Quiz show. Stephen Fry investigates the life and work of William Shakespeare with Sue Perkins, Bill Bailey, David Mitchell and Alan Davies.
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This programme contains some strong language.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening.
Good even and welcome to a special Shakespearean edition of QI,
dedicated to and entitled The Immortal Bard.
Strutting and fretting their hour upon the stage tonight are The Two Gentlemen of Verona -
David Mitchell and Bill Bailey!
The Merry Wife of Windsor, Sue Perkins.
And Much Ado About Nothing, Alan Davies.
So let the trumpets sound. David goes...
Nice. Sue goes...
And Alan goes...
CHEESY TRUMPET MUSIC
Of course he does.
So let's take to the stage, good gentles all.
When David Tennant played Hamlet at the RSC, what did Tchaikovsky play?
-Tchaikovsky being the composer Tchaikovsky?
-Was he in the cast, Tchaikovsky?
Not Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the Russian composer. Another musician called Tchaikovsky.
He was also a pianist, a startling, amazing pianist, most eccentric.
-No, I've already told you his name. It was Tchaikovsky.
Are you saying he played Richard Stilgoe?
He blew into Richard Stilgoe and a noise came out the other end?
You're putting him in the past tense, so I'm assuming he shuffled off his mortal coil?
-To quote Hamlet.
-That will be the only quote. That's it. I've blown all my quotes.
-You've done damn well. Good start.
-So if he's dead...
-He was dead.
-He's not alive?
-Yes, he played the skull.
-We don't have the real skull there, but that's what a skull looks like.
He was a very passionate Shakespearean.
That is the real thing. Tchaikovsky bequeathed it to the Royal Shakespeare Company,
asking that it be used in productions of Hamlet for the part of... Do you remember the character?
-Is it Yorick?
"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest..."
-"Wait a minute, this is Tchaikovsky!
-It's not Yorick.
"I'll play a tune on his teeth."
There was a bit of trouble, health and safety issues.
A human tissue licence had to be ordered for him to appear on stage.
Did they cut his head off? He's gone, "When I die, I'd like my skull to be used by the RSC."
Someone's got to saw it off and rot it down.
The funeral directors thought it might be illegal. They had to get clearance.
David Tennant every day held it in his hand. Tchaikovsky would have been very pleased.
-There he is.
-Look at that - a tramp yesterday!
You hope they've had to dirty it up again.
-That's not just a bit of the guy still clinging...
There's a little face still on there he's got to wash off!
It's a long time since I've seen Hamlet.
Because it's such a well-known bit, you don't really question what happens in it.
It's an odd thing to do, to pick up a bloke's skull from a graveyard.
-It's someone he knew...
-Then to go, "Alas, I knew him,"
rather than going, "I feel a bit weird, having picked up his skull."
He's sort of saying, "It's ridiculous, I knew this man. I sat on his lap when I was a boy."
His jests "were wont to set the table on a roar". He says, "Where are your jokes now?"
-Not so funny now!
-It is one of the great contemplations of death and mortality and it must be weirder
when you're doing it to a real person.
I presume David Tennant knew he was doing it to a chap who wanted it to be a symbol of death.
It'll be like I'm A Celebrity. Agents are going to put their acts down to have their skulls used...
"I'll get you your skull. You'll be in Shakespeare...one day!"
It would be awful if for your whole life you'd wanted to be an actor and it hadn't really worked out,
so you bequeathed your skull and it was used in a production of Hamlet,
then all the reviewers said, "I don't know, Yorick, it felt a bit stilted. It ruined that scene."
Name the Scottish play that Shakespeare wrote.
It's not... Yeah, you see, you're trying to trick us, aren't you?
Your tricksy little QI. Two Gentlemen Of...Kilmarnock or something.
Demon Of Strathclyde.
Oh, go on, Macbeth!
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
I was expecting this...
-HE MIMICS KLAXON
-We thought that as actors, you might say, "Never, never!"
Then you would have got the forfeit.
I'd have the forfeit.
Because of course, there is a tradition
that the very saying of the name Macbeth in a theatre is bad luck.
You have to sleep with ALL of your co-stars immediately.
