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In Search of Shakespeare
In Search of Shakespeare
Actors: Ray Fearon, Gerald Kyd, Fred Melamed, Robert Whitelock, Michael Wood
Genres: Television, Documentary
NR     2004     4hr 0min

Studio: Pbs Release Date: 05/06/2009 Run time: 240 minutes

     
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Movie Details

Actors: Ray Fearon, Gerald Kyd, Fred Melamed, Robert Whitelock, Michael Wood
Genres: Television, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Television, Documentary
Studio: Pbs (Direct)
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 03/09/2004
Original Release Date: 02/04/2004
Theatrical Release Date: 02/04/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 4hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 9
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Glorious landscape cinematography
Gavin Wilson | 04/10/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"It is more than quarter of a century since Michael, nearly fresh out of Oriel College Oxford, first appeared on our TV screens. Clad in unfusty denim, he hurled himself about the great English outdoors, enthusiastically telling us about Eric Bloodaxe and Co in the BBC series 'In Search of the Dark Ages'. Since then, Michael has been abroad with 'In Search of the Trojan War', 'In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great', and ... well, you get the general picture.Now he's back in England -- mostly Warwickshire, Lancashire and London, actually -- and he's ditched the denim in favour of the Barbour 'Bushman' jacket and Karrimor backpack. This four-part programme is as much a celebration of England's landscape and ancient buildings as it is the story of our greatest playwright. The photography is exceptional, the music well-composed, and Michael is always a pleasant companion to escort us around the key sites. We also spend much time in the company of the RSC, as they travel around the more authentic venues to perform excerpts from Othello, Henry IVth Part Two, Romeo & Juliet etc.There's always latent demand on British TV for Shakespeare insmall, digestible chunks. It is one of the regrets of so many adults that they wished they liked Shakespeare more ... if only it wasn't so much work to appreciate him, compared to 'Friends' etc. Here Michael makes him very digestible. If you could cope with 'Shakespeare in Love', then you can handle this series. The problem for me is that, having now viewed it once, when will I next want to watch it again? Probably in a couple of years' time. This is really a DVD to buy, watch once, and then lend to friends and family.One intriguing moment: in the College of Arms sequence, William Hunt, who used to run the HAC recruits course, takes Michael through the creation of the Shakespeare coat of arms. For the final shot, Mr Hunt is suddenly wearing his mess kit -- why??But back to the real world: one of the strengths of this series is that it shows the audience so clearly entranced and enjoying themselves. If this series doesn't have you rushing out to buy a copy of Ovid's Metamorphoses, it should at least persuade you to stop watching the telly and go out to the theatre, which can be no bad thing."
The BARD: Who Was He???
Stephen Pletko | London, Ontario, Canada | 07/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"+++++

"What a piece of work is man!
How noble in reason!
How infinite in faculties!
In form and moving, how express and admirable!
In action, how like an angel!
In apprehension, how like a god!
The beauty of the world!
The paragon of animals!"

The man this program is in search for is the one who wrote the above beautiful words and, as well, wrote many verses and words like it. His name: William Shakespeare (1564 to 1616), "[a man] not of an age, but for all time."

Surprisingly, not much is known of Shakespeare's life, until now. The enthusiastic Michael Wood takes us on a wonderful trek to discover just who Shakespeare was. We learn about such things as follows:

his parentage; his birth; his times, the politics and religion of the time; his youth; his marriage and loves; his "lost" years; his London years; his career; and his plays and sonnets.

There are four parts to this program (originally aired on the Public Broadcasting Station). Each includes a very brief introduction that I will reproduce here:

(1) A Time of Reformation (9 scenes including introduction and credits)

"Like all stories in history, this is a search for ghosts. A quest for the people that made us what we are. And for one man in particular. William Shakespeare is the most famous writer of all times...Yet his life is still shrouded in mystery...This is a historical detective story...searching for the life of William Shakespeare of Stratford Upon the Avon."

