Cunk on Shakespeare (2016) - full transcript

The character from Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe (2013) presents a mockumentary about William Shakespeare, talking us through his life and works in her own unique style.

This programme contains
some strong language.

400 years ago, this year,

the world famous play-writer William
Shakespeare stopped happening.

I've been studying Shakespeare ever since
I was asked to do this programme

and it turns out he's more than just a bald
man who could write with feathers.

And the story of whether he was best at writing
ever is more interesting than you'd imagine.

But why do we still talk about

We don't talk about Les Dennis
any more,

even though he's still alive
and hasn't done anything wrong.

Did Shakespeare write nothing but
boring gibberish with no relevance

to our modern world of Tinder
and Peri-Peri Fries?

Or does it just look, sound
and feel that way?

That's what I'm going on
a journey to find out.


Along the way,
I'll probe Shakespeare's life,

study his Complete Works

and speak to Shakespearian experts
and actors.

Do you just learn the famous bits,

like "To be or not to be?"

Or do you learn all the bits
in-between, as well?

I have to learn all the bits
in between.

Are you fucking joking?

No, no, no.

I mean, it's big, but it takes
a bit of time...

Shut up.

So join me, Philomena Cunk,

as I go on a journey all the way into
into William Bartholomew Shakespeare,

the man they call
The King of the Bards.

Deep below Stratford And Avon, in a
secret location on Henley Street,

is a treasure trove
of Shakespearean proportions.

That looks really old. It is.

So, this book dates from 1600

and it has the records that
go back to 1558. Yeah.

It's written on the front

It's a bit wonky, in't it?

Like a... Suppose they didn't have
rulers, did they?

It's a very old book
that's made from animal skin

and then I'll just use the weights to keep...
It's sort of like waxy A4 paper, in't it?

It is a little bit waxy, yeah.
That's the, the, erm...

That's the juices of the animal...
Coming out, yeah.

And this is the page where we have
Shakespeare's baptism recorded.

And it's written in Latin, the
inscription... What does that say?

This baptism record is for William,
the son of John Shakespeare.

This is a bit like
Who Do You Think You Are?, isn't it?

It is in a way, yeah.

If you're tracing your family

these are the records that will give
you the information you need.

But he'd, sort of, call it,
Who Dost Thou Thinkest Thou Art?

He might, yes.
And he'd go like that.

He may well have done, yes.
Flourish. Yeah.

This is the actual house
in which Shakespeare was born,

here, on our Planet Earth.

As a baby, Shakespeare showed
few signs of becoming

the most significant figure
in literary history,

so nobody bothered noting down
the details of his life.

That's why we can't be sure
about his date of birth

and don't know anything
about his childhood,

except that he probably had one,

otherwise he'd never have become
a grown-up.

The facts may be hazy, but we can
probably guess that Shakespeare

as a boy would have looked
much like boys today,

but bald and with a ruff instead
of an Angry Birds T-shirt.

This is the actual school
he probably went to.

School in Shakespeare's day and age
was vastly different to our own.

In fact, it was far easier

because you didn't have to
study Shakespeare.

At the age of 18,

Shakespeare married his teenage
sweetheart Anne Hathaway.

But when did Shakespeare stop
mooning about with his wife

and start doing plays?

We don't exactly know,

because what happened next
were Shakespeare's lost years.

We don't know what happened
during the lost years.

Shakespeare probably spent a lot
of his time staring wistfully

out of leaded windows
and pretending to think,

and then write things down
with a feather pen.

But we do know he eventually
came to London,

just like his most famous character,
Dick Whittington.

Almost immediately, he began to
make waves in the world of theatre.

It's hard to believe today,

but back then people really did
go to the theatre on purpose.

And they went to see something
called "plays".

In plays, things happen in front
of you, but at actual size.

Unlike television,
which is smaller,

or cinema, which is bigger.

