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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Format: DVD|Change
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on 26 July 2017
Magnificent viewing.From an era when they acted Shakespeare with true appreciation of its power and majesty.
Unlike today when it just sounds like they are in a drama class spewing the lines out with no understanding of what any of it means beyond surface layer.
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on 7 December 2010
If you have a laptop with a DVD disk drive, then you have a region free portable DVD player. Or at least that's how this American is enjoying the COMPLETE works of Shakespeare, which is unavailble in the US, except as expensive subsets.

I can't add to the erudition set forth by other reviewers, other than this edition is remarkable in its acting quality, which is the sole key to Shakespeare. Frankly, the sets and costumes are quite good for the time and budget as well.

For several years I've purchased British (region 2) DVD's and they play just fine on my laptop and desktop. There are indeed DVD's available only in the mother country!

Anyone who loves the bard should buy this set, especially now that it's so reasonably priced (in 2008 it was 200 pounds, now at christmas in 2010 its just 70 pounds!
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on 2 March 2017
no problems
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on 7 August 2014
Great set, great price. A must for Shakespeare fans. Some of the best productions of those plays out there!
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on 27 March 2008
The quality of the BBC production varies from play to play, and many plays are disappointing, or to put it bluntly, long and boring.

While I prefer conservative interpretations, the BBC renditions tend to be too conservative, too bland. There are some notable exceptions. Leonard Rossiter saves King John, Derek Jacobi makes an dandy Richard II, Roger Daltrey (from the Who) stumbles comically through "The Comedy of Errors", and John Cleese tames the shrew into an ex-shrew.

I'm sure it's no accident that the best plays are by the biggest stars. Having more stature, they have the authority to get their own way, and they're doing this for fun.

Also on the whole the Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 & 2, and Henry V series is pretty good. I haven't made it through all the plays yet, but I find the others I have seen (Pericles, Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus, Love's Labour Lost) lack "oomph". The lines are too often recited without wit. I expect even the tragedies should have more laughs or action-drama in them than these productions show us. But I suppose the actors are afraid of being accused of hamming it up. Too bad. Colourful interpretations should be "de rigueur".

My two favourite performances are Derek Jacobi's Richard II and Leonard Rossiter's King John. Jacobi gives us a dandy and a fop too full of himself and too careless of the consequences of his acts. Rossiter's King John is wonderful because he spices up his performance with innuendoes and sly looks that match his kittish tones.

Even though it falls far short of perfection, the breadth of the BBC project makes this a must have collection for any family's DVD shelf and will prove a good benchmark against which future renditions can be judged.

Vincent Poirier, Dublin
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VINE VOICEon 20 January 2006
I remember watching this series of BBC Shakespearean plays on Australian television when they were first broadcast in the early 1980's. They were very good then, and they have held up remarkably well to the present time, unlike, say, Olivier's 'Hamlet'. In part I think this is because they are presented as plays rather than as films and the minimalist approach to staging is still much in line with modern expectations. However, my main purpose in contributing to the discussion on this series is to say that if Amazon previously had problems in delivering the box of DVDs, they now seem to have overcome them. Mine arrived in Australia recently with the outside packing somewhat battered from its long trip around the world, but with the inside contents plastic wrapped and in perfect condition.
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on 27 August 2008
This set is a must. It's amazing that the BBC could accomplish this task with such success. The vast majority of the actors involved here give outstanding performances. I'd like to praise especially Derek Jacobi (wonderful Hamlet, astonishing Richard II, a play I didn't know before this), Michael Hordern (superb King Lear, really great Prospero in The Tempest), John Cleese (Surprising in The taming of the shrew), Ron Cook (malignant and subtle Richard III), David Gwillim (Prince Hal and Henry V), etc, etc. I was a little bit dissapointed with Nicol Williamson in Macbeth, but anyway, it's only my opinion and surely many people will find his performance not only accurate, but very good. The sets and costumes really suit the plays, with occasional strokes of genius (the sets for All's well that ends well reproduce from time to time famous paintings by Vermeer or Rembrandt). I recommend this to any theatre lover, especially those that, like me, like the classical way of set designing.
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on 16 August 2006
Among reviewers - a possible buyer raised one question: Have these plays, from BBC, English subtitles ? Answer: Yes - they have english subtitles: For the Hard of Hearing. Or for any one else!

Bjorn Bennike - Denmark
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on 15 November 2006
Buyers watch out for some defective DVDs this brilliant collection possibly contains!

So far I have discovered distorted video on "Henry VI. Part Two" from chapter 22 to 23

and on "Henry VI. Part Three" from chapter 27 to 28.

I would not know to tell whether I was just unlucky having received a bad copy. I was too late to claim when I discovered this issue. You better inspect each volume of the edition right after delivery.
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on 22 January 2006
In some ways it's a DVD box set, much like any other box set of a BBC series, say I, Claudius, or Doctor Who. Thirty-seven plays of Shakespeare are collected from the BBC's series which ran from 1978 to 1985. There were three producers, Cedric Messina, Jonathan Miller, and Shaun Sutton, but the BBC's house style dominates. These productions were budgeted at about £200,000 a piece, with scheduled rehearsal time of 30 days, and a shooting schedule of five to eight days. Most of the plays were shot at the BBC's television center, Studio 1, but two plays, As You Like It and King Henry VIII were shot on location, and had longer shooting schedules. When the series was first aired there was criticism about budget, production values, and other things but now after time has passed, these productions are held in higher esteem than they had when the plays first aired. Part of the reason must be the relative completeness of the series. Only Two Noble Kinsmen is overlooked, probably because it was not generally included in Shakespeare's complete editions when the plays were broadcast.
In other ways, it's much more than a DVD box set. It's Shakespeare's writing of course that carries the day, and the actors who bring the plays to life. For powerhouse acting Othello with Anthony Hopkins as the Moor, and Bob Hoskins as Iago gets the nod, but other plays and performers also got my notice. And they may not be the ones that are often thought of. Peter Benson as Henry VI and Julia Foster as his Queen Margaret, Anthony Quayle as Falstaff, Timothy West as Cardinal Wolsey, Brian Glover as Bottom, Frank Middlemass as Lear's Fool, Jonathan Pryce as Timon, and Richard Pasco as Jaques are just a few of the actors and roles that impressed me. There are surprises too. A minor pop star Brian Protheroe shows up in Titus Andronicus, the Henry VI plays, and Richard III. He's good in the roles he plays. I'd like to see more of him. Four actresses, Helen Mirren as Rosiland, Titania, and Imogen, Clair Bloom as Gertrude, the Queen in Cymbeline and Queen Katherine in Henry VIII, Penelope Wilton as Desdemona and Regan, and Jane Lapotaire as Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra also caught my attention.

It's often asserted that these plays are Shakespeare uncut. This is not true. There are many cuts, and a few additions. For example take The Taming of the Shrew. Act 1, Scene 1 is cut, and at the end Petruchio and Kate's exit is cut and the cast sits around a table and sings the 128th Psalm, which is no where found in the play. Then look at Cymbeline where acts four and five are heavily cut and scenes and speeches are freely rearranged. And finally look at Henry VI Part 3 Act 2, Sen. 1. In the play Edward and Richard enter, and their brother George is no where to be found. In the BBC version, George is there and he speaks some of Edward's and Richard's lines. There is plenty of tinkering going on here, the best part is the price.
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