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I, Claudius
I Claudius titles.jpg
Opening titles
Format Period drama
Created by Robert Graves
Written by Jack Pulman
Starring Derek Jacobi
Siân Phillips
Brian Blessed
John Hurt
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 13
Production
Running time 50+ minutes per episode
Broadcast
Original channel BBC2
Original run 20 September 1976 – 6 December 1976

I, Claudius is a 1976 BBC Television adaptation of Robert Graves's I, Claudius and Claudius the God. Written by Jack Pulman,[1] it proved one of the corporation's most successful drama serials of all time. It also provided popular initial exposure for several actors who would eventually become well known, such as Derek Jacobi, Siân Phillips, Patrick Stewart, John Rhys-Davies and John Hurt.

Contents

Plot

I, Claudius follows the history of Rome, narrated by the elderly Claudius, from the death of Marcellus in the first episode to Claudius's own death in the last. The series opens with Augustus, the emperor of Rome, attempting to find an heir, and his wife Livia's plots to have her own son Tiberius become emperor. This plotting and double-crossing continue for many years, through the conspiracy of Sejanus, the rule of the mad emperor Caligula, and eventually, Claudius's own rule.

Production

The series was produced by Joan Sullivan and Martin Lisemore, and directed by Herbert Wise in the studios at BBC Television Centre. Production was delayed because of complex negotiations between the BBC and the copyright holders of the aborted film version. This did however give the scriptwriter Jack Pulman more time to fine-tune his script.

Music

Wilfred Josephs provided the title music. The incidental music for each episode was performed by David Wulstan and the Clerkes of Oxenford ensemble.

Awards and reception

Among other awards, the series won three BAFTAs in 1977 (Derek Jacobi, Best Actor (TV); Siân Phillips, Best Actress (TV); Tim Harvey, Best Design (TV)).

The series was subsequently broadcast in the United States as part of PBS's Masterpiece Theatre series, where it received critical acclaim. Tim Harvey won a 1978 Emmy for Outstanding Art Direction. The producers and director were nominated but did not win. None of the actors were nominated for Emmys. In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, I, Claudius was placed 12th.

In 2005, Entertainment Weekly named I, Claudius one of the ten best miniseries on DVD.[2] Calling Phillips the "breakout star," the article noted that the adaptation "may have marked the peak of the golden era of Masterpiece Theatre (from 1971's Upstairs Downstairs to 1981's Brideshead Revisited). It also put the lie to the notion that British drama was stuffy and dull — not with all the poisonings, stabbings, and incest going on."[2]

Cast

The major cast included

Actor Character
Derek Jacobi Claudius
Siân Phillips Livia
George Baker Tiberius
John Hurt Caligula
Brian Blessed Augustus
Patrick Stewart Sejanus
Margaret Tyzack Antonia
Patricia Quinn Livilla
John Paul Marcus Agrippa
Sheila White Messalina
Christopher Biggins Nero
Ian Ogilvy Drusus
David Robb Germanicus
John Castle Postumus
Fiona Walker Agrippina
Frances White Julia
James Faulkner Herod
Kevin McNally Castor
John Rhys-Davies Macro
Christopher Guard Marcellus
Stratford Johns Piso
Bernard Hepton Pallas
John Cater Narcissus
Barbara Young Agrippinilla
Beth Morris Drusilla
Actor Character
Simon MacCorkindale Lucius
Sheila Ruskin Vipsania
Angela Morant Octavia
Graham Seed Britannicus
Jo Rowbottom Calpurnia
Sam Dastor Cassius
Kevin Stoney Thrasyllus
Freda Dowie Caesonia & Sibyl
Irene Hamilton Plancina
Darien Angadi Plautius
Peter Bowles Caractacus
Norman Eshley Marcus
John Bennett Xenophon
Patsy Byrne Martina
Douglas Melbourne Gemellus
Karin Foley Helen
Earl Rhodes Gaius
Richard Hunter Drusus Caesar
Russell Lewis Young Lucius
Robert Morgan Young Caligula
Cheryl Johnson Claudia Octavia
Isabel Dean Lollia Paulina
Liane Aukin Aelia
Moira Redmond Domitia
Bernard Hill Gratus

Legacy

I Claudius was preceded by the 1968 ITV historical drama The Caesars which covered very similar ground, but differed in its less sensationalist approach to the main characters and their motivations[3]. In the decade following I, Claudius, the large-scale historical dramas The Borgias and The Cleopatras were produced by the BBC in an attempt to imitate I, Claudius's success, but both of these proved to be flops. The idea of large-scale historical drama thus came to be satirised in comedy of the time, most notably Blackadder (for example, the writhing snake from the I, Claudius title sequence is parodied in the title sequence of Blackadder II). Such dramas did not become a BBC staple again until the series Rome, which (due to its similarly Roman subject matter and ambitious scale) was openly touted in the press as a successor to I, Claudius.[4]

VHS/DVD

Cover of the US release of the first I, Claudius DVD. There has since been a remastered edition with an entirely different cover.