You'd think that would make plays
the most realistic form

of entertainment in existence,

but instead they're nothing like
real life, at all.

And that's because everyone shouts.

Speak the speech, I pray you,
as I pronounced it to you,

trippingly on the tongue.

Not proper shouting, like when
a bus won't let you on,

or shouting because of an emotion.

In plays, people shout no matter
how they're feeling,

because they put the seats
too far away.

There were many plays
written in ancient times,

but the plays Shakespeare wrote
echoed through the ages

and not just because
they were shouted -

but because they were good.

Now is the winter of our discontent

made glorious summer
by this sun of York.

We few,

we happy few,

we band of brothers.

To be, or not to be:

That is the question...

Shakespeare actually invented seven
different genres of play:






and historical.

And Shakespearean.

Throughout this programme,

I'm going to be taking a look at
each genre in turn,

in a sort of format point thing
they're making me do.

We'll start with horror.

Popular entertainment in Shakespeare's
day was often unpleasant,

involving public humiliation
and mindless cruelty to animals,

with no Ant and Dec
to take the edge off it all.

This brutality was reflected

in some of Shakespeare's
most horriblest plays.

For instance, his early work
Tightarse And Ronicus

is so jam-packed with violence
and murder,

it's basically
a posh Friday the 13th.

Here we see Titus himself slitting
the throats of his enemy's sons,

while his daughter collects
their blood.

All of it occurring in front of
a horrified Harry Potter.

Graphic scenes like this
were considered shocking

even in Shakespeare's day,

which is quite an achievement

considering people used to shit out
of their own windows back then.

But shitting out the window
wasn't all fun.

It encouraged rats,

who carried a devastating illness
called the Bionic Plague.

The plague killed about
10,000 people in London

and when they'd finished coughing,
the survivors needed cheering up.

And luckily, Shakespeare had just
invented a new type of play

called a comedy.

Some of Shakespeare's most
successful plays were comedies.

Critics say his comedies
aren't very funny,

but to be fair that's only because

jokes hadn't been invented
back then.

Of course, if you go to watch
a Shakespeare comedy today,

you'll hear the audience laughing
as though there are jokes in it,

even though there definitely aren't.

That's how clever Shakespeare is.

Even at this early stage
of his career,

there was no doubt Shakespeare
was the best at writing plays.

But there was enough doubt

that he had to start his own
theatre company to put them on.

He also built the Globe Theatre
from old bits of another theatre,

inventing upcycling, and he
probably made the word up as well.

He was a better playwright
than he was an architect.

That's why he didn't put
a roof on it.

But, to be fair, Wimbledon didn't
get a roof until a few years ago.

If you've never seen Shakespeare
at The Globe,

imagine a three-hour YouTube clip
happening outdoors,

a long way from you in a language
you barely understand.

And if I find it confusing,

it must have blown the minds off some
of Shakespeare's first audiences,

who were only slightly
more sophisticated than trees.

They might have been thick,

but Shakespeare's audiences
had loads of fun,

heckling the actors and cackling a
lot in a sort of mad peasanty way.


Like that.

And that.

To tell me more about Shakespeare's
disgusting audiences,

I spoke to this man.

Who are you and what's your game?

I'm Iqbal Khan
and I'm a theatre director.

What was theatre like
in Shakespeare's day?

Were all the audiences
really rowdy then, you know?

Did they wear tunics
and have mud on their faces?

The audiences ranged from
the ordinary common working people,

who'd stand around the theatre here

and then they'd range to
the aristocrats,

who would sit at the top of
the theatre.

Right, so some of them had to
stand up. They didn't have chairs.

No. No, they'd be standing.

I've never had to stand for
a whole Shakespeare.

I don't think I could do it.

I'd be livid if
I didn't have a chair.

I think audiences quite enjoy it.
Particularly now...

I don't think they do enjoy
standing, do they?

They actually enjoy
the experience of standing.

Who's told you that?


