Will S01E02 1080p Cowards Die Many Times
49min | Drama | Episode aired 10 July 2017
Will (Laurie Davidson) is wracked with guilt over the arrest of the rival playwright, Baxter (Tadhg Murphy), and he makes a dangerous confession to the beautiful and rebellious Alice (Olivia DeJonge). The future of the theatre is threatened when the crowd-pleasing actor, Kemp (William Houston), is tempted by another playhouse.
In this second episode of the series “Will,” the filmmakers struggle to identify the genius of Shakespeare. In the middle of the program, there is a debate between Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe about the goals of Shakespeare the writer. Marlowe argues that genius exists in “the chaos of irony.” The issues raised are success, wealth, admiration, and freedom. But the point that is omitted is that Shakespeare was writing from his soul in a profound exploration of human nature.
This episode is a misfire in presenting the craft of Shakespeare as a writer. On the one hand, the program argues that he was a great wordsmith. But in other moments, we we see Shakespeare selecting phrases that he hears from ordinary people in the streets of London as the basis for his language.
Similarly, the program posits that Shakespeare was inventing characters out of his imagination for individual actors–a longstanding tradition that is not borne out in the realities of artistic expression. Rather, the playwright drew upon his direct experience of others in shaping characters. The program would have us believe that Shakespeare invented Falstaff expressly to fit the comic style of Will Kemp. But it is much more likely that the author had a real-life model in mind for his greatest comic character.
This episode also flounders around with the Catholic hunter Topcliffe working closely with Marlowe to discover Catholic recusants. The hapless writer Baxter is tortured to death after Marlowe turned him in instead of Will. The heresy subplot attempts to add drama to the lackluster and humdrum life of a schlub from Stratford attempting to make a go of it in the Elizabethan theatre. But it misses the point that Elizabeth I was not out to get every Catholic in her realm, but only the those who were fomenting dissension and revolt.
Director: Shekhar Kapur
Writers: Craig Pearce (created by), Craig Pearce
Stars: Laurie Davidson, Olivia DeJonge, Ewen Bremne