British Universities Film & Video Council

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Six Centuries of Verse

Synopsis
Series looking at the poetry of the past six centuries.
1: Establishes the continuity and variety of English verse throughout the past six centuries using extracts from poems, with readings from Chaucer, Shakespeare, Herbert, Milton, Swift, Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Emily Bronte, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Hardy, Yeats and Ted Hughes, whose poem ‘The Thought Fox’ is itself an image of the way in which a poem can be conceived by a poet. As in all the programmes, the poems are ‘set’ in suitable locations in England and America and the readings are illustrated with paintings from the appropriate period.
2: Julian Glover and Nicholas Gecks read translations of Old English or Anglo-Saxon poetry which was composed between the mid-7th century and the Norman Conquest. The main reading is a part of Julian Glover’s own adaptation of Beowulf, the heroic epic of the 8th century, which incorporates lines in the original language with its rich rhetoric. Other Old English verse featured includes three short ‘riddle poems’, part of The Seafarer (a monologue about adventure and exile) and The Dream of the Rood (a lyrical meditation ‘spoken’ by the cross on which Christ was crucified).
3: Emphasises the storytelling function of verse with illustrations from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Gary Watson reads the general prologue in the original Middle English which is accompanied by subtitles. Gielgud provides an introduction to Chaucer and his work which is followed by a re-enactment (by a group of actors) of ‘The Pardoner’s Tale’ in Neville Coghill’s modern version.
4: Two anonymous carols are used to represent the numerous songs that made up the folk tradition. Readings from John Skelton ('To Mistress Margaret Hussey’) pinpoint the moment when the late medieval period merged into the Renaissance. The themes of love, death and ambition are identified in the poems of Sir Thomas Wyatt, Chidiock Tichborne, Thomas Nashe, Sir Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlowe and Michael Drayton. The review of this period culminates in the reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129 ‘The Expense of Spirit in a Waste of Shame’. Readings are by Peggy Ashcroft, John Gielgud, Julian Glover and others.
5: Illustrates the variety of Shakespeare’s genius expressed in the many moods of his plays. The scenes and speeches featured are the prologue to Henry V, the nurse’s speech from Romeo and Juliet, one of Hamlet’s famous soliloquies, the recognition scene between Cordelia and King Lear, Enobarbus’s speech lauding Cleopatra, the dirge from Cymbeline and Prospero’s farewell speech from The Tempest, which Gielgud describes as ‘a true epilogue to Shakespeare’s career’. Readings by Sir John Gielgud, Sir Ralph Richardson, Dame Peggy Ashcroft.
6: Analyses Donne’s verse, discussing, in particular, the ‘shock tactics of his rhetoric’. Four of Donne’s love poems - written whilst a young man - ‘The Flea’, ‘The Good Morrow’, ‘The Sun Rising’ and ‘The Apparition’ are read by Julian Glover as examples of the power, vigour and audacity of his verse. Two religious poems, ‘Death Be Not Proud’ and ‘A Hymn To God The Father’, represent his later work. Peggy Ashcroft reads three religious poems by George Herbert. Gielgud mentions the work of the Cavalier poets and reads ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell.
7: The life and work of John Milton. Ian Richardson reads Milton’s verse:- the sonnet to his dead wife Katherine and a number of passages from Paradise Lost, upon which this programme concentrates. The passages featured are: Book 1 - the opening passage and the confrontation between Satan and Beelzebub in Hell; Book 3 - the great hymn to light; Book 4 - Satan’s confrontation with Gabriel; Book 12 - the concluding passage in which Michael leads Adam and Eve out of Paradise.
8: A passage from ‘A Satire Against Reason and Mankind’ by Rochester introduces the great age of satire. Discusses the literary and political satire of the Poet Laureate Dryden, with readings from ‘MacFlecknoe’ and ‘Absalom and Achitophel’ which attacked members of Charles II’s court such as the Duke of Buckingham. The verse of Jonathan Swift was lighter and more genial in tone than his prose; examples are ‘On Poetry, a Rhapsody’ and ‘Verses on the Death of Dr Swift’. In contrast is the ferocious wit of Alexander Pope, illustrated in readings from the ‘Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot’ in which he pillories his enemy Lord Harvey and the conclusion to ‘The Dunciad’ which was an attack on pedantry, pretentiousness, commercialism and bad writing in general.
9: Extracts from Christopher Smart’s ‘Jubilate Agno’, the address to his cat Jeoffry, written in Bedlam, read by Ian Richardson, who also reads William Blake’s ‘The Tyger’. Four more Blake poems are read by Peggy Ashcroft: ‘Holy Thursday’, ‘London’, ‘A Poison Tree’ and ‘The Clod and the Pebble’. John Gielgud reads Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’. Wordsworth’s ‘The Solitary Reaper’ is read by Julian Glover.
10: Julian Glover reads Wordsworth’s verse, some of it spoken in Dove Cottage, including ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’, ‘Daffodils’, ‘A Slumber Did My Spirit Steal’, and a long extract from Book 1 of ‘The Prelude and Extempore Effusion on the Death of James Hogg’.
11: Nicholas Gecks reads Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’ and extracts from ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ and ‘Adonias’. Ian Richardson reads ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’ by Keats and Peggy Ashcroft reads ‘To Autumn’. Ends with Gielgud reading part of Byron’s ‘Don Juan’ Canto 1 ‘But now at thirty years my hair is grey’.
12: Ian Richardson reads five extracts from Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam’. Other works include Emily BrontÎ's ‘The Visionary’, Christina Rossetti’s ‘When I Am Dead My Dearest’, Robert Browning’s ‘My Last Duchess’, Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’ and part of Swinburne’s ‘The Garden of Proserpine’. Other readers are Ashcroft, Gielgud and Glover.
13: Lee Remick speaks Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The City in the Sea’, Julia Ward Howe’s ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ and four poems by Emily Dickinson, which are filmed in Dickinson’s own bedroom in her carefully preserved home in Massachusetts. Stacy Keach performs a long extract from ‘Song of Myself’ by Walt Whitman and Herman Melville’s ‘Shiloh’.
14: Readings from Thomas Hardy, Gerald Manley Hopkins, E A Houseman and Rudyard Kipling. Ashcroft and Glover read from Hardy: ‘The Ruined Maid’, ‘In Church’, ‘At Castle Boterel’, ‘I Looked into my Glass’ and ‘He Never Expected Much.' Ian Richardson reads four poems by Hopkins: ‘Pied Beauty’, ‘The Windhover’, ‘Spring and Fall’, and ‘I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark’. Nicholas Gecks reads Houseman’s ‘Tell Me Not Here’ and ‘In Valleys Green and Still’. Gielgud reads Kipling’s ‘The Story of Uriah’.
15: Concentrates on six major poets writing between the wars. Cyril Cusack reads Yeats’ ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’, ‘The Second Coming’ and ‘Politics’. Nicholas Gecks reads ‘Anthem for a Doomed Youth’ by Wilfred Owen and Edward Thomas’s ‘Old Man’. Stacy Keach reads Robert Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’. All the parts in ‘A Game of Chess’ from T S Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’ are taken by Isla Blair and Ian Richardson. John Gielgud reads W H Auden’s ‘Music des Beaux Arts’.
16: Anthony Hopkins speaks Dylan Thomas’s ‘The Force that through the Green Fuse’ and ‘Do Not Go Gentle’. Julian Glover reads Philip Larkin’s ‘Church Going’ and ‘The Explosion’. Stacey Keach reads two poems by Robert Lowell: ‘Skunk Hour’ and ‘For the Union Dead’. Ted Hughes’ description of the coming of inspiration to a poet, ‘The Thought Fox’, is read by Sir John Gielgud.
Language
English
Country
Great Britain
Medium
Video
Technical information
Colour / Sound
Year of release
1984
Availability
Out of distribution (2006)