Shakespeare's works
are still performed now

and not just in theatres.

There are countless different ways
of interpreting Shakespeare's plays.

There's properly - with all wooden
furniture and beards and swords

and people dressed up as sort of
two-legged pageants.

Or there's modern - where they speak
in Shakespearean gobbledegook

while dressed in
contemporary clothing -

a bit like Russell Brand.

You decentious rogues,

That rubbing the poor itch
of your opinion,

Make yourselves scabs?

And there's startlingly
avant garde productions,

which look and sound like this.

How now, spirit! Whither wander you?

Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,

Over park, over pale,

Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere.

Incredibly, even today

people actually go to see
this sort of thing,

despite it being completely
fucking unwatchable.


Speak again, thou run away,
thou coward.

What sort of people come to see
Shakespeare today?

Is it mainly people
who wear glasses?


Yeah, I'm sure there are

a few people that wear glasses
that come to see it.

Yeah, I think all kinds of
people come to see it.

But a lot of short-sighted people.

Possibly? Not a lot though...
Yeah, loads!

Loads, I was looking around.

Right, 80% of the audience were
wearing glasses. I doubt that.

Are you saying I'm a liar?

No, I just said I doubt that 80% of
the audience were wearing glasses.

I think they were.


Maybe you need like a big bifocal
lens in front of the stage.

"Leave your glasses at home,
come to the theatre."

What about those people
that aren't short-sighted?

Oh, yeah, you'd need different
lenses, don't you.

Shakespeare's just as popular today
as he's always been.

There's even a Royal Shakespeare
Company named after him,

who insist on putting on his shows
whether people want them or not.

What is it about Shakespeare
that makes them bother?

Perhaps it's because he wrote
about universal human needs,

like wanting to murder a king,
or have a romance.

We don't know much about how love
and romance worked in olden times,

because back then people didn't write
blogs about their dating misadventures.

But thanks to Shakespeare,
what we do have is Romeo and Juliet,

easily the finest romance of the
pre-Dirty Dancing era.

Romeo and Juliet is about

these two rich, powerful families
who hate each other.

These two families are the
Montagues - who sound quite posh -

and the Capulets, who invented
the headache tablet.

They're perfectly happy having
their feud until the touching moment

Romeo, from one side, spots Juliet,
from the other.

It's love at first sight,
but from a distance -

just like on Tinder.

My lips, two blushing pilgrims,
ready stand

To smooth that rough touch
with a tender kiss.

Soon Romeo and Juliet are in love,

even though they come from
two different families,

which is how we know it isn't
set in Norfolk.

O Romeo, Romeo!

Wherefore art thou Romeo?

To find out more about
Romeo and Juliet,

I went to talk to Shakespearean
expert Stanley Wells.

Why do you think Romeo and Juliet is

the most successful romcom
of all time?

Well, it's very beautiful, isn't it?

The love story between
Romeo and Juliet.

It has some very beautiful
poetry in it.

People like a happy ending,
don't they?

Oh, they like a happy ending, yeah,

but they don't get it,
of course, here.

What do you mean?

Oh, you know, the ending -

they die.

You know, the lovers -
Romeo and Juliet, I mean...

They die at the end? Oh, yes.

Juliet poisons herself, then Romeo
comes in and he dies, too.

So, we should put a spoiler there,
should we?


But after that, their families are
reconciled, so that's quite nice.

I don't understand why
the Montagons and the Caplets

just won't let them muck about

Well, they're not really adults,
are they?

I mean, Juliet's not yet 14.

You know, her nurse says so
in the play. What?

She's only a young girl.

She's 13 years old?!
That's right, yes.

I'm not surprised the families
are trying to split them up then.

I'd have rang the police.

With the success of Romeo and
Juliet, Shakespeare was on a roll.

He had respect and prestige
and he was coining it,

if they had coins back then.
I haven't checked.

