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        Shakespeare and History

        In this series of videos from Shakespeare Uncovered, students will explore the historical subjects of Shakespeare's plays Richard II and Henry V, the factual liberties he took in writing them, and the historical significance they’d have had over the centuries. The accompanying essay provides additional background on Shakespeare's history plays, their immense popularity in Shakespeare's time, and their continuing influence on how we understand history today.

        The Wilton Diptych

        In this video from Shakespeare Uncovered, Derek Jacobi studies the Wilton Diptych in the National Gallery in London and describes its significance to Richard II and his reign.

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        Richard II and Holinshed's Chronicles

        This video features Derek Jacobi and Professor Justin Champion from the University of London as they examine Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles, which Shakespeare used as source material to write Richard II, and how Richard II’s reign is described in both texts.

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        Richard II's Legacy

        After explaining that the writings of 16th century historian Raphael Holinshed confirm that Richard II was indeed a decadent and ineffective ruler, historian Justin Champion goes on to observe that Richard is primarily known through Shakespeare’s play, and that its poignant parable of tyranny and justice is perhaps his greatest legacy.

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        The Role of the Theater in Shakespeare's London

        This segment describes the social context for historical plays like Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Henry V, explaining that in 1590s London, they were not only the blockbuster popular entertainment of their day, but the only forum in which complicated—and perhaps even dangerous—themes about politics, society, and national identity could be publicly explored.

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        The Battle of Shrewsbury

        Host Jeremy Irons explains that while the recent production of Henry IV in which he starred staged the summertime Battle of Shrewsbury in the winter, it was Shakespeare himself who took the greater liberty for dramatic effect by making Prince Hal and his rival Harry Hotspur peers, when in fact they were of entirely different generations. This segment highlights how Henry IV and Hal’s relationship was strengthened by fighting alongside each other in the battle.

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        "May I With Right and Conscience Make This Claim?" | Shakespeare Uncovered

        Historian Justin Champion and actor Jeremy Irons examine the historical events on which Shakespeare based Henry V, specifically the writings of 16th-century English historian Raphael Holinshed, which Shakespeare virtually plagiarized word for word in the Archbishop of Canterbury's justification of Henry's declaration of war against France.

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        Funder: Shakespeare Uncovered is made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the generous support of the project’s lead foundation sponsor, the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation. Major funding is also provided by Rosalind P. Walter, The Polonsky Foundation, Virginia and Dana Randt, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, and PBS.
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