Credits

Writer
Anthony Thwaite
Cast
Ian Richardson 
John Gielgud 
Julian Glover 
Lee Remick 
Peggy Ashcroft 

Additional Details

Production type
Documentary/Educational/News
Subjects
English language and literature
Keywords
poetry; Shakespeare, William (1564-1616); sonnets; poetry - British

Notes

Notes
VF 94 Review
History
Episode 5 SHAKESPEARE 1564-1616 was broadcast 30 May 1984.
Documentation
Reference: ‘Six Centuries of Verse’ by Anthony Thwaite (Methuen).
Uses
Students of English literature.*

Sections

Title
Introduction, An
Synopsis
1: Establishes the continuity and variety of English verse throughout the past six centuries using extracts from poems, with readings from Chaucer, Shakespeare, Herbert, Milton, Swift, Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Emily BrontÎ, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Hard

Title
Old English
Synopsis
2: Julian Glover and Nicholas Gecks read translations of Old English or Anglo-Saxon poetry which was composed between the mid-7th century and the Norman Conquest. The main reading is a part of Julian Glover’s own adaptation of ‘Beowulf’, the heroic epic o

Title
Chaucer (1340-1400)
Synopsis
3: Emphasises the storytelling function of verse with illustrations from Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’. Gary Watson reads the general prologue in the original Middle English which is accompanied by subtitles. Gielgud provides an introduction to Chaucer and

Title
Medieval to Elizabethan (c1400-1600)
Synopsis
4: Two anonymous carols are used to represent the numerous songs that made up the folk tradition. Readings from John Skelton ('To Mistress Margaret Hussey’) pinpoint the moment when the late medieval period merged into the Renaissance. The themes of love,