Is that what you were told?
Do you know how this came about, this reputation of Macbeth
for being an unlucky play?
Is it because Macbeth was the sort of play in a company's repertoire
that they'd bring out when something closed suddenly?
Cos it was sort of short and usually went down quite well,
and so mention of Macbeth would imply that the current production
-was soon to close.
-It's certainly true.
It is the shortest of the Tragedies, it's a banker,
people always go and see Macbeth, it's a popular play, um...
No, there is actually a really specific reason, it was a hoax.
A late 19th-century wit who was writing a review of Macbeth
just made up this story that, "This play's cursed, you know."
It was Max Beerbohm who made this story up entirely.
Although not many years later, in the 1942 production
-of dear Johnny Gielgud.
-Dear, dear, Johnny.
-Four people died in that production.
-Is that the one where they used machine-gun fire...
to bring Birnam Wood to Dunsinane?
They certainly used searing make-up, didn't they?
-God, that's fantastic.
-It's always good to go with an inflatable crown.
Yes, the two witches died, the Duncan died and the scene designer.
The set was then re-designed for a comedy and the principle in that died.
The radiant Diana Wynyard, a '30s and '40s actress you may remember, there she is.
She played Lady Macbeth and thought it would be more convincing
in the sleep walking scene to have her eyes closed.
-And she walked off the stage into the orchestra pit.
I don't know whether that's Macbeth's curse
or a being-a-stupid-actress curse.
They're all watching her going, "Just let her go."
It's the only way she'll learn.
Did she carry on going from the sort of bowels of...
Then she climbed out again, apparently.
Doing it all through rehearsals, "I'm going to carry on."
There's a few things that weren't, you know, hoaxes,
were real practical applications, like whistling,
that was always imbued into... Every time I did a play, it was like, "Don't whistle backstage..."
You are a terrible whistler.
Well...maybe it's that. HE WHISTLES BROKENLY
-No, it's because... Wasn't it that was how they used to cue the scenery coming down?
They used whistles for cues.
-You could have a nasty accident.
-You could, yeah, exactly.
Isn't it ridiculous though, that the way they got people
to stop whistling is to say, "It's a superstition, it's bad luck."
And then people go, "I won't then." People should adopt that with mobile phones.
You tell people, "You're in the audience of a theatre, you maybe want to turn your phone off,
so that if somebody rings you, it doesn't spoil it for everyone," people go, "Well...
"I hear that, but also I'm going to leave my phone on."
If you tell them it's bad luck, they'll presumably all turn it off."
Like a curse, like an ancient curse. Tutankhamen said before he died,
couldn't abide the sound of the Nokia ring tone.
LAUGHTER And cursed everyone.
HE MIMICS NOKIA RING TONE
I curse all of you.
Or if you put a...
There was an article in, I don't know, say The Daily Mail,
-suggesting that other people's disapproval was carcinogenic.
-Very good, brilliant.
Or your house price might go down slightly.
"A tidal wave of immigrants would suddenly invade the country,"
says Melanie Phillips, would you turn your mobile phone off.
Turn your phone off or Kosovan squirrels will steal your thimbles.
I was in a theatre not long ago when a phone went off and the actor just said,
-"Oh, for fuck's sake!"
-Turned to you in the audience...
-Not to me!
I'm glad to say on this occasion.
There was a time when, um...
Sometimes doctors are needed on stage.
When Ralph Richardson suddenly went up and said,
"Excuse me, is there a doctor in the house?"
And a man said, "Yes, I'm a doctor." He said, "Oh, Doctor,
-"isn't this an awful play?"
-The best one is the Pia Zadora.
-Oh, the Pia Zadora. It is the greatest, do tell it.
Pia Zadora, when there was a production of The Diary Of Anne Frank,
and Pia Zadora was so bad that when the Nazis...
HE KNOCKS They came downstairs and somebody shouted, "She's in the attic!"
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
In the attic!
What about Richard Harris coming on drunk?
And someone in the audience said, "Harris is drunk!"
And he stood up, cos he'd fallen down, and he said,
"If you think I'm drunk wait till you see O'Toole."
