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4.5 out of 5 stars22
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 6 September 2012
This is like having a cast `producers can only dream of' sit on your bookshelf, ready and willing to recite beautiful verse at your whim.

For those like myself who know little of the sonnets beyond comparing a loved one to a summer's day, this disc is something of a revelation.

It's easy to see how they fit with the Bard's stage works. 94, recited by Polly Frame is like something from the Scottish Play, 154 a `Director's Cut DVD Extra' from "A Midsummer Night's Dream," for example.

Even clearer is the modern day relevance of it all, as a dishevelled Stephen Fry demonstrates that 130 was a precursor to Les Dawson and all other irreverent `partner' jokes; while 50, in the hands of Simon Callow, is close to "Fifty Shades of Grey."

There's wisdom: 70 being as good as "The Merchant of Venice" for legal advice, 29 and 30 on the importance of reputation, 148 cautioning the exercising of judgement; and of course plenty of talk about love. From the lachrymose 145's touching outpouring from Jo Stone-Fewings, to happier commentary - 91 is worth studying as a declaration par excellence.

One principal enjoyment is that these pieces are not just delivered by actors. Best of all is Cicely Berry, Director of Voice and Text with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Her "Th'expense of spirit is a waste of shame" should be studied closely by anybody taking to the stage, whether with Shakespearian or modern text.

There's regional UK accents galore, with a fiery Niamh McGrady, mellow Tunji Kasim and of course notable David Tennant among them. From the USA, Kim Cattrall and James Shapiro have accents which (I seem to recall) may be even more authentic with the period than the measured perfection of Patrick Stewart or Dominic West.

Also interesting is the way in which each sonnet is delivered. The careful voice coach already mentioned, the dramatic acting of Fiona Shaw and the other stage folk or the questing academic investigative from Katherine Duncan-Jones. Whatever the background of the speaker, each is delivered against a varied setting, some modern, some ancient, others simply artistic, which add visual colour to the words.

Of course, with 154 sonnets to film, there's the odd one which might benefitted from different delivery, but the overall standard is remarkably high. The only other criticism I might make was in the navigation of the disc. While the menus allow access by sonnet or author, both my DVD players wouldn't then allow the rest to play out in sequence from any single point. This means either watching the disc in a single viewing (you'll be tempted) or being prepared to juggle menus after each reading. After contacting the production company, I learned that I had been sent a very early copy of the DVD, and that this fault has now been corrected. They sent me a corrected version (no charge, thank you!) and indeed you can now watch in sequence from any point - a joy for this beautifully presented collection.

Both the glossy booklet with the DVD, and a message on the disc itself direct viewers to an "app" that promises enhanced features like notes from the Arden Shakespeare, a facsimile of the original publication, and a commentary by Don Paterson. While no doubt fascinating, this DVD in itself will satisfy many fans - and win others - of these amazing lines.
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on 3 January 2013
This DVD contains the complete sonnets by Shakespeare. You can easily select by narrator or by sonnet. A short biography of each actor is included on the DVD and in an accompanying booklet. Narrators include Fiona Shaw,(5) Simon Callow,(3) Stephen Fry (1), Andrew Motion (2) Sian Phillips (4)Patrick Stewart (6) David Tennant (4) amongst others.
I leave the DVD in the player and watch them intermittently. Strongly recommend.
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on 22 November 2012
This is an enthralling disc. I've been sitting for weeks book in hand going through the entire list. There are so many wonderful performances and all so different from each other.For me Simon Callow is by far the best. But there's also Simon Russell Beale, Fiona Shaw , and some still unknown brilliant young actors. There are, however, some lemons. All the non-actors (Scholars, poets) are uniformly dreadful.But that's a small quibble. There is enough beauty here for one to go back to again and again.
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on 5 July 2014
Wonderful DVD. Fast and furious - quite a roller coaster ride. The contrasting styles and ages of the actors added ever more to it. Young , middle-aged or 'old', acting pros or academics, they all helped. A wonderful tribute to the greatness and glory of the Bard.

For reasons to complicated to explain, I am now certain of a theory I developed several years ago. Several dozen of the sonnets were tributes to his dead son. That is, Shakespeare was imagining him as being alive and with him and poured out his thoughts to him on that basis.
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on 6 January 2013
I am a fan of Shakespeare so i could not resist this DVD. There is a good selection of very fine actors to be found and all the sonnets are covered. However not all the sonnets are recited as well as they could be.
Some are being recited from memory, these ones are excellant.
Others, as you will notice by watching the actors eyes, are being read from a screen. These are not always presented as they should be.
But it is only a small gripe. Overall i am very happy with the presentation.
The one thing i am unhappy with is that the navigation around the DVD is not very good. I may be able to go to sonnet 26 and play it but to play sonnet 27 i then have to go through the menu and select that. I can't just select 26 and leave it to play on.
Still, i do recommend this DVD. It may only be a group of actors reciting poetry but i found it relaxing.
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on 20 December 2012
The Bard's most beautiful poetry given wonderful readings. I have long had a passion for Shakespeare's plays but only with this DVD have I become familiar with the Sonnets, here given readings that help immeasurably to convey meaning to words that are not always clear on the page.
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on 1 May 2013
This really does need the text if we are to follow it properly. My mother is a bit hard of hearing and it was a waste of time for her, but I know she would really have enjoyed it if she could follow the text.
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on 16 April 2014
Absolutely love hearing the Actors as they perform the Sonnets

It is a good introduction to Shakespeare.

Very good purchase and recommended
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on 13 December 2012
Excellent performances by a distinguished collection of actors. Fresh insights int0 what is not always easy verse. Select familiar sonnets fi rst.
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on 13 February 2013
While this series of recorded readings is perhaps less awkward as part of the multimedia experience of the iPad Sonnets (I don't own an iPad so I have no way of knowing), it simply doesn't work as a standalone DVD, which is advertised as a performance but is in fact 180 minutes of all 154 Sonnets being *read*. Each "performer" sits in a modern room, awash with modern lighting, and reads his/her respective Sonnet(s) from a teleprompter before a static camera. Hardly a performance by any reasonable standard. Five Sonnets in and I was getting bored. Twenty-five Sonnets in and I'd had enough. I tried listening with the screen off but the readers continued to sound like they were being held at gunpoint, or had been anaesthetized. Not at all what I expected.

If you want a film of Shakespeare's sequence done right then try The Angelic Conversation. In 78 minutes, and with only a selection of the Sonnets, Judi Dench keeps the eros of the poetry intact.

Such a disappointment, this one.
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