As his reputation grew, Shakespeare
became popular with royalty.

So, he wrote stuff they'd enjoy

in the hope of gaining power
and influence,

like Gary Barlow does now.

Shakespeare's first royal fan
was Queen Elizabeth One.

The person, not the boat.

Shakespeare wrote loads of plays
about royals,

known as his History plays.

It was his way of pleasing
the king and queen

by doing stuff about their families.

A bit like when your mum buys
the local paper

because your brother's
court appearance is in it.

Perhaps Shakespeare's best history
play is Richard Three,

which is about this sort of
Elephant Man king.

He'd be done in computers now
by Andy Serkis covered in balls,

but in the original he was just
a man with a pillow up his jumper.

It's quite modern because it's
a lead part for a disabled actor,

providing they don't mind being
depicted as the most evil man ever.

I am determin'ed to prove a villain.

Richard Three is actually based
on the real King Richard of Third,

who was in the Wars of the Roses.

A horse! A Horse!
My kingdom for a horse!

At the end he loses his horse and
ends up wandering around a car park

looking for it,
where he eventually dies.

Because in those days
you couldn't find your horse

just by beeping your keys
and making its arse light up.

It's quite moving and human,

because we've all worried we might
die in a car park, if we, like,

lose the ticket and can't get the
barrier up and just die in there.

Shakespeare makes you think
about those things,

and that's hard.

When Queen Elizabeth died,
James One took over.

He was Scottish
and dead into witches,

which Shakespeare put straight
into Macbeth.

Like an arsekisser.

Macbeth is a tale of paranoia
and king-murder set in Scotland,

probably for tax reasons.

It's about a man called Macbeth,

who's so famous
he's only got one name.

Like Brangelina.

Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth!

Macbeth also has a female sidekick
called Lady Macbeth,

who was very much the Ms. Pac-Man
to Macbeth's Pac-Man.

In a spooky encounter,
Macbeth meets some witches,

who tell him he's going to become
king of Scotchland.

Which back then was apparently
considered a good thing.

The witches aren't in it
as much as you'd expect,

quite a lot of it's about
ordinary murder.

This is a sorry sight!

It seems a shame to introduce
witches in it

and then make all the murders normal
with just knives and swords.

Maybe if Shakespeare
had thought a bit harder

he'd have put
some magic murders in.

Like a big magic hand
coming out a toilet

and pulling someone's arse
inside out.

Nevertheless, there's plenty of
violence and bloodshed

and an iconic scene in which
Macbeth is startled at dinner

by the unexpected appearance
of Banquo's Ghost,

played here for some reason
by the letter H.

Which of you have done this?

What, my good lord?

Thou canst not say I did it:
never shake

thy gory locks at me.

By now, Shakespeare had built
a considerable body of work,

which is collected in something
called the First Folio.

This is the actual book Shakespeare
wrote with his bare hands,

the only remaining copy
of any of his plays.

It's amazing to think that
if anything happened to this,

the entire works of Shakespeare
would be lost forever.

So, before I touch it, I need to
put on special white gloves.

Well, we don't actually need
to wear white gloves, Philomena.

The advice we have and the best
practice we follow

is not wear gloves, because you lose
the sensitivity in your fingers

and you're more likely to damage the
book by wearing gloves than not.

Well, they're here now. If you've got clean hands,
take the gloves off, we don't need them at all.

Well, I've brought them, so... It's very good
of you to bring them, but we don't need them

and we can't let you turn the pages
of the book if you've got them on.

Simon Schama gets to wear gloves.
Well, he doesn't wear them here.

Why not?

Because when we're handling books and
documents we don't need to wear gloves, at all.


So what's the difference between
a book and a folio?

A folio's the name that's given to
the paper that's in the book.

It implies it's been folded once,

which is where the name folio
comes from.

So, why don't we just call it
a book?

We can call it a book.
That's absolutely fine. OK.