Peter O'Toole was in the Coach & Horses in Soho one lunchtime
having a drink and he made best friends with the drinker he was standing next to
and they getting absolutely pissed and...
O'Toole said, "Um, what shall we do? Let's go and catch a matinee of something."
So they wandered down Shaftesbury Avenue and said,
"Let's go here, see if it's any good." They sat down,
both very drunk.
And about ten minutes in, Peter O'Toole nudged his friend and said, "You'll like this,
"this is where I come on... Oh, fuck!"
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
I love that.
-Let me get this straight, he knew he had to be somewhere...
His subconscious took him there somehow, but it all went wrong.
We were in Edinburgh in this production of 12 Angry Men,
and one of the jurors fainted on stage
and his eyes rolled back in his head and he went, "Ugh."
And his head hit the table, bang! Like that.
So all of us picked him up, bodily, and carried him off the stage
and you could see the audience going, "I don't remember a bit where one of the jurors dies."
LAUGHTER It was terribly...
It was very hot that year and somebody fainted in the audience as well,
and she cart-wheeled down through the stairs like this,
sort of stage...
and she went... Rag-dolled, all the way down to the front of the stage,
and people were going, "Huh!" Like that.
And she knocked over someone in a wheelchair, right?
And he fell out of his chair, "Ah!" Like that.
Then the boyfriend got up, came down, saw his girlfriend unconscious,
and he fainted, right?
So there was a pile of bodies...
-at the front of the stage!
Very odd thing to faint at the sight of unconsciousness.
-Not at the sight of blood, just...
-I can't bear sleeping people.
-Oh, my word! Yeah.
-It could trigger another and another
and another, and then the whole world would... If people had it.
It would be a very low-key version of a zombie movie.
Oh, yes, Max Beerbohm it was who invented the curse of Macbeth in 1898.
Leonard Bernstein's musical based on Romeo And Juliet was set in New York. What was it originally called?
Was it West Side Story?
It became West Side Story, but it was originally called...?
-East Side Story.
BILL: I was so close!
Originally, when they were working on it in the late '40s,
it was gangs of Catholics versus gangs of Jews in the Lower East Side, then five years later,
they decided they wanted Puerto Ricans against white gangs.
Catholics would just have to tap someone and they'd go, "I wish I hadn't done that. I feel awful now."
-It's just ten years of terrible guilt. Puerto Ricans are a bit more feisty.
-Let's admit that it worked.
-Gay and feisty, by the look of them.
-The world of the musical.
And all their pipes have been airbrushed out of this photograph.
Oh, heavens above!
West Side Story may be the best and certainly the best-known musical based on a Shakespearean fable.
But do you know of any others?
-Kiss Me, Kate.
-Kiss Me, Kate, yes, by Cole Porter, was based on...
-The Taming Of The Shrew.
-Is Cats based on Hamlet?
But, odd as that sounds, there is a stage musical playing in London at the moment based on Hamlet.
-Is it "Hamlet! The Musical"?
There is "Hamlet! The Musical", but this is a big West End musical based on a big movie
-that is the story of Hamlet.
-It's a young prince.
-He's not a human.
He's not a human? Is it ET?
Thank you, audience. The Lion King is based on Hamlet.
Did you not know?
At what point does Hamlet say, "Hakuna matata"?
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
-What about The Tempest? What would they have made of that?
-The Perfect Storm.
- Speed. Speed 2. - Twister.
LAUGHTER Harold And Kumar Get The Munchies.
Prospero's Books is one, but there's a '50s classic sci-fi movie.
-SHOUT FROM AUDIENCE
-The audience are really joining in.
-Rip One Out?
-Yes, with monsters...
-Or its working title, Rip One Out!
There was one based on The Comedy Of Errors, a musical.
-What happens in The Comedy Of Errors?
-It has two sets of identical twins.
One of them's shipwrecked, who's a girl, who's a boy? I'm married. Everyone's dead!
-The Boys From Syracuse is the name of the musical.
Shylock is sent back from the future to...
Oh, I've got my chain stuck in my ruff!
Oh, that was embarrassing.
-It sounded like it should sound rude.
Then you think about it...
No, not really.
