (some) new (and perhaps speculative), but the host was engaging, the photography stunning (I am decided I MUST go to England next year!) and the locations fascinating.
You really do owe this to yourself if you have ANY interest in the Bard. If you're in the UK you can own it for pennies on the dollar (shillings on the pound?) than my costs. Highest accolades!
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Sept. 2009
Format: DVD
"So why go in search of Shakespeare? Can the life of a writer ever be as interesting or exciting as a conqueror, an inventor, or an explorer, a Napoleon, a Columbus, an Alexander the Great? Well yes, yes it can. More so, because the writers and the poets are the explorers of the human heart, and long after the conquerors are forgotten, THEIR legacy will be the most valuable to us as human beings."

Thus does Michael Wood address the viewer at the commencement of this magnificent four-part series. I've already reviewed the book on Amazon and praised it for containing so much more than the TV series, but of course the book does not have the fine scenes from Shakespeare's plays acted out by members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. And neither can the book convey the atmosphere of a visit to Stratford or the Forest of Arden or the many other places Wood visits in his search. Thankfully, we are preserved from actors playing a part in a docudrama.

It's good to see that the first episode - one whole quarter of the series - is spent by Wood looking at the first nineteen years of the poet's life. Wood calls this part `A Time of Revolution', and he bases his theory of the mystery of Shakespeare's on his place at the edge of fundamental changes in the English psyche, when it could be a matter of life or death depending on which horse you backed in the religious ferment of the time.

The second episode is again a wonder, for here Wood spends the whole time concentrating on the mystery of ten lost years. Was he in Catholic Lancashire? "It's easy to get carried away ...", says Wood, "This part of Lancashire is thick with Shakespearian co-incidences." But the series makes no extravagant claims, keeping its feet firmly on the ground.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Puskas on 16 Aug. 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The peerless Dr. Wood (I assume he's got a Ph.D) was my sixth form pin up twenty five years ago when he began his BBC 'In Search of' series. He's done it again with a passionate and breathless recce round Stratford, Lancashire and London. Shakespeare's underground Catholicism is thumped home a fair bit, but the whole spirit of place thing, in the darkened Elizabethan rooms that another reviewer mentioned, is very very well done. Also, one tends not to hear much about Shakespeare's dalliances with the underworld, and with the hitherto unreported black community in Elizabethan London, and also his father's rise and fall, but it is all here and incredibly well done. I like the interspersing with RSC moments, performed in unusual but very Shakespearean locations. The only bit I didn't like was the assumption by one of the people interviewed that Shakespeare was a Brummie, or the inference that he spoke like Lenny Henry from Dudley in the Black Country. I am Warwickshire born and bred, and can assure you that the good people of Stratford upon Avon are not Brummies, nor are they from the Black Country. Warwickshire has a multitude of its own accents, thank you, without having to borrow from the neighbouring West Midlands, which didn't actually exist in its present form when Shakespeare trod the boards.

Altogether, though, an excellent piece of work by the enthusiastic and sexy Dr. Wood.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brawny Withed on 22 Dec. 2011
Format: DVD
In this interesting BBC documentary series Historian Michael Wood takes us through the life and times of William Shakespeare using the various lines of evidence we have for him in the record's and archives of seventeenth century England.

Michael Wood as always is passionate and enthusiastic about his subject and he clearly is in his element throughout the episodes.

In addition this documentary utilises clips of performances from the Royal Shakespeare Company made specially for the series which add to the story and narrative.

When I first watched this series a few years ago I knew very little about Shakespeare other than studying Macbeth at High School but this series was an introduction to how interesting his works and his life are and I have subsequently gained a real appreciation for Shakespeare.

I highly recommend this to History lovers and fan's of Shakespeares work.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Gavin Wilson on 10 April 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It is more than quarter of a century since Michael, nearly fresh out of Oriel College Oxford, first appeared on our TV screens. Clad in unfusty denim, he hurled himself about the great English outdoors, enthusiastically telling us about Eric Bloodaxe and Co in the BBC series 'In Search of the Dark Ages'.
Since then, Michael has been abroad with 'In Search of the Trojan War', 'In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great', and ... well, you get the general picture.
Now he's back in England -- mostly Warwickshire, Lancashire and London, actually -- and he's ditched the denim in favour of the Barbour 'Bushman' jacket and Karrimor backpack. This four-part programme is as much a celebration of England's landscape and ancient buildings as it is the story of our greatest playwright. The photography is exceptional, the music well-composed, and Michael is always a pleasant companion to escort us around the key sites. We also spend much time in the company of the RSC, as they travel around the more authentic venues to perform excerpts from Othello, Henry IVth Part Two, Romeo & Juliet etc.
There's always latent demand on British TV for Shakespeare insmall, digestible chunks. It is one of the regrets of so many adults that they wished they liked Shakespeare more ... if only it wasn't so much work to appreciate him, compared to 'Friends' etc. Here Michael makes him very digestible. If you could cope with 'Shakespeare in Love', then you can handle this series. The problem for me is that, having now viewed it once, when will I next want to watch it again? Probably in a couple of years' time. This is really a DVD to buy, watch once, and then lend to friends and family.
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