You know when you read
a word in a book

and you sort of hear that word
in your head? Mm-hm.

How did they get the sounds into the
ink to make it play in your head?

Well, what they're doing is they've
got all the words written down

and spelled out and they put those
letters into the printing process

and then print them on the page.

And then it's as you're reading it,

you're making the sounds
in your head.

And you can hear them talking,
can't you?

Yeah, because you know what
the words mean and how they sound,

you can then play it back
to yourself, if you like.

Are these plays like computer code

and the actors like characters
in a computer game?

I suppose that's one way
of looking at it.

The words are the lines

- so they're telling the actors
what they need to say -

and then you'll find stage
directions telling them what to do.

So, in a way, they're like
a set of instructions.

So, in a way, Shakespeare invented
computer games?

I don't think he'd have seen it like that and
that's not quite the case with what it is,

but you can make a comparison
or an analogy between the two.

So, he invented computer games.

No, not really, no.

That's amazing.

Most of Shakespeare's plays

are about stuff that actually
happened, like kings.

Or could happen, like a prince
talking to a ghost.

But some of his plays are more
magical. They're fantasies.

The Tempest is about
this shipwreck,

which happens at the beginning,
not at the end like Titanic,

which is a brave move.

The survivors get stuck on this
island where this wizard lives

with his daughter
and these monsters.

What's interesting about The Tempest

is that usually Shakespeare's
stories sort of make sense,

even though all the talking's
in gibberish.

But in The Tempest,
the story doesn't make sense either.


You are three men of sin,
whom Destiny,

That hath to instrument
this lower world

And what is in't, the never-
surfeited sea

hath caused to belch up you.

It's like Shakespeare squared,

which is probably why hardcore
Shakespeare fans like it,

because it shows they understand it,
which they can't.

The way Shakespeare's written makes
it hard to wrap your head around,

which is why it's taught in school
when your brain's at its bendiest,

by people like this man,

the fictional English teacher
from TV drama Educating Yorkshire.

When you teach a kid Shakespeare, do
their heads grow physically bigger?

No. They don't, no.

How does iambic pente-meter work?

I think you're talking about
iambic pentameter,

which is the way that, kind of...
Iambic pente-meter.

Pentameter, yeah.

Well, pentameter, so...

It would be a line of prose
that would have ten syllables

with five particular stresses on.

Not pente-meter?
No, not pente-meter.

No, it's pentameter. Right.

Someone told me...
I was misinformed, it's fine.

Who told you?

See him, over there? Oh, right.

Erm... No, it's pentameter, yeah.
Iambic pentameter.

Just to clarify.

I wonder if all of Shakespeare's
plays are suitable for kids.

Because there's that one about
the dairymaid, isn't there,

with the special pump.

I'm not aware that that's
a Shakespeare play.

She works on a farm.
She's got a special pump.

No, I don't think that's
a Shakespeare play, at all.

No, it doesn't sound very much like
a Shakespeare play, at all.

It's disgusting.

Shakespeare once said,
"Every dog will have his day."

and with his own theatre
and lots of plays,

he was certainly having his.

But soon that day would turn
to night. A long, dark night.

Like in Finland.

In 1596, Shakespeare's son Hamnet
shuffled off this mortal coil,

then he died.

And a few years later,
his father John kicked the bucket

and also died.

As Shakespeare's life went sad,
so did his plays.

If you were asked to pick
what Shakespeare did best,

most people would say tragedy,

which is one of the few things
he has in common with Steps.

Shakespeare's tragedy plays are the
most performed of all his works.

None more so than Hamlet,
with its famous speech about bees.

To be, or not to be:

that is the question.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the
slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of
troubles, And by opposing end them?

To die: to sleep, no more.

And by a sleep to say
we end the heart-ache

and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to,

tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd.

To die, to sleep.

To sleep: perchance to dream:
ay, there's the rub.