So, there we are. What do Sigmund Freud, Mark Twain, Henry James,
a Looney from Newcastle and the Holy Ghost have in common?
Mark Twain had a link, but I don't know about the others.
He was sceptical about Shakespeare because he thought a toff wrote it.
He didn't believe that a normal boy from Stratford could write properly.
He was a Shakespearean sceptic, as were the others.
Sigmund Freud also believed that and Henry James
and Professor Looney, that was unfortunately his name, from Newcastle
who wrote a book in 1920 called Shakespeare Identified.
This movement in the 19th century had the idea that Francis Bacon may have written Shakespeare's works,
particularly a woman, Delia Bacon, an American, completely insane.
She came over to England and wrote a 625-page book in which she didn't even mention the name Bacon,
then when she died, she claimed she was the Holy Spirit.
-SHE claimed SHE was the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit, if she was right, also doesn't believe Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.
There were two other main candidates.
Hang on. TRUMPET FANFARE
What was it? LAUGHTER
-Christopher Marlowe is one.
-But the most popular one...
-Earl of Oxford?
-The Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere.
-Is that Edward de Vere?
-That's Edward de Vere.
-Wow, there's a lot going on there!
How did he keep that hat on?
It's sort of Cate Blanchett with a moustache.
-But there are serious people.
Freud liked the fact that he lost his father early on like Hamlet.
Of course, Freud had an Oedipus Complex theory about Hamlet, so he liked that idea.
Looney invented a fanciful scenario because the Earl of Oxford died in 1604
and Shakespeare carried on writing plays many years after that.
That might be the point at which to abandon the theory.
You'd think. Instead of which, he claimed that before dying, he'd left a whole sheaf of plays
and that his servant Shakespeare produced them one after the other.
Isn't The Tempest written four or five years after he died, six years maybe,
referencing stuff of the time, so after de Vere's dead?
-He probably just left, "Insert topical gag here."
There are... Mark Rylance and Derek Jacobi, both supreme actors,
they believe it was the Earl of Oxford.
There isn't a shred of evidence.
It doesn't matter. On the basis that what Shakespeare means to people is "the guy that wrote those plays",
so if the guy that wrote those plays is a different guy, that's still, "What a great guy!"
-It's not an earth-shattering conspiracy, really, is it, that perhaps it isn't him?
Over 5,000 books on the subject, incredibly.
-Yet no scrap of evidence?
-Not real evidence, just speculation.
They say, "We know so little about Shakespeare."
There are very few people of the Elizabethan era about whom we know more.
Ben Jonson, a famous playwright, we don't know where he was born or how many children he had.
If other people were writing the plays, why didn't they say so at the time?
-They always say, "He didn't write all that." Wouldn't it have come out?
If it was Ben Jonson or any of those others, jolly good luck to them, I say.
Was it just because he wasn't posh?
It's snobbery. They think he was just this kid from Warwickshire,
but his father was a glover which was a decent trade and he went to the grammar school almost certainly.
He's sort of, you'd think, exactly as far up the society as you'd expect a major writer to be.
-It's not like now the best novels are written by the Duke of Westminster.
A very good point.
Those people anyway claim that he didn't write his plays, all those ones we saw,
but how many words did Shakespeare write?
SUE: Oh, that would be quite a lot.
How many different words?
Yes. Yes, well, there are any number of things here,
one is simply how many pieces of his handwriting do we have?
-There's his signature.
-There is, a few times, isn't there?
-He never spelled his name the same twice.
-No. And it's pretty wonky writing, it's got to be said.
-He was probably more used to, you know, typing.
-He was on the sauce on the top one.
-He was on something.
-That one looks as if it says "galley pot".
The "William" is quite good on one of them.
Anyway, this reinforces some people's arguments who say he got a clerk even to write his name.
-He couldn't even write his own name.
-But could he have theoretically dictated these plays to someone else?
Well...it's possible. Barbara Cartland used to lay on a sofa and dictate her marvellous novels.
I think AA Gill, the journalist, dictates, doesn't he?
Because he has very severe dyslexia,
I think he does.
So there are people who do.
-So, he's got bad handwriting and that means he didn't write any plays.
