In Search of Shakespeare [DVD]
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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 Englands 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 Shakespeares 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
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An excellent production, which is worth keeping rather than just viewing.
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Micheal Wood has a great way of putting it over