In 1978, the BBC set itself the task of filming all of William Shakespeare's plays for television. The resulting productions, renowned for their loyalty to the text, utilised the best theatrical and television directors and brought great performances from leading contemporary actors.
RICHARD II: This production boasted the most distinguished cast of the entire project, with Derek Jacobi in the title role and John Gielgud as John of Gaunt. Perfectly suited to a play written entirely in verse, their efforts were augmented by a studio set that enabled the director to reflect an intense psychological struggle as well as a taut political drama.
ROMEO AND JULIET: This BBC production of Shakespeare's study of fate and the power and contrary nature of love features an all-star cast with Sir John Gielgud as the chorus and a young Alan Rickman as Tybalt. It has been acclaimed as one of the most faithful versions ever to be filmed.
AS YOU LIKE IT: Helen Mirren and Brian Stirner star as Rosalind and Orlando in one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies. Considering the delights of love, the nature of human experience and the contrast between life in the court and the country, Shakespeare fills the romantic plot with both humorous and clever word play.
JULIUS CAESAR: Shakespeare's greatest Roman tragedy breaks all conventional rules of drama, creating neither a clear-cut hero nor a villain. Director Herbert Wise, who also directed the great BBC dramas I Caudius and Elizabeth R, brilliantly conveys a world of personal and political conflict while allowing the plays chilling supernatural undercurrent to emerge.
MEASURE FOR MEASURE: Shakespeare's 'dark' comedy weaves between the moral posts of lust, mercy and justice. Kenneth Colley and Tim Pigott-Smith are excellent as the seemingly cold and inscrutable Duke and Angelo, while Kate Nelligan's Isabella moved The New York Times to describe her as "the image of idealised faultlessness".
HENRY VIII: The verbal jousting of Timothy West and Claire Bloom (as Cardinal Wolsey and Katherine of Aragon) illuminates this rare production of the near-full text of one of Shakespeare's last plays.
Shot entirely on location in English castles and stately homes, it was cited by the Shakespeare Association of America as the best of the BBC series.
This is a Region 4 disc, the local region for Australia.