But it is surprising we don't have many examples of his handwriting
because the plays were presumably written out by other people.
His vocabulary - how many words do you think he used? I'm not counting repeats. "The" he used a lot.
-Dagger, murder, wife.
-This could take us a long time.
-We've got to start somewhere.
-There are 20,000 words. 20,000 words.
How does that compare to the average vocabulary of a Briton, would we say, roughly?
-Four times as much.
-No, half as much.
We're not saying Shakespeare used every word he knew in his books.
-He left lots out. I don't remember the word "clitoris" in any of them.
-I think it's in the Second Folio.
It might be. It's about half out of the modern English person's vocabulary.
He didn't have certain words to call on like "texting" or "vajazzle".
On the other hand, he did have "guerdon" and "bodkin" and "fardel", which we don't use so much.
-I don't suppose Shakespeare knew what yogurt was.
"Activia Pouring Yogurt" was a phrase you never heard him say.
I can't get my head round...
-He'd have used that if it had existed.
If I were to say I couldn't get my head round Activia Pouring Yogurt,
it would sound peculiar, but why would we want to pour a yogurt?
-What you want is pouring furniture.
Because it's quite difficult getting furniture to move.
If you could pour the furniture where you wanted it,
-and to the extent you wanted it...
-Then it sets.
If could be made out of that thing Terminator 2 is made out of.
They've got that already. Concrete.
Well, I... You try and make a piano out of concrete.
I will. I'll give it a bloody good go.
Essentially, you want spray-on wood, don't you?
I'm not talking about Viagra.
-You could sort of go...
You could go, "Tssh, tssh, tssh, tssh, tssh, tssh," and have a chair.
The future is 3D printing, is it not?
-Have you seen that?
I've seen that.
That's some kind of voodoo.
It really is phenomenal. Phenomenal.
So it can create a 3D object?
-You put an object into a case, like that.
-Like a vole, so I've got a vole.
-Say a vole.
Well, maybe not a... Yeah, a vole.
But you'd have to have it sedated in some way,
cos you wouldn't want it moving around.
It's been very humanely treated, it's sleeping.
It's sleeping and probably laminated.
And then you press a button and then you leave it for a few hours
and you come back and there's another vole!
That's cloning! How come that's...?
Lasers make calibrations of exactly every single detail of it.
I mean, really, really complex things can be printed.
What's it made of, then?
-It can be of different things.
-Plastics and resins and so on.
I've seen some really complex...
You can make a marzipan vole? Ah! The wonders of technology!
Thank God! After all those years of postgraduate research.
-And we have a marzipan vole finally.
Wheel, steam engine, microchip, marzipan vole.
It's the decline of human civilisation!
That's when we knew it had all gone wrong, with a Battenberg rodent.
Still, there are a lot of words.
In The Sun, David Crystal, a well-known linguistic fellow,
estimated there would be about 6,000 words in any complete history of The Sun,
whereas the King James Bible has just 8,000.
The idea that we're dumbed down to a lower vocabulary may not be true.
Shakespeare coined over 1,000 new words, but not all caught on.
Here are some that didn't. See if you can put them into a sentence.
-I've got a swoltery quatch at the moment.
Already we're there, aren't we?
It happened when I put my kickie-wickies on.
I cockled me foxship! I've always been near-legged.
-You're a boggler in those.
-I've boggled me carlot.
Your Foxship, what happened to cockled boggler?
-Carlot - that's a thing.
-A sexy garage.
-It's true, actually.
-Ahead of its time.
-A boggler is a very clumsy burglar.
A burglar that can't believe the stuff he's getting his hands on!
"Look at this DVD player!"
He used it to mean a hesitator. One who boggles.
I don't know if it's as in boggling the mind.
What is a kickie-wickie? Is it Russell Brand's football?
It's an affectionate term for a wife. "Ah, my dear kickie-wickie."
That's not an affectionate term!
Domestic violence was a lot more acceptable...
Ah, the old smashie-washie.
The old battery-wattery.
And the quatch? Or is it a quatch? It's actually an adjective.
Quatch. It means to be a bit podgy.
-A bit quatchy?
