November 1999 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Collection: SHAKESPEARE STORIES Adapted from Lambs’ Tales from Shakespeare by Jane McCulloch Narrators: Sir Derek Jacobi and Jane Lapotaire   DELOS DE 6008 4 CDs [4hrs 22mins]

Save around 22% with

The stories:

Romeo and Juliet
The Merchant of Venice
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
King Lear
As You Like It
The Tempest
Twelfth Night
Much Ado About Nothing
The Taming of the Shrew
The Winter’s Tale

Most of us, at some time or other, have experienced that sinking feeling when confronted with a Shakespeare play. All those characters, all those plot twists. Have I understood it properly? Have I missed something? English Literature classes at school may have helped but many of us will have forgotten them or were antagonistic to them – then. Even the professionals, the actors themselves, will admit that they, too, can be daunted by Shakespeare. It is an age-old problem and one that was addressed by Charles Lamb, and his sister Mary, in their book Lambs’ Tales of Shakespeare.

Lambs’ Tales from Shakespeare was first published in 1807 and was hailed as a unique and brilliant literary work. Mary’s name was omitted from the first edition - probably because her brother’s name was better known, but it is possible that it was Mary’s own wish that her name be suppressed. However her brother conceded the importance of her contribution and her name appeared on subsequent editions. Writing to Wordsworth, Charles wrote, "I am responsible for Lear, Romeo, Macbeth, Hamlet, The Tempest and Othello. The rest is my sister’s work. It is our hope that the tales having been read and understood by the young, the true plays may then prove to them, in older years, enrichers of fancy, strengtheners of virtue, a withdrawing from all mercenary and selfish thoughts and a lesson of all sweet and honourable actions, for in teaching these great human virtues, Shakespeare’s plays are full."

The Lambs’ policy was for the narrative of the tales to be interwoven with the very words of Shakespeare wherever possible. Some of Shakespeare’s plays were omitted. There are none of the English histories, nor any of the Roman plays; and, for some reason, Love’s Labours Lost was omitted from the comedies.

Sir Derek Jacobi and Jane Lapotaire are excellent narrators colouring their voices according to the wonts of Shakespeare’s characters and bringing the stories vividly to life. Some of the Lambs’ adaptations are more successful than others. Hamlet is a small miracle of condension but a lot of the detail of some of the plays is frustratingly omitted. For instance, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the play within a play performed by Bottom and his troupe of craftsman actors is omitted, so too are the comic capers of Malvolio and Sir Toby Belch from Twelfth Night. Nevertheless this is a marvellous production, enhanced by Célia Medaglia’s lute playing of works by Dowland and Holborne between the tales. Full credit should also go to the adapter of the stories, Jane McCulloch. This 4-CD set is a fine introduction or reminder of the Bard’s works for people of all ages. Strongly recommended as a Christmas present.


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

Reviews from previous months

Reviews carry sales links
but you can also purchase

Return to Index