Plays now available in the Inessential Shakespeare series

Henry V - Sample Text

Chorus to Act 1

If I had the power to turn this stage into a kingdom, our actors into princes, and our audience into kings, then you would see King Harry himself, coming like the god of war, with famine, sword and fire. But since we are only actors, and our stage is small, it is your imaginations that must turn this little space into the two great kingdoms of England and France. Just as a small sum of money can be turned into a fortune by adding a few noughts, so you imaginations must turn one soldier into a thousand, create out of a few words a battlefield with galloping horses, and make the events of many years fit into one short hour. I, as Chorus, will do my best to help you. Please be patient with our play.


“I got so absorbed in [Henry V] that I let my saucepan of vegetables boil dry and burn!”

Margaret Terry

Twelfth Night - Sample Text

[Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Fabian come in]

Sir Andrew No, I won't! I won't stay another minute.

Sir Toby But why, dear poison, why?

Sir Andrew Well, I saw your niece being nicer to the Count's servant than she's ever been to me. I saw it in the orchard.

Sir Toby Did she see you old boy?

Sir Andrew As plainly as I see you now!

Fabian That shows she loves you.

Sir Andrew Nonsense! You're making fun of me.

Fabian I'll prove it. [He winks at Sir Toby] She did it to annoy you, to - er - wake you up. You should have gone along, cracked a few good jokes, and made the young man look silly. Now you've missed your chance, and my lady won't take any notice of you - unless you do something brave, or clever.

Sir Andrew I'm not very clever, so I suppose I'd better do something b-b-brave.

Sir Toby That's right. You must challenge the youth to a duel, and wound him in eleven places. My niece will notice, and there you are! No woman can resist a brave man.


"The humour in Twelfth Night.....has been retained in a delightful way.....the adaptation bubbles with life."


"A great asset as a means of telling the story in a sympathetic, racy way: excellent to read round a form, either with "non-literates" or as a foundation for a greater study of the actual text once the story is understood: it is, after all, a fairly complicated story."


A Midsummer Night's Dream - Sample Text

[Theseus, Hippolyta and Philostrate come in with some Attendants]

Theseus Hippolyta, my love, in four days' time, when the new moon rises, we shall be married. [He sighs] Oh, but how slowly the old moon wanes!

Hippolyta Four days will soon turn into nights, and the nights will quickly dream the time away. And then the new moon will gaze down on our wedding.

Theseus [To Philostrate] Philostrate, go and get the young people of Athens to prepare some entertainment. We don't want any solemn faces at our wedding. [Philostrate goes out] Hippolyta, I won you in war, but I will marry you in triumph and rejoicing.

[Egeus, Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius come in]

Egeus We wish you joy, Duke Theseus!

Theseus Thank you, Egeus. What brings you here?

Egeus [Angrily] I've come with a complaint, my lord, against my daughter, Hermia. [To Demetrius] Demetrius, come here! [To Theseus] My lord, this man has my permission to marry my daughter. [To Lysander] Come here, Lysander! [To Theseus] But this man, my lord, has bewitched her. [To Lysander] Yes, you, Lysander! You have written her poems, exchanged love letters with her, and stood under her window in the moonlight pretending that you love her. You have given her presents - rings and flowers and trinkets - great temptations for a young and innocent girl. You have tricked her into loving you, and turned her from an obedient daughter into a stubborn wretch. [To the Duke] My lord, if she won't promise, here and now, to marry Demetrius, I demand my right, as a citizen of Athens, to deal with her as I think fit.. That is, either to give her to this gentleman [indicating Demetrius] or to have her put to death, according to the law.


Hamlet - Sample Text

[Laertes and Ophelia come in]

Laertes My things are on board, so I'll say goodbye. And sister, when there's a ship going to France, write to me.

Ophelia Of course.

Laertes And about Hamlet and his flirting, just look on it as a passing fancy, a young man's infatuation, nothing more.

Ophelia Are you sure?

Laertes Nothing more. As a man grows older, his horizons widen. Perhaps Hamlet really does love you now, and his intentions are honourable, but consider his position as a Prince. He is not free to choose like an ordinary citizen; the welfare and safety of the state depend on him. So if he says he loves you, you would be wise to believe it only so far as his circumstances and the people of Denmark allow. And consider how your reputation will suffer if you lose your heart to him, or your body! Watch out, dear sister! You can't be too careful. Even saints are not safe from slander. Spring buds can be blighted even before they open, so fear the worst. Youth is a passionate time!