Luckily, I'm wearing a surgical truss.
-Plump, shall we say? Wappened is corrupt.
That's never really caught on, but look at the ones that did.
Here's just a small example of words first used in Shakespeare.
Accessible, acutely, assembled...
even-handed, eyeball, Frenchwoman, hunchbacked, neglected, overpower,
radiant, revealing, rose-cheeked, schooldays....
Frenchwoman? That's a bit of a stretch.
He invented it.
He invented taking the space out.
Yes, well done.
"Zis is my wife. She's a...
"A thingummyjig. I don't know. What can I call her?
-"I think you'll find she's a Frenchwoman."
You can't be absolutely certain. They may have been in use before,
but he is often the first printed source we have.
He'd have to have a pretty good idea that people would understand him.
Also, there are phrases he came up with,
and those now have come into the realm of cliche,
so much so that we can't imagine that they didn't exist in the English language.
There are very many. We have a list here -
"Be all and end all,"
"laid on with a trowel," "laughing stock,"
"more in sorrow than anger," "once more into the breach,"
"one fell swoop," "to play fast and loose," "there's the rub..."
How did he say, "What the Dickens"?!
Dickens didn't come along for another 250 years!
Exactly. "A wild goose chase," that's one of his.
"A heart of gold," "high time."
"The game's up," "forever and a day,"
"dead as a doornail," that's one of his.
"Foregone conclusion." And, of course, many more that aren't there.
"To the manor born," "cruel to be kind."
Basically the title of every programme we'll ever need.
Yes. He did give a lot of titles, didn't he?
If you're having trouble making up a programme title,
open your Shakespeare.
Yes, go to the Shakespeare randomiser.
-Oh, I've done it again.
-Oh, no. LAUGHTER
This bit of ruff is not behaving. I've said that before.
-Oh, dear, oh, dear.
So there we are. Call me a swoltery boggler if you like,
but answer me this.
How did Dangerous Dan Tucker clean up Shakespeare?
DRAMATIC: Oh, I sense I'm falling into a pit, but I shall do it anyway.
I don't know why I'm speaking like that, it's the hat.
Did he do an abridged version? Take out the mucky bits like the boggling...?
Oh, no, he didn't, I'm afraid.
He didn't take out the rude bits. People did, as we know.
-Think of his name, "Dangerous Dan," what does that make you think of?
-It makes me think of the Wild West.
Yes, stay in the Wild West.
What did people with names like Dangerous Dan...?
When they cleaned something up, it was unlikely to be a cupboard or a spare bedroom.
-They shot people.
It would be a town. He cleaned up the town of Shakespeare.
-"Clean up this town."
-There was a town called Shakespeare.
-There it is. It's now a ghost town.
That looks like a fun way to spend a weekend(!)
It's in New Mexico, and it was lawless, back in the day.
So they sent for Dangerous Dan, who was a pretty violent sheriff.
Hence the "Dangerous" bit.
Well, quite. He really was dangerous, too.
He'd already been city marshal in Silver City,
where, as a deputy sheriff, he killed a drunken man
who was standing on the street, throwing rocks at people.
He went up and shot him.
So he didn't put up with bad behaviour.
-He was a zero tolerance sheriff.
So within the space of a few months in Shakespeare,
he shot dead a cattle rustler,
he killed a man who rode into a hotel riding a horse...
Oh, come on!
..arrested and hanged the outlaw Russian Bill Tattenbaum
for stealing a horse
and hanged Sandy King for "being a damned nuisance."
Thank God they can't do that any more!
Well, quite. He'd been "a damned nuisance."
There's only about 17 people who'd live in those houses.
Yeah, he wiped out the entire population.
-"No more trouble here!"
Of course, the little trap you fell into, the rewriting of Shakespeare,
was primarily the work of a famous couple, whose name was...?
Richard and Judy.
-The Bowdlers, indeed.
-Absolutely, the Bowdlers.
Thomas and Harriet Bowdler. Let's not forget Harriet.
She was particularly strong with her blue pencil.
If she saw a word like "swoggle" or something.
They brought out children's editions of Shakespeare, where the bloody, nasty bits were cut out.
