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A Waste Of Shame

A Waste Of ShameThe critically-acclaimed BBC television
  drama A Waste Of Shame is the story of
  the intense, passionate and destructive
  love triangle that consumed one of the
  finest poets and playwrights ever to have
  lived — William Shakespeare

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE IS THE MOST ICONIC name in the history of literature. During his troubled middle years, he was consumed with passion for two people and was apparently indulging in illicit liaisons having forsaken his wife and children.

Taking its title from the first line of Sonnet 129, A Waste Of Shame features a veritable who's who of English drama in its leading roles, including Rupert Graves (V For Vendetta, God On Trial) as William Shakespeare; Tom Sturridge (Being Julia, Like Minds) as 'Fair Youth' William Herbert and Zoe Wanamaker (Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, My Family), who plays his mother, the Countess of Pembroke.

The Sonnets of William Shakespeare are the most compelling sources providing an emotional and dramatic journey into the psychology of the man himself. In 1609, he published a collection of 154 sonnets, creating the greatest lyric sequence of poems in world literature; a poetic and beautifully-crafted language which has presented the world with the 400-year-old mystery. The Bard's extra-marital affair with a Dark Lady inspired 26 sonnets and a brooding obsession with a Fair Youth 126 sonnets. Self-analytical and brutally honest, the sonnets take you behind the scenes of this complex genius: William Shakespeare's story, told in his words, is the result.

Who was the Fair Youth who inspired such passion; and who was the mysterious Dark Lady ("Who art as black as hell, as dark as night")? The sonnet sequence is a personal and unique meditation on love, sex, mortality and the creative urge; which has, for centuries, tantalised scholars and casual readers alike.

A Waste Of Shame begins in 1596 when William is called to the deathbed of his son, only to be harangued by his wife Anne (Anna Chancellor), who is depicted as a shrewish and bitter woman, tired of her husband's absence and his whore-mongering. She is, we are told, eight years older than The Bard and was pregnant when they married. Rupert Graves is superbly believable as Shakespeare and creates a character with whom it is easy to identify.

When The Bard visits the Countess of Pembroke, he becomes transfixed by the Countess's attractive young son, William Herbert, whom his mother believes is only interested in books and not in women. Shakespeare is also distracted by the seduction of an exotic beauty, the whore Lucie (Indira Varma).

Against a background of a London caught in the grip of the plague and careless of the danger of its waste-strewn streets, William Shakespeare's loves, losses, tragedies and jealousies are laid bare. For he is not the only one who is obsessed by the Dark Lady and it is all the more painful for him when he discovers the identity of her other admirer.

A window on part of the life of William Shakespeare would be remarkable and fascinating enough, but A Waste Of Shame goes one step further and is the superbly dramatised and artistic presentation you would expect from the BBC.

A Waste Of Shame also features: Andrew Tiernan as Ben Jonson; Nicky Henson as John Shakespeare; Alan Williams as George Wilkins; Nicholas Rowe as Richard Burbage; John Voce as William Kemp; Tom Hiddleston as John Hall; Christopher Fairbank as Physician; Ian Hughes as Thomas Thorpe; and Rasmus Hardiker as Ned Bounty. The Costume Designer is Ralph Holes; Director of Photography is Tim Palmer; A Waste Of Shame is Written by William Boyd; Produced by Chrissy Skinns and Directed by John McKay.

William Shakespeare died in Stratford on 23 April, 1616, at the age of 52, believed to be of bubonic plague.

A Waste Of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and his Sonnets will be released on DVD on 22 June (2009), courtesy of Demand DVD. RRP: £14.99 | Running Time: 90 minutes.

"The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjur'd, murderous, bloody, full of blame…" — Sonnet 129

"A window on part of the life of William Shakespeare would be remarkable and fascinating enough, but A Waste Of Shame goes one step further and is the superbly dramatised and artistic presentation you would expect from the BBC" — Maggie Woods, MotorBar