This shattering drama of isolation and loss is one of the greatest tragedies in world literature. King Lear of Britain has three daughters: the hard-hearted Goneril and Regan, and the good and gentle Cordelia. He determines to divide his kingdom between them, giving the largest share to she who can say she loves him the best. Lear's tragic lack of judgment and self-knowledge is paralleled by the blindness of the loyal Gloucester who is persuaded to reject his virtuous son, Edgar, in favor of the villainous Edmund.
"A tale of pain and loss"
Distressed by his father's death and his mother's over-hasty remarriage, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is faced by a specter from beyond the grave bearing a grim message of murder and revenge. The young prince is driven to the edge of madness by his struggle to understand the situation he finds himself in and to do his duty. Many others, including Hamlet's beloved, the innocent Ophelia, are swept up in his tragedy.
King Leontes of Sicilia is seized by sudden and terrible jealousy of his wife Hermione, whom he accuses of adultery. He believes the child Hermione is bearing was fathered by his friend Polixenes, and when the baby girl is born he orders her to be taken to some wild place and left to die. Though Hermione's child escapes death, Leontes' cruelty has terrible consequences. Loss paves the way for reunion, and life and hope are born out of desolation and despair.
"Exit, pursued by a bear!"
The sensitive and poetic Richard II is undoubtedly the rightful king of England but he is unscrupulous and weak. When his cousin Henry Bolingbroke returns from banishment and mounts a challenge to his authority, Richard's right to the throne proves of little help to him. Richard is forced to abdicate, but as his power is stripped away, he gains dignity and self-awareness, and he meets his death heroically.
"Give sorrow leave awhile to tutor me"
Telling his followers he is leaving the city on affairs of state, the Duke of Vienna appoints the puritanical Angelo to govern in his absence. Will Angelo prove as virtuous as he seems once power is in his hands? Roaming the city disguised as a friar, the duke looks on as Angelo's lust for the virtuous Isabella sweeps him into the corruption he has so sternly condemned in others. The duke's manipulation at last produces a happy ending for this dark comedy, with its brilliant exploration of the themes of justice and mercy.
At the heart of this tragic history is one of Shakespeare's most noble characters, the statesman Brutus, who is caught in a devastating conflict between private affection and public duty.
Julius Caesar has become the most powerful man in the Rome. Does his power now threaten the very existence of the Republic itself? A conspiracy is hatched, one that will have fatal consequences not only for Caesar and the conspirators but for the future history of the ancient world.
In Shakespeare's most controversial play, the opposing values of justice and mercy must be resolved. Antonio promises money to help his friend Bassanio woo Portia. He borrows the sum needed from the cruel Shylock, but there will be a dreadful penalty if the loan is not repaid. The golden world of Portia's Belmont calls forth some of Shakespeare's most lyrical love poetry. But the dark shadow of Shylock is never far from the heart of this brilliant comedy as it moves toward its courtroom climax.
"One Of Shakespeare's Best"
Rebellion still simmers in England and King Henry's health is failing. Prince Hal has proved his courage but the king still fears that his son's pleasure-loving nature will bring the realm to ruin. Meanwhile, Falstaff and his ribald companions waste the nights in revelry, anticipating the moment when Hal will ascend the throne. Falstaff is in Gloucestershire when news arrives that the king has died. Has the dissolute old knight's hour come at last?
Rosalind, daughter of the deposed Duke Senior, is exiled from the court by her wicked uncle. Disguising herself as a young man and accompanied by her cousin Celia, she takes refuge in the Forest of Arden. In the forest Rosalind meets Orlando with whom she is in love, but her male disguise complicates matters, especially when Rosalind finds she has unwittingly attracted the shepherdess Phebe. But out of the confusion comes reconciliation and forgiveness, and all ends happily.
"Incredibly Easy To Follow"
Paul Scofield, Siobhan McKenna and John Neville perform Twelfth Night. This is Shakespeare's comedy of gender confusion, in which a girl disguises herself as a man to be near the count she adores - only to be pursued by the woman he loves.
"Loved it "
While King Henry's England is threatened by rebellion, the king's scapegrace son Hal haunts the taverns of London, his companions a crew of rogues and thieves let by Falstaff. The earl of Northumberland and his fiery son Hotspur scheme to overthrow the crown. Can Hal be brought to a sense of duty as Prince of Wales? Or will the influence of Falstaff prove too strong? The issue is decided when Hal, Hotspur, and Falstaff come together at the climactic battle of Shrewsbury.
"Chapters Mixed up"
Rome is a city divided, nobility and common-people locked in mutual suspicion. The patrician Caius Marcius, later called Coriolanus, is Rome's greatest soldier, but his proud refusal to accommodate himself to the demands of the plebeians leads to banishment and death. A Roman history as well as tragedy, Coriolanus is a complex and subtle exploration of the themes of absolution and compromise, both in the political world and in the life of the individual.