Did they give the tragedies happy endings?
Nahum Tate wrote a version of King Lear with a happy ending.
And that was very popular for over 100 years.
-People like happy endings.
-They do, don't they?
I say give them what they want - big song at the end.
Funnily enough, they did they give them what they wanted,
big song at the end - even after a tragedy, on would come a comic
and do a jig and make a lot of jokes about the tragedy.
That's the way...
So they'd blow wind, crack your cheeks, "My mother-in-law..."
-"Don't worry, it was all pretend."
SHE HUMS A COMIC DITTY
Now, how did Shakespeare's Bottom get to Norwich?
Are there relics? Bits of him?
He had a famous comedian who played Bottom and Falstaff.
-Shakespeare. And he created them for him. He was the funniest man in England.
And his name is sometimes put. It says Kemp instead of Bottom on the original play script
because it was so obviously Kemp who would play him. Will Kemp.
But he had a dreadful falling out with Shakespeare
or whoever ran the company, Burbage or somebody,
and he went off in a right huff.
But he decided as a publicity stunt to Morris dance
-all the way to Norwich from London.
It took him about three weeks, but he did it over nine days
-and a famous phrase comes from this.
Making a right tit of yourself?
Kemp's nine days wonder. It's where "a nine days wonder" comes from.
He just did it for publicity.
"I may have left Shakespeare's company, but I'm the man
"and they will go down now."
Quite the reverse happened. He went off to Italy and died in penury.
-His gravestone says, "Kemp. A man."
And after he left, the first play Shakespeare wrote was Henry V in which Falstaff dies offstage.
Kemp was kind of got rid of that way
and a new man called Armin came in and played the comedians.
While we're on the subject of Will Kemp and his Morris dancing,
what do you call a group of Morris dancers?
-Honestly, poor old Britain. We've got one folk tradition in England
-and all we do is laugh at it.
It really generates hostility, Morris dancing. I think...
-We're so mean about it.
-I think we think they're up to something.
BILL: A perve of Morris dancers!
I think it's very valuable that we can point to that
and say, "See? It's a free country."
LAUGHTER They're not doing that in Afghanistan!
If we were going to ban anything, we'd ban that.
What'll happen is if this scene of all of us dressed like this now and this photograph behind us
is shown, we'll end up as an "And finally..." section on foreign news programmes.
"Les anglais... Haha!" LAUGHTER
It's known as a side, anyway.
-A group of Morris men.
No-one quite knows where it comes from.
They think it's from Moorish
to celebrate the expulsion of the Moors from Spain.
Certainly not pagan and mystical or anything.
It's pretty recent. 14th century is the earliest you can go back to it.
There are 150 sides now registered in the USA,
so American Morris dancing is taking off in a BIG way!
-That's three per state, on average.
-"I've joined a bell-end!"
"This is what they do in Old England.
-There's an Arctic Morris group based in Helsinki.
But now time to visit that undiscovered country from whose bourn no idiot returns,
as we bring down the curtain on general ignorance. Sound trumpets! Farewell, sour annoy!
For here, I hope, begins our lasting joy. Fingers on buzzers.
What best describes, in one word, Richard III's appearance?
Hunchback! KLAXON SOUNDS
No, there's no evidence at all that Richard III had a hunched back.
It's just the black propaganda of the Tudors who succeeded him.
-The character in the play does.
And a sort of twisted arm.
A bottled spider is one of the things he's called. Hideous name.
It seems he was rather a decent fellow. Intelligent, kind.
A man called Polydore Vergil, a historian determined to paint him as black as possible,
described him as ugly. They associated ugliness with wickedness.
So while on that sort of thing, how beautiful was Cleopatra?
She was minging.
A bit weird looking, but striking?
-Yes, that's probably fair.
-Bit of a weird nose?
Long nose. It seems possible she had a long, pointy nose.
There's no contemporary suggestion that she was particularly beautiful.
-She had a very beautiful voice and was charismatic.
-She seemed sexy.
She seemed sexy, which I find is half the battle.
Her mouth is very small. It only extends as far as her nostril.
That isn't necessarily Cleopatra.
-That's just a woman...
