King Charles III is a Shakespearean epic for the modern age

king charles iii windsors mike bartlett bbc two shakespeare blank verse tim pigott smith hd

The central conceit of King Charles III is to posit a world in which Shakespeare survived to satirise a modern monarch in much the same way he did with Richard III or Henry V. Bartlett’s King Charles III is firmly rooted within the Shakespearean tradition, drawing on familiar aspects of the Bard’s work – Diana appears as a ghostly spectre akin to Hamlet’s father, while Kate Middleton fills the role of Lady Macbeth.

But this goes beyond simply remixing familiar archetypes and applying a modern veneer to Shakespeare’s existing work. King Charles III mimics the style of Shakespearean language, written in blank verse; such use of iambic pentameter, rarely seen on television, allows a grandeur of scale that positions the play firmly within a Shakespearean style, but allows it to seek out its own innovations and find a fresh outlook. In turn, then, King Charles III isn’t a ‘greatest hits’ compilation that aims to imitate Shakespeare, but rather a play that seeks to stand among his work.

A piece of King Charles III, the TV adaptation of Mike Bartlett’s award-winning play. I really enjoyed it!

In response to the obvious: no, when I wrote this I had not seen or read very much Shakespeare. Yes, I’m aware it shows. No, I haven’t read or seen a great deal more since, but enough to find the above faintly, albeit endearingly, embarrassing. Yes, I intend to read and watch more Shakespeare.

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