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VINE VOICEon 17 May 2012
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Let's get this out of the way first - I love Shakespeare, and particularly the tragedies, and I'm reviewing this product from that point of view.

It's a great set of radio plays, put together especially for radio, and ideal for car journeys (I have an hour long commute each day). As is expected these days, the shows are given different settings - listen out for the machine guns in Julius Caesar - to liven them up (and it feels like they might well have been chosen to give the plays a bit of a soundscape, a la the aforementioned guns).

Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and Julius Caesar are among my favourite Shakespeare plays, and probably the only qualm I have here is that I'm not sure The Tempest is even a tragedy, and it's certainly not Hamlet, which is the play obviously missing here, or even Othello.

Overall though, I really enjoyed listening here, and would imagine that even someone who isn't the fan I am would get some enjoyment, too.

Actually, the line-up isn't my only qualm - Mark Antony being a bit wet didn't go down that well with me, either, as I once played him on stage and I love the guy!
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VINE VOICEon 31 March 2011
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
These are not as good as going to the theatre, but that aside, they are very good. I have listened to audio versions of Shakespeare before and they've been staid, unnatural and dull to listen to: these are lively, believable and good fun. They don't feel educational or good for you, they are just good to listen to. Even though the language is old these plays have a modern feel, with modern voices and some settings being updated. It's not as modern as the 1996 'Romeo + Juliet' film, but nor is it one of those awful productions where everyone sounds like they are from Knightsbridge. I really enjoyed listening again and again. I still haven't stopped and I've lost count. I am well enough versed in Shakespeare to know if the texts has been substantially altered but they sounded right and the sound effects were not too obtrusive either.

In terms of the product I can only find fault in the presentation, rather than being in a jewel case each play in contained in a folded cardboard sleeve which is slimmer than a jewel case, pretty and easy to open (no fiddly plastic hinges to break) but I noticed one day when I dropped it that the CDs were not that well protected, as they went flying across the floor. On the plus side a plastic case could have broken and this didn't but I would have preferred something a little more protective.
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VINE VOICEon 22 December 2010
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The actors are really very good. The only problem I have with these recordings is that you have to have seen the plays or read them already in order to have an idea of what is actually happening. There are a lot of sound effects which give an excellent atmosphere, but unless you know the plays in some form, you tend to get a bit lost. At least that is how I felt.

I have never seen or read King Lear or Julius Ceaser, so listening to the recordings really was like watching the plays blindfolded. If there had been some form of narrative to explain who exactly was talking and why someone was suddenly apparently dying, I would have found the stories a lot more enjoyable. As it was I had to do a lot of deduction and I am still in a fog with regard to certain incidents.

All the same, if you do know the plays in some form, the actors are superb and, as I wrote, sound effects give it an excellent atmosphere so that you can almost feel the wind blowing around your own legs at one point when some people are standing on a cliff.

If you know the plays, buy this as it is extremely good. If you don't, go and see the plays first then buy the CDs.
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VINE VOICEon 25 December 2010
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Essential Tragedies Volume 1 comprises BBC Radio 3 full cast productions of King Lear, Julius Caesar, The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet. They feature a well-known cast including Sophie Dahl, Nina Wadia, Geraldine James, Samantha Bond, and Philip Madoc.

Richard Eyre, gives a short introduction to each play but no written explanation or description is included except a very short one for each one at the back of each disk. If you are familiar with Shakespeare plays then this is a wonderful addition to your library otherwise it is tricky to work out who is who initially until some dialogue reference is made to each character.

Each play is professionally acted and sucks you into the time period and language of each tragedy. I have had many hours of pleasure listening to them. I admit at first that I found King Lear and Julius Caesar difficult to follow at first as I am not familiar with these plays, however, once I followed it with the written version everything fell into place.

I would definitely recommend these CDs to a student of English or a Shakespeare enthusiast.
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on 18 April 2012
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an odd collection to come under the title "Essential Tragedies" King Lear and Rome and Juliet OK, but Julius Ceasar and The Tempest; I'm not so sure. Anyway, all the plays are very well read, and thankfully - I think - along with some great sound effects which help to set the scene; each play is prefaced with a very interesting introduction.
Although expensive this collection presents many hours of entertainment and I listened to most of it either cycling to work or walking to the train station - time well spent.
Others have noted that you really need to be familiar with the plays from another medium (preferably a stage production) to make sense of these audio versions and I very much agree but if you're studying Shakespeare I reckon this would be an excellent way to get those well-known passages well and truly implanted in your brain.
A bit pricey but nevertheless excellent.
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on 17 May 2012
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As a reading experience, the Bard has always left me cold. This may be in no small part due to having study him for both `O' and `A' Level Eng. Lit quite a few moons ago, when I perhaps wasn't at an age to appreciate him.

However, these quality BBC performances featuring the voices of superb casts of actors really bring the vibrancy of the prose to life, and I openly acknowledge that I can now see what the cognoscenti see in him. Indeed I'm now looking forward to going to the Theatre Royal, Newcastle next time the RSC are in town to sample one of the plays performed in its natural, and rightful, setting.

For a non-Shakespeare buff like me, these tragedies are an eye (or rather, ear)-opener, but I should imagine the discs would be an indispensable acquisition for the genuine Shakespeare aficionado.
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VINE VOICEon 23 December 2010
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
These seemed a good way to get to know some Shakespeare plays, and a useful way to spend time while driving. However, listening in a car environment is somewhat challenging because it goes without saying that the dialogue is not simple, and because the actors are putting so much expression into their performance, e.g. mad King Lear. Trying to do this with background noise of a car and concentrating on traffic situations when necessary is not ideal. It is also difficult to know who is speaking at any time, except when the person is greeted by name.

If you are not very familiar with these plays it is probably best, at least once, to sit down with a written version and follow the words & stage directions while you listen.

A minor thing that threw me was that Julius Caesar was set in WWII along with sound effects of gunfire, etc. It seemed an unnecessary choice for an audio version of the play.
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on 24 December 2010
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a lovely set of some of Shakespeare's well known works. I am slightly surprised at the inclusion of the Tempest in this box set of tragedies? I'm not sure I would class the Tempest as a tragedy... but maybe I just don't know enough about the categorisations of Shakespeare's work.

Echoing what has been stated earlier, I thought I would use this box set to familiarise myself with those plays that I didn't already know, but I found it very difficult to follow the plays without the accompanying visual reinforcement - diving straight into Lear without so much as checking a plot synopsis meant that instead of following the play, I found myself dozing off. However, when listening to the texts that were more familiar, such as Romeo and Juliet, I found the performances to be fantastic.
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VINE VOICEon 20 September 2012
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a beautifully performed collection of the Shakespearean tragedies. The performances are outstanding, as is the recording quality and the presentation of the boxset. However, as other reviewers have noted, the tragedies are some of the less accessible of Shakespeare's works, and for someone new to these plays, an audio recording may not be the best place to start. They can be difficult to follow, and once you are lost it can be very hard to pick up the thread again. But for those who are already familiar with these works, this is an excellent way to enjoy some of the finest tragedies ever written.
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VINE VOICEon 23 December 2010
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This excellent 10 CD collection of productions was initially recorded for BBC Radio 3.It includes King Lear, Julius Caesar, The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet.
It's a great buy for the more accomplished Shakespeare fan as the productions are first class from a litany of famous artists. However I would recommend anyone new to Shakespeare to purchase productions on dvd that can be seen as well as heard as it allows for better following of the plays.
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