-An artist's impression.
Just a woman going mad with some napkins.
Yeah, she's gone serviette crazy.
"Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety,"
as Enobarbus said about her. How did Christopher Marlowe die?
-Let me say it so you can mock me.
He died in a bar brawl by being stabbed.
Oh, dear me. He was stabbed, but not in a tavern brawl.
It was thought so for many years,
but it wasn't until 1925 that the documents came to light
that showed he was killed at the house of a Mrs Eleanor Bull by a man called Ingram Frizer,
with whom he'd spent the day and argued over the bill.
Over a bill? That's a bit harsh.
-"I only had a mineral water!"
-So it wasn't a tavern?
What was the bill for, then? A restaurant?
-A pop-up restaurant!
-They call it a tavern.
It was a smart restaurant, but went downhill after that stabbing.
-It might have been a prostitute.
SUE: So a brothel bill.
"I didn't have that. No."
To be honest, the service charge is redundant.
"I had one of them, two of them.
"I asked for that, but it never happened."
It was off.
"If we all chip in, we can afford that."
Why don't we just get one big one and all have a bit?
Oh, I don't know... Oh, no. Dear me. Anyway...
He was unlikely to be in a brothel.
He didn't trust anyone who didn't love tobacco or boys.
-Anyway, what made Lord Byron limp?
LAUGHTER That's a follow-up question.
Item four on the brothel bill?
Eight hours of Morris dancing?
He had, from birth, a pronounced limp.
L-I-M-P. Pronounced "limp".
They're not sure if he had a club foot.
We know that, in fact, he didn't have a club foot.
It's often said that he did. That's what people have heard of.
He had a sort of withered leg, and you can tell from his boots.
He was very athletic and hated this limp,
but he swam the Hellespont and he boxed
and was very worried about his weight.
He was possibly an early male anorexic.
And he liked to spend money, did old Byron.
He ordered batches of two dozen at a time of white linen trousers, which he only wore once,
and silk handkerchiefs in batches of 100.
Each one was nine guineas, an average man's pay for the year.
Was he coining it in with the writing at this time?
He inherited at an early age, which he spent very fast,
but he was, in fact, incredibly highly paid.
For every canto of Don Juan, his last great masterpiece, he got thousands.
So he'd run out of hankies, "Oh, I'll write another canto."
He was hugely successful.
-White linen trousers?
-Sounds like something out of Miami Vice.
It does a bit. He had to leave England
because there was a scandal about him possibly having had sex with...
He kept a bear at Cambridge in his rooms.
The Master of Trinity said, "The rules are absolutely clear. No domestic animals."
He said, "I assure you, Master, he's not domestic. He's entirely wild."
So he was allowed to keep it.
There was a rumour that he'd shagged his sister.
-I thought you were going to say the bear!
-As far as I know...
-Is that more horrific than shagging your sister?
-It's just different, really.
It's probably braver.
Lord Byron limped because of an abnormality in one leg,
but it wasn't a club foot.
Now what can the Queen do that an idiot can't?
By the looks of it, kill people with their own eyes.
-She doesn't look in the best mood.
-"One tires of Morris dancing..."
This is something she's allowed to do, but doesn't,
-that an idiot is not allowed to do.
Most people think the Queen can't vote.
She has every right to vote, as any citizen,
but she's never exercised that, as far as we know.
But idiots are not allowed to vote.
And lunatics may only vote during their lucid periods.
They test them on the way in.
Most people think the Royals can't vote. They just choose not to.
Alas, alack and well away, our revels now are ended.
All spirits are now melted into air, into thin air, and we must consult the scores.
Oh, my gracious heavens.
I'm afraid, rather down the bottom of the list, with minus 14...
And four to the better with minus 10, Sue Perkins!
Second witch, with a very creditable plus 3, Alan Davies!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
But tonight's Prince of Denmark with six points is David Mitchell!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Well, it only remains for me to thank our dramatis personae - Sue, David, Bill and Alan -
and leave you with this perceptive thought from Robert Wilensky.
"We've heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards
"could produce the complete works of Shakespeare,
"but now, thanks to the internet, we know that this is not true."
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd