25 episodes

Your one-stop shop for all things Shakespeare. Catch A-List casts in brand new versions of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, plus documentaries from the brightest minds.

The Shakespeare Sessions BBC Radio 3

    • Fiction
    • 4.8 • 72 Ratings

Your one-stop shop for all things Shakespeare. Catch A-List casts in brand new versions of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, plus documentaries from the brightest minds.

    Who is Falstaff?

    Who is Falstaff?

    Toby Jones on playing the boisterous and fun-loving knight Falstaff. Toby Jones stars as Falstaff in our full-length version of Henry IV Part 1, which you can find in your podcast feed.

    • 2 min
    Full Length Play: Henry IV Part 1

    Full Length Play: Henry IV Part 1

    Rebellion is brewing in Britain.

    King Henry must reunite his country but how when even his own family is divided?

    As Henry's rule is threatened his son Hal appears unconcerned, wasting his time in the company of the comically corrupt Falstaff and common thieves, apparently more interested in play than the politics of state. Yet what kind of leadership is needed to unite the country might well be found in the taverns of Eastcheap as within the Palace of Westminster.

    King Henry ..... Iain Glen
    Falstaff ..... Toby Jones
    Hal ..... Luke Thompson
    Hotspur ..... Tom Glynn-Carney
    Worcester .....Mark Bonnar
    Lady Percy .....Natalie Simpson
    Glendower ..... Steffan Rhodri
    Lady Mortimer ..... Bettrys Jones
    Westmoreland ..... Roger Ringrose
    Northumberland/Douglas ..... John Dougall
    Bardolph/ Sir Walter Blunt ..... John Lightbody
    Peto/Sherriff/Vernon ..... Sargon Yelda
    John/Mortimer ..... Chris Lew Kum Hoi
    Poins/Messenger ..... Hasan Dixon
    Mistress Quickly ..... Elizabeth Counsell

    Written by William Shakespeare

    Music composed by John Nicholls.

    Adapted and directed by Sally Avens.

    • 1 hr 57 min
    Full Length Play: Othello

    Full Length Play: Othello

    Khalid Abdalla, Matthew Needham and Cassie Layton star in Shakespeare's tragedy. This version is staged in an imagined near future, in which a power-hungry Turkish president attempts an attack on Cyprus. The western forces rush to Cyprus' defence, under the command of the fearless General Othello. But can an Arab-born, Christian convert ever be truly accepted by the people he serves?

    Adapted and directed for radio by Emma Harding

    You can listen to Dr Islam Issa giving us a quick rundown of events in the 1600s that influenced the character of Othello, in your podcast feed.

    And don't forget to check out Looking for the Moor, also in your podcast feed, which sees Hugh Quarshie explore Othello and ask if the play is racist.


    Othello.....Khalid Abdalla
    Iago.....Matthew Needham
    Desdemona.....Cassie Layton
    Cassio.....Max Bennett
    Brabantio.....Neil McCaul
    Roderigo.....Clive Hayward
    Duke of Venice.....Jessica Turner
    Montano.....Peter Polycarpou
    Emilia.....Bettrys Jones
    Lodovico.....Ian Conningham
    Bianca.....Heather Craney
    All other parts played by Sargon Yelda and Hasan Dixon

    • 2 hr 1 min
    Othello: What it means to be a Moor

    Othello: What it means to be a Moor

    Dr Islam Issa, Senior Lecturer at Birmingham City University, gives us a rundown of events in the 1600s that influenced the character of Othello.

    You can listen to our full-length version of Othello, set in an imagined near future, in your podcast feed.

    • 4 min
    Full Length Play: The Two Noble Kinsmen

    Full Length Play: The Two Noble Kinsmen

    The Two Noble Kinsmen is one of Shakespeare's least-performed plays, and widely considered to be his last. Generally accepted to be co-written with John Fletcher, this Jacobean tragicomedy has its roots in Chaucer's The Knight's Tale.

    This audio version shares the same cast with The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Shakespeare's first play) which you can listen to in the Shakespeare Sessions feed. This striking audio realisation is recorded entirely on location to give the sense of a strolling company, making the most of the countryside. Listen to both plays, and trace the bard's progression across 40 years.

    The Plot

    On the day planned for his wedding to Hippolyta, Duke Theseus of Athens is petitioned by three queens to go to war against King Creon of Thebes, who has deprived their dead husbands of proper burial rites. In Thebes, the 'two noble kinsmen', Palamon and Arcite, realize that their own hatred of Creon's tyranny must be put aside while their native city is in danger, but in spite of their valour in battle it is Theseus who is victorious. Imprisoned in Athens, the cousins catch sight of Hippolyta's sister, Emilia, and both fall instantly in love with her. Arcite is set free, but disguises himself rather than return to Thebes, while Palamon escapes with the help of the Jailer's Daughter, who loves him. Meeting each other, the kinsmen agree that mortal combat between them must decide the issue, but they are discovered by Theseus who is persuaded to revoke his sentence of death and instead decrees that a tournament shall decide which cousin is to be married to the indecisive Emilia and which is to lose his head. The Jailer's Daughter has been driven mad by unrequited love, but accepts her former suitor when he pretends to be Palamon. Before the tournament Arcite makes a lengthy invocation to Mars, while Palamon prays to Venus and Emilia to Diana – for victory to go to the one who loves her best. Although Arcite triumphs, he is thrown from his horse before the death sentence on Palamon can be carried out, and with his last breath bequeaths Emilia to his friend.