"A Story That Keeps Repeating"
Troy is besieged by the invading Greeks, but the young Trojan prince Troilus can think only of his love for Cressida. Her uncle Pandarus brings the two together, but after only one night news comes that Cressida must be sent to the enemy camp. There, as Troilus looks on, she yields to the wooing of the Greek Diomedes. The tragic story is undercut by the commentary of Thersites, who provides a cynical chorus.
Young Claudio has fallen for the lovely heiress Hero, who also loves him. Their path to the altar looks smooth, until the evil Don John intervenes. All ends happily, thanks to his incompetent assassins and the lucky discoveries of the bungling constable Dogberry. Central to the play, one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedies, are Beatrice and Benedick, masters of wit and sworn foes to marriage - until a plot is hatched to bring them together.
Padua holds many suitors for the hand of fair Bianca, but Bianca may not be married until her spinster sister, Kate, is wed. Could any man be rash enough to take on Kate? The witty adventurer Petruchio undertakes the task. While he sets about transforming Kate from foul-tempered termagant to loving wife, young Lucentio and his clever servant, Tranio, plot to win Bianca.
The dissolute Falstaff plans to seduce Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, two "Merry Wives of Windsor," there by gaining access to their husbands' wealth. The two women have the old rogue's measure, however, and Falstaff's plots lead only to his own humiliation. But the merry wives themselves fall prey to plotting as their plans to prevent Mistress Page's daughter Anne from marrying the young man she loves are frustrated in their turn.
"So much fun!"
Othello, a Moorish general in the service of Venice, has married Desdemona, beautiful daughter of a Venetian senator. But Iago, Othello's malignant ensign, is determined to destroy their happiness. Cunningly bending Othello to his own purposes, Iago persuades the Moor that Desdemona is unfaithful to him. Tormented in a hell of jealousy, Othello moves inexorably toward the destruction of his innocent wife and himself.
"A good but rather histrionic introduction to experiencing Othello"
In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare stages the workings of love in unexpected ways. In the woods outside Athens, two young men and two young women sort themselves into couples - but not before they form first one love triangle, and then another. The king and queen of fairyland, Oberon and Titania, battle over custody of an orphan boy. Oberon uses magic to make Titania fall in love with a weaver named Bottom, in an effort to distract Titania from the custody battle.
"Great for Reading along to the Folger edition!"
Written in 1593, King Richard III is one of Shakespeare's earliest plays. This play differs from its predecessors, being amore structured piece, examining the development and motivations of a single character, Richard Duke of Gloucester, who will stop at nothing to gain control of the throne occupied by his brother Edward IV.
"Another NAXOS masterpiece!"
This haunting drama of vengeance and forgiveness crowns the group of tragicomic romances that Shakespeare composed at the end of his career. Sometimes read as his farewell to the stage, the play contains some of Shakespeare's most lyrical verse. Prospero, wise Duke of Milan, has been deposed by Antonio, his wicked brother, and exiled with his daughter Miranda to a mysterious island. But Prospero possesses supernatural powers. Aided by the spirit Ariel, Prospero uses his magical art to bring his enemies under his control.
Young King Henry VI has married the beautiful Margaret of Anjou but the new queen is ruthless and ambitious. Supported by the powerful Duke of Suffolk, Margaret plots the overthrow of her enemies, chief among them the Duke of Gloucester. But the Duke of York also aspires to the crown, and the common people, led by Jack Cade, are in rebellion. To the despair of the mild young king, England descends into civil war.
"This review is actually for Part Three"
The noble Titus returns victorious to Rome bringing Tamora, Queen of the Goths as his captive. When one of Tamora's sons is condemned to die, she vows revenge, and, aided by the villainous Aaron, she exacts a terrible retribution, inaugurating a grim cycle of rape, murder, and cannibalism. This macabre, often brilliant tragedy comes from the earliest stage of Shakespeare's dramatic career.
This widely studied play is one of the "best sellers" of the Shakespeare canon. This production is the sixth Shakespeare play in the series undertaken by Naxos AudioBooks in conjunction with Cambridge University Press.
"Great Performances - Classy Production"
The tragedy of King Lear receives an outstanding performance in an all-star cast led by Britain’s senior classical actor, Paul Scofield. He is joined by Alec McCowen as Gloucester, Kenneth Branagh as The Fool, Harriet Walter as Gonerill, Sara Kestelman as Regan and Emilia Fox as Cordelia. This is the ninth recording of Shakespeare plays undertaken by Naxos AudioBooks in conjunction with Cambridge University Press, and is directed by John Tydeman. It was released to mark the 80th birthday of Paul Scofield in January 2002.
"No life in this Lear."
The complete play in five acts.
William Shakespeare lived between 1552-1616, but his work endures and is enjoyed the world over.
©1963, 1995 HarperCollins Publishers
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