Ophelia I will take your advice to heart. But don't be like a bad priest, brother, and show me the steep and difficult way to heaven while you follow the primrose path.


Just a note to say that I enjoyed the version of Hamlet immensely. It felt like I was reading a gripping story, one which I didn't know beforehand. It has given me the spirit of the play, and I now feel motivated to get hold of the original.

Philip Robinson

Although I've always been opposed to alternatives to the Shakespeare text, as a matter of principle that I thought was considered, this series has made me change my mind.

Jim Johnson

Macbeth - Sample Text

Macbeth If we could be sure, when the murder was done, that that would be the end of the matter, we would be wise to do it quickly. If we could be certain of success here on earth, then we'd risk the consequences in the life to come. But in these cases we are forced to face judgement in this world, where our crimes return to plague us. Justice makes us put the poisoned cup to our own lips..... He has every reason to trust me: I am his cousin and his subject. Anyway, as his host I should shut the door against his murderer, not carry the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan has been such an honest, such a gentle king that his virtues will plead like angels against the horror of his death, and pity for him will drown the world in sorrow. It's only ambition that drives me on, ambition, which aims too high and then comes crashing down-- [Lady Macbeth comes in] Well?

Lady Macbeth He's almost finished supper. Why have you left the room?

Macbeth Has he asked for me?

Lady Macbeth You know he has!

Macbeth We won't go any further with this.....


A very warm thankyou for your splendid presentation of "The Inessential Shakespeare", it was most enjoyable. The consensus of opinion from U3A members is that your books should be required reading - and acting - for all schools, to foster a love of the bard. Many congratulations on your work so far, and long may it continue. I'd love to see one of your plays on peak-time television.


Julius Caesar - Sample Text

[Thunder and lightning. Caesar comes in wearing his dressing gown]

Caesar  What a night! I heard Calphurnia crying out in her sleep three times, 'They're murdering Caesar. Help!' [He calls] Is there anyone there?

[A servant comes in]

Servant  My lord?

Caesar  Tell the priests to make a sacrifice straight away, and let me know what they say.

Servant  Yes, my lord.

[Calphurnia has come in while Caesar is speaking]

Calphurnia  What's going on? Are you thinking of going out? I forbid you to leave the house!

Caesar  Caesar will do as he pleases! Dangers vanish when Caesar looks them in the face!


Romeo & Juliet - Sample Text

[Some Citizens come in with sticks and other weapons, and join in the fighting. They shout ‘Down with the Capulets’, ‘Down with the Montagues!’ etc. etc. Then Capulet comes in wearing a dressing-gown, with Lady Capulet]

Capulet What's all this? Bring me my sword!

Lady Capulet What you need is a crutch, not a sword.

[Montague and Lady Montague come in. Montague has a sword]

Capulet Give me my sword, I say! I won't have old Montague mocking me.

Montague I'll get you, Capulet. [To his wife, who is holding him back] Let me go!

Lady Montague No! You shan't move an inch.

[Prince Escalus comes in with his Attendants]

Prince Escalus [He speaks while they are still fighting] Citizens of Verona, how dare you disturb the peace with your fighting! [He shouts] Will you listen to me! Listen, I say! [They become quiet] You miserable wretches, cooling your tempers with your neighbours' blood! Put down your weapons and listen to me. You, old Capulet, and you, Montague, this is the third time that your ridiculous quarrel has disturbed our quiet streets and forced Verona's respectable old citizens to get out their weapons. If you disturb the peace once more, I promise you you’ll pay for it with your lives. Now go, all of you. Capulet, come with me. And Montague, I want to see you this afternoon, in Freetown. [To all the others] Now, go! You remain here at your peril.

[They all go out, except Montague, Lady Montague and Benvolio]


A very warm thankyou for your splendid presentation of "The Inessential Shakespeare", it was most enjoyable. The consensus of opinion from U3A members is that your books should be required reading - and acting - for all schools, to foster a love of the bard. Many congratulations on your work so far, and long may it continue. I'd love to see one of your plays on peak-time television.