From the Globe Theatre to the World Wide Web
Edited By Stefani Brusberg-Kiermeier and Jörg Helbig
H. R. Coursen (Southern New Hampshire): Shakespeare on television -169
H.R. COURSEN Shakespeare on Television BBC began broadcasting televised versions of Shakespeare in February of 1937. A fifty minute Macbeth was broadcast by BBC in two segments in March of 1937. The first full- length production was of Twelfth Night in January 1939, "but prior to this there had been some twenty broadcasts in a series called 'Scenes from Shakespeare'" (Holderness 1988, 15. See also Rothwell-Melzer, 1990, on individual plays). World War Two found more urgent purposes for the cathode-ray tube than entertainment, but after the war BBC began to televise Twelfth Night at Christmas and Henry V on St. George's Day, a Shrew for Shakespeare's birthday in April 1952, and a special production of that play to celebrate the Coronation of Elizabeth II on 15 May 1952, not intended, one assumes, as a comment on the Queen. In the U.S. in the 1950s, Maurice Evans essayed Hamlet, Richard II, and Macbeth – the latter production opposite a powerful performance by Judith Anderson. Televised Shakespeare was here to stay, reaching its greatest frequency, if not exactly its golden age, during the late 1970s an early 1980s, when BBC produced the entire canon. Television's limitations – both ideological and technical – began to be really explored in conjunction with the BBC "Shakespeare Plays." The effort to produce the canon so that the plays could be redeployed like library books was itself profoundly conservative, in that it assumed something like "definitive versions." Thus interpretation tends, as Sheldon Zitner says, to "dwindle to a thesis" (1981,...
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