For in that sleep of death
what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off
this mortal coil,

Must give us pause.

What was all that about then?

Alas, poor Yorick.

Most people have heard of Hamlet,
even if they haven't seen it

because it sounds quite boring.

So, what's it about?

Well, I have seen it
and it's about four hours long.

The main character, who is Hamlet,
is visited by his father,

who is a ghost.

Remember me.

The ghost tells Hamlet
to take revenge,

but Hamlet doesn't know what to do
and that's why the play is so long.

I do not know why,
yet I live to say:

this thing's to do.

In something gritty like Taken,

Liam Neeson knows
exactly what to do.

I will look for you,
I will find you...

...and I will kill you.

So you're - bang -
straight down to action.

Which makes the film really
exciting and over quite quickly.

If Shakespeare had written Taken,
it'd be four hours long

and be mainly Liam Neeson fretting
and pacing and talking to bones.

That's the basic difference between
Hamlet and Taken.

Liam Neeson makes up his mind.

I told you I would find you.

Shakespeare never wrote anything
even close to this

white-knuckle knife fight
in a kitchen.

Instead, he wrote incredibly
long speeches full of words.

How important are the words
in a Shakespeare play?

Like, could you do it
without the words?


without the words, there isn't
much left, to be honest.

So I think probably that's
the bedrock of what we do.

And to be fair, Shakespeare was
no ordinary word-monger.

He didn't just use words,
he invented them, too.

Shakespeare made up words,
didn't he?

He did that all the time.
Mm-hm. He made up so many words.

He made up about a thousand words
that we still use today.

Did he? Mm-hm.

Right, I've got a list of words...

OK. ..that he might or might not
have made up. OK.

And you tell me if Shakespeare
made them up or not. OK.


No, I don't think so.































Suppose it makes sense that he came
up with hobnob, doesn't it?

Because it's sort of the most
old-fashioned of biscuits.

It's got, like, bits of hay in it
and stuff.

It's like eating a thatched roof.

By the end of his life,
Shakespeare had reinvented theatre,

created memorable characters,
built a playhouse,

invented a language
and secured a legacy.

But the Swan of Avon still had
one last trick up his sleeve.

Throughout this programme, we've
seen how Shakespeare's genius spans

seven different genres of play.

But all of these pale into
insignificance against Shakespeare's

most greatest work:

Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones is a proper
bloodthirsty, action-packed epic,

which skilfully combines
all the genres

Shakespeare invented
into one coherent work.

It's got everything.

It's got history, comedy,


Have you ever held a sword before?
I was the best archer in our hamlet.






And romance.


Game of Thrones also has one of
Shakespeare's best kings in it,

Queen Joffrey.

Surely there are others out there

who still dare to challenge
my reign?

Queen Joffrey,
like all Shakespeare's queens,

is played by a young boy in a dress.

And they stuck with that when they
adapted it for television.

Game of Thrones
remains the most popular

of all of Shakespeare's plays

and the only one to have been made
into a television series,

which proves it's the best.

It's almost as if
at the end of his life,

Shakespeare finally worked out how
to write something really good.

His final masterpiece accomplished,

Shakespeare's work on our planet
was complete.

He died on his birthday,

which must have been depressing
for his family,

who would have had to

finish his cake with tears
in their little Shakespearean eyes.

We don't know what Shakespeare's
last words were -

probably made-up ones.

Nobody wrote them down, so they
couldn't have been all that.

I used to think Shakespeare was
stuffy and pointless and not for me,

but exploring his world and works
for the past half-hour

has really brought him to life,
so I'm gutted he's just died.

He remains the best and only bard
this country has ever produced.

Goodnight, sweet prince.

I'm loving angels instead.

MUSIC: Zadok the Priest by Handel

♪ Zadok the priest ♪

♪ And Nathan the prophet ♪

♪ Anointed Solomon king. ♪

Re-synced and corrected by Mr_Bramble