This is the only part where Wood gives a summary. He says,

"There's the first nineteen years of Shakespeare's life. [Wood then proceeds with his brief summary...] and that's just the beginning of the story!"

(2) The Lost Years (8 scenes)

"How did a poor country boy...become such a celebrity so soon after he arrived in London? It's one of the great mysteries of Shakespeare's life...Ten years before Shakespeare had been...in Stratford with no job and few prospects. How did he do it? How did he make that leap? And what did he do in those ten years?"

(3) The Duty of Poets (8 scenes)

"In the 1590s the English theatre entered its golden age and for the next twenty years its brightest star was William Shakespeare. But back in the early 1590s, Shakespeare was one of many gifted young poets. What was it that transformed him in the next few years to the greatest thing anybody had ever seen. What happened to him in his career and his private life?"

(4) For All Time (8 scenes)

"For William Shakespeare, 1603 was a very good year. Writer, actor, director, he was now the artist and chief of Elizabethan theatre. He created some of the greatest characters in literature...In [England], theatre wasn't just entertainment, it was popular and political - it had a thrilling and dangerous power. Shakespeare...is...in his late thirties...Out of the experience of his life and the turbulent times through which he lived, the new worlds and the lost worlds, he pulls it all together in some of the greatest works of literature ever written. It's that last story and the mysterious end to his career that we're going to uncover."

Wood travels extensively to different places, talking and interviewing people. He even reads from the actual historical documents that indicate something about Shakespeare, some of it uncovered only recently!

The cinematography is breathtaking. The photography inside actual buildings of Shakespeare's time is fantastic. The background music compliments Wood's narrative.

Special mention should be given to the Royal Shakespearean Company who travel with Wood. They act out bits of not only Shakespeare's plays but other plays of that time (such as those of his rival, Christopher Marlowe). You'll hear bits of his plays from each of these categories:

the Romantic Comedies (example: "A Midsummers Night Dream"); the Histories (example: "Henry IV," Part 1); Tragedies (example: "Macbeth"); and the Tragicomic Romances (example: "The Tempest"). (There was no example from his "Problem" plays.)

There is one DVD extra (about twenty minutes) that has eight scenes. It is quite good.

The DVD's picture and sound quality were perfect. There were no distracting artifacts.

Finally, if you're a William Shakespeare fanatic like I am, then you'll enjoy this program. I learned a lot of new things that I was not aware of before. If you're a newcomer to Shakespeare's life then I envy you. This program is the best introduction to his life, in my opinion, that there is.

In conclusion, be sure to view this program and find out why Shakespeare discovered that the duty of poets was "to speak what we feel and not what we ought to say!"

(2003; 4 hours; 2 discs; made for TV; wide screen)

+++++
"
Michael Wood puts flesh on dusty old bones
Jagadeesan | Washington, DC | 09/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I love Michael Wood. In his wonderful legacy series and in his books also, he puts a friendly arm around the viewer/reader and takes him/her on a voyage to old places which he makes new by his up-close show-and-tell-style. By jove, I never knew so many of Shakespeare's haunts were still standing, nor had I ever been so immersed in the traditions that are still going strong from Shakespeare's times. M. W. takes us inside dozens of town halls, old manors and castles to the very spots where the Bard first performed as a boy, applied for a wedding license, played for the queen, etc. By placing Shakespeare squarely in his dangerous times and showing us the political and religious plots that swirled around him, Shakespeare became beautifully real for me. M.W. shows us Shakespeare's writing may be for all times but the Bard was very much a product of his times. Beautifully photographed, also, and oh yes, Anglophiles will love all the neat old places. Thanks Michael."
Get to know the Bard!
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 03/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This four-part documentary goes above and beyond in bringing us the true story of the life and times of William Shakespeare, the greatest writer who ever lived. Each segment runs about an hour, but those four hours flew by in the blink of an eye for me because the story was so riveting. The viewer gets to know Shakespeare as a person, not just as some writer who lived in a very distant land and time and wrote in a rather hard to understand language. Not a lot has previously been known about his personal life, but thanks to this wonderful series, there are now a lot more facts out there. It also really helps that Michael Wood, the narrator, is really enthusiastic about his subject, and has a very friendly and engaging demeanour, instead of being some boring overly academic suit.

