Citation Drakakis J (2013) Shakespeare as Presentist. Shakespeare Survey, 66, pp. 177-187. https://doi.org/10.1017/SSO9781107300699.013
Abstract Between Saturday 30 June 2012 and Saturday 21 July the BBC broadcast the second tetralogy of Shakespeare, borrowing its title from Sir Peter Hall's and John Barton's larger, politically nuanced 1960s project, The Hollow Crown. The cinematography of Rupert Goold's production of Richard II, broadcast at the opening of Wimbledon Fortnight was lavish, and some of the images were drawn from ‘Art': the death of Richard, presented in the manner of painting of the death of St Sebastian by Pietro Perugino (c.1446-1523), signalled early in the production by having one of the ‘caterpillars of the commonwealth', a knowingly self-conscious Bagot, transformed into a court ‘artist', finishing a canvas depicting the death of St Sebastian. The emphasis in this production was on a masculine politics, and upon the androgynous Richard's failure to embody them. As if to reinforce this impression, details such as the dialogue between the Duchess of Gloucester and John of Gaunt (1.2), were cut, and the actor playing Richard ‘an effete and distanced' Ben Wishaw, was modelled, according to the director, on the figure of the late Michael Jackson. The final play, Henry V, directed by Thea Sharrock and broadcast some five days before the opening of the Olympic Games in London, offered a similarly severely pared down version of the play, omitting Captains Jamie and Macmorris, seriously restraining Fluellen, omitting Henry's soliloquy at 4.1. beginning ‘Upon the king', Fluellen's report of the French killing of the ‘boys' guarding the luggage, and the dialogue between Pistol and Fluellen that concludes 5.1. The meticulous visual ‘realism' of Sharrock's production departed from cinematic tradition that had begun by acknowledging the discrepancies between theatre and film (Olivier) and the artificial nature of the cinematographic image itself (Branagh), with the result that it served to render the appeals of the ‘voice over' Chorus to ‘piece out our imperfections with your thoughts' largely superfluous.