[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
In Search of Shakespeare
Shakespeare
Newsnight Review discussed Michael Wood's programme In Search of Shakespeare.

KIRSTY WARK:
Germaine, this is a huge challenge. Does Michael pull it off?

GERMAINE GREER:
No, and he is not going to, because Shakespeare leaves such contradictory traces. Michael Wood knows this. He is good enough to know that all the Shakespearean sign posts point in two directions, plus and minus. You can try and find a spore through and create a whole set of correspondences. It's like somebody sent me once a book called the Story the Sonnets Tell. I had to send a card back and say, "Sorry, they don't tell the story, which is why you have had to write the book." One reason why Shakespeare is our greatest writer is that we can't read his biography. We have no option but to deal with the work. Otherwise he would be like Byron, where we read about him all the time but have no idea of what he wrote.

KIRSTY WARK:
It was put in the context of Elizabethan England?

JAMES BROWN:
One of the great things is you didn't see the classic iconographic image of him, of the bald head and the beard, in the first 15-20 minutes you don't see it. It's more than just a history programme. Once you have adjusted to the pace, it's quite slow, it's looking at beautiful images of England, more like a painting than a television show. Wood's love of history and enthusiasm for the subject is totally catching. If you have the time and you are not going to be channel hopping, it's a very relaxing and informative piece of TV.

KIRSTY WARK:
Did it help you that, on occasion, Michael Wood, he was standing in Gloucestershire and points out a view, and he says, "You see that view in Richard III", did that help?

JAMES BROWN:
I thought it really put it into perspective for me. He took it out of the history books and put it into its time.

CHARLES SAUMAREZ SMITH:
I detested it. I thought it was very boring. It didn't catch me. It was extremely slow, very old-fashioned. I hated those shots of Stratford-on-Avon and school children dressed up in Tudor dress. It seemed like a travellogue of going to Shakespeare country.

KIRSTY WARK:
Do you think there is ever a question about whether or not something can be put on television? Surely, if it's adding to our understanding even of the period, is it not helpful?

CHARLES SAUMAREZ SMITH:
I didn't like the way he was so intrusive. I haven't seen programmes by him before, but it seemed every time when you were being shown some of the evidence or encouraged to think and make up your own mind about what was being shown, he was always there somehow inserting himself and telling you what to think. I found that unnecessarily patronising.

GERMAINE GREER:
Because the evidence is extremely tenuous. We have always known about the Shakeshaft business and the Lancashire connection. There are assumptions that aren't good enough. One is that Shakespeare is an uncommon name. It isn't. John Shakespeare in Gloucester, there's no reason to suppose he is same as John Shakespeare in Stratford. Also, constantly talking about the huge rift between Protestant and Catholic. There wasn't a huge rift. There was no clear doctrinal separation between the two and the religion of the ordinary people was tremendously confused.

KIRSTY WARK:
James, did it bother you that, when Michael was talking about the Queen's men, which were the propagandist players who went round the country preparing for war against the Spanish Armada, he said, "Actually it's possible that William Shakespeare came and played a part there because one of the actors had been killed." Did it bother you that that might or might not be true?

JAMES BROWN:
He sets his stall out right at the beginning. It's a detective story and you have to go down routes to get where you want to go. As Germaine says, he is going to pick all the different little bits to fit his story.

KIRSTY WARK:
Except that he is too good a historian to do that. He keeps backing down and says, "All this is very difficult and none of this may be true."

KIRSTY WARK:
It was four parts. The first was obviously the most difficult. Young up to teenager. The second part had more meat in it. Presumably the third and fourth parts will relate more to the plays.

CHARLES SAUMAREZ SMITH:
I look forward to it when I watch it.

GERMAINE GREER:
The poems were most important to Shakespeare. They are his most finished piece of work. They can only have been written by him, not by the actors or anybody else. We will wait and see.



RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific