In this lavish 6 part period drama we are given a semi fictionalised account of the life of Will Shakespeare, especially his early years when he was trying to make a name for himself as a struggling actor before teaming up with Christopher Marlowe to help him complete his play Doctor Faustus, before making a mark of his own as a playwright.
The serial moves on to cover all the key points of Shakespeare’s life, including his strained relationship with Anne Hathaway.
The settings are fantastic, the Globe theatre wonderfully realised, it always looks quite stagey though which actually works in its favour. it’s all very busy at first but settles down after the first episode.
Mortimer plays pretty fast and loose with the facts of Shakespeare’s life, it’s highly doubtful that he ever worked with Marlowe for instance but so little is really known about his life that the production gets away with it.
Tim Curry is very good as Will and there are plenty of prominent names popping up in key roles from Ian McShane as Christopher Marlowe to Andre Morell as Edward Alleyn. There are also appearances from Simon MacCorkindale, Paul Freeman and ex Angel Shirley Cheriton as a waitress who Shakespeare is having a fling with but who dies of plague in episode two.
UK / ITV – ATV / 6×60 minute episodes / Broadcast 13 June – 18 July 1978
Writer: John Mortimer / Fights arranged by B.H. Harry / Costumes: David Walker / Scenery designed by Henry Graveney and Michael Bailey / Music: Richard Hill / Story Consultant: Peter Wood / Producer: Cecil Clarke
TIM CURRY as William Shakespeare
IAN McSHANE as Christopher Marlowe
DEREK ROYLE as William Kempe
MICHAEL HADLEY as Augustine Phillips
RON COOK as Jack Rice
RICHARD CORDERY as Henry Condell
FRED BRYANT as William Slye
IRENE SUNTERS as Mistress Rice
MEG WYNN OWEN as Anne Hathaway
PAUL FREEMAN as Dick Burbage
ANDRE MORELL as Edward Alleyn
ROGER LLOYD PACK as Jack heminge
SIMON MacCORKINDALE as Sir Thomas Walsingham
SHIRLEY CHERITON as Kate
THE EPISODES 13 June – 18 July 1978
1. DEAD SHEPHERD
2. ALMS FOR OBLIVION
3. OF COMFORT AND DESPAIR
4. THE LOVED BOY
5. REBELLION’S MASTERPIECE
6. THE LIVING RECORD