Title
Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Synopsis
5: Illustrates the variety of Shakespeare’s genius expressed in the many moods of his plays. The scenes and speeches featured are the prologue to ‘Henry V’, the nurse’s speech from ‘Romeo and Juliet’, one of Hamlet’s famous soliloquies, the recognition sc

Title
Metaphysical and devotional (c1590-c1670)
Synopsis
6: Analyses Donne’s verse, discussing, in particular, the ‘shock tactics of his rhetoric’. Four of Donne’s love poems - written whilst a young man - ‘The Flea’, ‘The Good Morrow’, ‘The Sun Rising’ and ‘The Apparition’ are read by Julian Glover as examples

Title
Milton (1608-74)
Synopsis
7: The life and work of John Milton. Ian Richardson reads Milton’s verse:- the sonnet to his dead wife Katherine and a number of passages from ‘Paradise Lost’, upon which this programme concentrates. The passages featured are: Book 1 - the opening passage

Title
Restoration and Augustan (1660-1745)
Synopsis
8: A passage from ‘A Satire Against Reason and Mankind’ by Rochester introduces the great age of satire. Discusses the literary and political satire of the Poet Laureate Dryden, with readings from ‘MacFlecknoe’ and ‘Absalom and Achitophel’ which attacked

Title
Romatic pioneers (1750-1805)
Synopsis
9: Extracts from Christopher Smart’s ‘Jubilate Agno’, the address to his cat Jeoffry, written in Bedlam, read by Ian Richardson, who also reads William Blake’s ‘The Tyger’. Four more Blake poems are read by Peggy Ashcroft: ‘Holy Thursday’, ‘London’, ‘A Po

Title
William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
Synopsis
10: Julian Glover reads Wordsworth’s verse, some of it spoken in Dove Cottage, including ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’, ‘Daffodils’, ‘A Slumber Did My Spirit Steal’, and a long extract from Book 1 of ‘The Prelude and Extempore Effusion on the Death of James H

Title
Younger Romantics (1800-1824)
Synopsis
11: Nicholas Gecks reads Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’ and extracts from ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ and ‘Adonias’. Ian Richardson reads ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’ by Keats and Peggy Ashcroft reads ‘To Autumn’. Ends with Gielgud reading part of Byron’s ‘Don Juan’ Cant

Title
Victorians (1837-1901)
Synopsis
12: Ian Richardson reads five extracts from Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam’. Other works include Emily BrontÎ's ‘The Visionary’, Christina Rossetti’s ‘When I Am Dead My Dearest’, Robert Browning’s ‘My Last Duchess’, Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’ and part of Swi

Title
American pioneers (1849-1910)
Synopsis
13: Lee Remick speaks Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The City in the Sea’, Julia Ward Howe’s ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ and four poems by Emily Dickinson, which are filmed in Dickinson’s own bedroom in her carefully preserved home in Massachusetts. Stacey Keac

Title
Romantics and realists (1870-c1920)
Synopsis
14: Readings from Thomas Hardy, Gerald Manley Hopkins, E A Houseman and Rudyard Kipling. Ashcroft and Glover read from Hardy: ‘The Ruined Maid’, ‘In Church’, ‘At Castle Boterel’, ‘I Looked into my Glass’ and ‘He Never Expected Much.' Ian Richardson reads

Title
Earlier twentieth century (1914-39)
Synopsis
15: Concentrates on six major poets writing between the wars. Cyril Cusack reads Yeats’ ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’, ‘The Second Coming’ and ‘Politics’. Nicholas Gecks reads ‘Anthem for a Doomed Youth’ by Wilfred Owen and Edward Thomas’s ‘Old Man

Title
Later twentieth century (c1934-84)
Synopsis
16: Anthony Hopkins speaks Dylan Thomas’s ‘The Force that through the Green Fuse’ and ‘Do Not Go Gentle’. Julian Glover reads Philip Larkin’s ‘Church Going’ and ‘The Explosion’. Stacey Keach reads two poems by Robert Lowell: ‘Skunk Hour’ and ‘For the Unio

Production Company

Name

Thames Television

Notes
See: GL Education (www.gl-education.com/)

Distributor

Name

Network

Email
shop@networkonair.com
Web
http://networkonair.com/ External site opens in new window
Phone
01992 657707
Address
19-20 Blythe Road
Berghem Mews
Hammersmith
London
W14 0HN
Notes
Founded in 1997, Network specialises in distributing niche television programmes, predominantly licensed from Granada Ventures and Fremantle. They have recently branched into feature film distribution. Sale via retail outlets or direct via Network’s website, which has some’web exclusive’ offers.

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