King Lear is a work of obvious genius, so what to say about it in fifteen minutes that can illuminate it? Using the historical idea of service, and the relationship between service and – believe it or not – love, we can get a handle on all sorts of relationships in the play. And Sheldrake thinks these handles can help us whether we are in a classroom, sitting room or rehearsal.
The scarcity of scenery on Shakespeare’s stage does not mean that there were no impressive visual effects. One way of awing an audience was with fine costume. As a primer to the full Henry VIII episode next week, Sheldrake describes the impact of costume in two scenes from that play.
We are so used to some of Shakespeare’s plays that it can be very difficult to see their shape with clear eyes. Fusing historical context with an analysis of dramatic structure, Sheldrake takes Macbeth apart and puts it back together again, arguing that Shakespeare’s structural courage is what makes this play so electrifying.