    JAILER'S DAUGHTER ..... Lyndsey Marshal
    EMILIA ..... Kate Phillips
    PALAMON ..... Blake Ritson
    ARCITE ..... Nikesh Patel
    THESEUS ..... Ray Fearon
    HIPPOLYTA ..... Emma Fielding
    JAILER ..... Hugh Ross
    PIRITHIOUS ..... Daniel Ryan
    WOOER ..... Oliver Chris
    QUEEN 1 ..... Susan Salmon
    QUEEN 2 ..... Sara Markland
    QUEEN 3/DOCTOR ..... Jane Whittenshaw
    COUNTRYMAN 1/FRIEND ..... Sam Dale
    ARTESIUS/COUNTRYMAN 2 ..... Carl Prekopp
    COUNTRYMAN 3/BROTHER ..... Pip Donaghy

    Adapted for Radio by Sara Davies
    Directed by Celia de Wolff
    A Pier Production for BBC Radio 3

    Music composed and performed by Tom Glenister and sung by Emma Mackey and Tom Glenister

    • 1 hr 52 min
    Full Length Play: The Two Gentlemen of Verona

    Full Length Play: The Two Gentlemen of Verona

    The Two Gentlemen of Verona is considered to be one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays and is paired next week with a production of The Two Noble Kinsmen which was his last play and widely considered to have been written with the up and coming writer John Fletcher. Director Celia De Wolff was keen to present the two plays together as they share common themes of men and women falling for the same lover, cunning disguises and betrayal within friendships. She has recorded both productions entirely on location in the Sussex Countryside with the same band of actors giving a sense that they are being presented by a group of strolling players.

    The Plot

    Two young men, Valentine and Proteus, make their way from Verona to Milan. Valentine's father is sending him to take a position in the Duke of Milan's court, and Proteus accompanies him reluctantly, not wanting to leave his beloved Julia. While in Milan, Valentine falls for the Duke's daughter, Silvia.. Silvia is betrothed to Thurio, a wealthy courtier, although Silvia prefers Valentine. The two decide to elope, and Valentine confides in Proteus; Proteus, however, has fallen in love himself with Silvia. In order to get Valentine out of the way, Proteus tells the Duke of Valentine’s feelings and he is banished and Silvia is sent to a jail, and Proteus becomes the Duke’s confidante in matters concerning Thurio and Silvia.

    Valentine joins a band of outlaws and is elected their leader. Julia disguised as a boy page enters Milan in search of Proteus, who is trying unsuccessfully to woo Silvia on the sly. Silvia, on the other hand, still longs for Valentine, and cares nothing for Proteus or Thurio. Julia, ironically now in service as a page to Proteus, becomes an intermediary between Proteus and Silvia. Silvia finally tires of the situation and escapes Milan in search of Valentine. As fate would have it, Silvia is captured by Valentine's band of outlaws.

    The Duke soon learns of Silvia's escape, and he, Proteus, and Thurio all set off to rescue her. Proteus finds Silvia before the outlaws can bring her to Valentine. Valentine encounters them as Proteus makes the case for his love to Silvia; the two confront and eventually make peace with each other. In a gesture of reconciliation, Valentine even offers Silvia to Proteus, which causes Julia (who is still disguised as the page) to faint and Proteus recognizes her, much to his shame. The Duke and Thurio arrive but Thurio backs off his claim to Silvia when challenged by Valentine. As the play ends, Valentine gets Silvia with the Duke's approval, Proteus and Julia are reconciled, and the Duke grants a pardon to the band of outlaws.

    JULIA ..... Lyndsey Marshal
    SILVIA ..... Kate Phillips
    PROTEUS ..... Blake Ritson
    VALENTINE ..... Nikesh Patel
    SPEED ..... Ray Fearon
    LUCETTA ..... Emma Fielding
    DUKE ..... Hugh Ross
    PANTHINO .....Daniel Ryan
    THURIO ..... Oliver Chris
    HOST ..... Sara Markland
    LAUNCE ..... Sam Dale
    EGLAMOUR ..... Carl Prekopp
    ANTONIO ..... Pip Donaghy

    Written by William Shakespeare

    Adapted for Radio by Sara Davies

    Sound design by David Thomas

    Directed by Celia de Wolff

    A Pier Production for BBC Radio 3, recorded on location in the Sussex Countryside.

    • 1 hr 42 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
72 Ratings

72 Ratings

RWseaturtle ,

This Shakespeare Sessions

Superb BBC series! I hope there will be more!

wolf lover female ,

Helpful but..

Is vary helpful when I’m doing stuff so I can but it in and do the thing I need to get done.
I do wish they would do it more like a book instead of having the sounds of a play…I can get confusing at times but it’s still vary good.
And they need to do more, they don’t have king Henry the 5th or the other part of king Henry the 4th (part 2).

RichardBirnbaum ,

Great to see the Bard’s plays professionally recorded

Thanks for a great recording and for the interesting content you provide. Invaluable!

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