Will Shakespeare (TV series)

Will Shakespeare
Also known as Life of Shakespeare
William Shakespeare: His Life & Times
Created by John Mortimer
Written by John Mortimer
Directed by Mark Cullingham
Robert Knights
Starring Tim Curry
Ian McShane
Nicholas Clay
Lynette Davies
Paul Freeman
John Normington
Ron Cook
Richard Cordery
Ronald Herdman
Roger Lloyd-Pack
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 6
Producer(s) Cecil Clarke
Lorna Mason (associate producer)
Peter Roden (co-producer)
Production company(s) ATV, RAI
Distributor BWE Video
Original network ITV
Original release 13 June – 18 July 1978

Will Shakespeare, also known as Life of Shakespeare and William Shakespeare: His Life & Times, was a 1978 historical drama series created and written by John Mortimer. Broadcast in six parts, the series is a dramatisation of the life and times of the great poet William Shakespeare, played by Tim Curry, and was co-produced by Lew Grade's ATV and RAI and distributed internationally by ITC. The two production companies had collaborated successfully the previous year on Jesus of Nazareth.



Each episode was based around the creation of a single play, and the idea of Shakespeare's real life experiences influencing his writing was used as the central plot device.[1] As there are few known facts about the life of Shakespeare, Mortimer embellished upon known stories or legends about the playwright's life. These included a supposed apprenticeship with Christopher Marlowe and a homoerotic relationship with the Earl of Southampton.

Mortimer also invented a character whom the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets was supposedly based upon. The wife of a judge, she falls in love with Shakespeare after seeing his performance as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, adding a secondary storyline elaborating on class divisions.[1]

Original Literary Material

In 1977 Hodder and Stoughton Ltd published Will Shakespeare as written by John Mortimer, author of the Rumpole series. Coronet published the paperback edition in 1977, ISBN 0 340 21979 3

Video release

The series was initially released on VHS home video under the title William Shakespeare: His Life & Times.[2] A Region 1 DVD release of the series, by A & E television, was released in 2008, simply titled Will Shakespeare. Network Studio released a Region 2 DVD of the series in 2009 under the same title.


  1. 1 2 Michael Brooke. "Will Shakespeare (1978)". BFI. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
  2. "Life of Shakespeare (1978)". IMDB. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
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