Shakespeare did not exist in a vacuum; his life, and by extension his writing, were shaped by the outside forces around him. The man lived through a lot of turbulent times, witnessing such events as the Armada, the Gunpowder Plot, and the beginnings of colonisation in the Americas. Elizabethan England was also a major police state, and his family were often at the brunt of it, seeing as how they were originally Catholics. In the era before separation of church and state, to be the "wrong" religion was inviting a lot of persecution. He had also experienced firsthand a lot of highs and lows in his life; for a time his father held a lot of positions of prestige, honor, and respect, enabling him to go to a good private school, but at the age of fourteen, the family fortunes disappeared as quickly as they had sprung up, and he was forced to leave school, his literary awakening, and the promise of going to college and making something of his life. It's really an amazing story how this young man was able to go from a nobody farmer's son to a highly renowned and respected playwright starting in the 1590s, to say nothing of going down in history as the greatest writer ever. Though the series explores a lot of aspects of his life and times (such as the Globe Theatre, the earliest plays he acted in, the tragic death of his son Hamnet, his marriage, his Catholic roots, where he lived, his friends, and of course his wonderful plays), I was still left wanting more. Shakespeare was such a fascinating person, who lived in such fascinating times, that just 4 hours is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to delving into his life and what he was all about! Interspersed with this journey into who Shakespeare really was are scenes from the current players in England's Royal Shakespeare Company acting out some of his plays, such as 'Macbeth,' 'Hamlet,' 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' 'Romeo and Juliet,' and 'The Tempest.' In the end, the series shows how, though he wrote very much for his own time, in the end he was a man for all times. A lot of the things he wrote about and dealt with seem so very modern, as though they could have been written in much more modern times but for the often hard-to-understand Elizabethan English. Too many people make the mistake of seeing him as a balding middle-aged guy in an Elizabethan collar, not as someone who was once young and just starting out in his life and career, and as someone who's inaccessible to the modern era just because, to be honest, it can be rather hard to read and appreciate his works without seeing them on the stage or screen or at least studying them with a teacher. There are also some deleted scenes which go into further detail on some of the subjects explored, such as Shakespeare's rival playwright Christopher Marlowe and his family's Catholic roots.

As awesome as this series was, however, I was a bit shocked to see numerous scenes of Mr. Wood and some of his assistants actually handling these original books, documents, and other artifacts with their bare hands. There were maybe 5 scenes in which they actually wore gloves before touching these pages which are over 400 years old. I was also rather offended at how he even speculated on whether or not Shakespeare really loved his wife Anne (though at least in the end he admitted that it was very possible he always loved her). There was even some joking, when he was looking at the church record of their marriage, about how this 18 year old boy was being "forced" to marry this "long in the tooth" woman who was 8 years his senior. While it's true that Anne Hathaway was pregnant when they married, there's no evidence other than conjecture that this was a shotgun marriage. Is it really that unthinkable that an 18 year old boy could fall madly in love with a woman that much older, and truly want to marry her independent of the fact that he got her pregnant? I seriously doubt that there would be this question of whether he actually loved his wife if he had been the 26 year old and she had been the 18 year old. I say more power to him for picking an older woman to be his wife and going against the hypocritical convention in which it's normal and socially acceptable for the husband to be older, but suspect or strange when it's the wife who is older. We also hear the beautiful early sonnet he wrote to her, with the concluding line declaring "And saved my life," which sounds like "Anne saved my life" when read aloud.

All in all, it's a great introduction to the Bard, for both devotees and people who aren't that familiar with his life, times, or works yet. It's guaranteed to amaze those who never thought of him as so interesting, modern, lively, and accessible."