Most VHS and DVD versions of the TV series include the 1965 BBC documentary The Epic That Never Was, about the attempted Alexander Korda film adaptation of the first book, featuring interviews with key production staff and actors as well as most of the surviving footage. The 2002 UK DVD edition also contains a documentary on the series, I, Claudius – a Television Epic, as well as some alternate and deleted scenes.

References

  1. ^ In Pulman's script for Claudius's speech to the Senate in the final episode, Claudius prophesies that "the man who dwells by the pool shall open graves, and the dead shall live again". This is a reference to the scriptwriter, Jack Pulman, and a pun on the book's author, Robert Graves.
  2. ^ a b Susman, Gary (November 17, 2005). "Mini Splendored Things". Entertainment Weekly. EW.com. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,1073590_17,00.html. Retrieved January 7, 2010.  
  3. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0166037/
  4. ^ "Epic Roman drama unveiled". BBC News. 27 October 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/3216925.stm. Retrieved 2008-02-12.  

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I, Claudius is a 1976 BBC Television adaptation of Robert Graves's I, Claudius and Claudius the God. Written by Jack Pulman, it proved one of the corporation's most successful drama serials of all time. It starred Siân Phillips, Derek Jacobi, Patrick Stewart, John Rhys-Davies and John Hurt.

Contents

Episodes

A Touch of Murder

Claudius: I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus... this, that and the other, who was once, and not so long ago, better known to my friends and relatives as Claudius the Idiot, or That Fool Claudius, or Claudius the Stammerer, am now about to write the strange history of my life.

Tiberius: Mother, I'm a happily married man. Julia doesn't interest me. She wouldn't interest me if you hung her naked from the ceiling above my bed.
Livia: She might even do that if I asked her!
Tiberius: Aren't you forgetting something? She's still married to Marcellus, and Marcellus is not dead yet.
Livia: When I start to forget things, you may light my funeral pyre and put me on it, dead or alive.

Marcus Agrippa: I'm getting a little tired of being taught the arts of war by kids that have only just learned how to piss in a pot.

Augustus: Wait till you see what Marcellus has in store for us. He's got a rhinoceros.
Livia: What on earth is that?
Augustus: A remarkable creature. It has a horn on its nose.
Livia: So has Scipio's wife. He should have used her.

Tiberius: Anyway, where does all this get us? There's not only Marcellus, there's Agrippa too. And Augustus prefers both of them to me.
Julia: [screams off stage] No! No!
Tiberius: Ye gods, what's that?
Livia: It sounds as though there is now only Agrippa.

Family Affairs

Antonia: It's not fair to accuse Livia of things without any proof.
Julia: Why shouldn't I? She accuses me of things without proof.

Tiberius: [about Livia] They say a snake bit her once... and died.

Drusus: A man should keep himself clean, not have slaves do it.
Tiberius: And how's he supposed to scrape his own back?
Drusus: He gets his brother to do it.
Tiberius: If he hasn't got a brother?
Drusus: He gets his son.
Tiberius: If he hasn't got a son?
Drusus: Gets his friend.
Tiberius: And if he hasn't got a friend?
Drusus: Then he should go and hang himself.
Tiberius: I've tried it. Better to have a slave scrape your back.

[To young Gaius and Lucius, playing a board game.]
Drusus: I wouldn't take Britain if I were you. There's nothing of value there and the people make terrible slaves.

Drusus: [Dying words] Rome has a severe mother, and Gaius and Lucius a cruel stepmother.

Waiting in the Wings

Tiberius: Let me go, you fat drunken cow!
Julia: Fat? Fat? If I'm fat, I'm fat where a woman should be fat, not skinny like a boy!

Augustus: Is there anybody in Rome who has not slept with my daughter?

Julia [to Livia]: This is your doing, isn't it? Oh Livia, you really think that it'll convince my father to let Tiberius? [laughs]] You are so transparent. I'm the only one who can see you for what you really are... Well, remember this, Livia, I have three sons and they all come before Tiberius. And when they came to age, you won't be wanted any more. So when my father dies, take my advice: climb on the funeral pyre with him!

Livia: [about Claudius] That child should have been exposed at birth.

Livia: It's a hard thing to see a child banished, especially when you know the banishment is unjust. Yes, you must let my son come home. Can't you see what has been clear to me for so long, that it was Julia's wickedness that drove him away?
Augustus: I'll never bring him back. Never. He drove her to it. She would never have gone down that road if it wasn't for his wickedness. He can stay there and rot!

What Shall We Do About Claudius?

Augustus: Quintillius Varus, where are my eagles?

[Herod and Augustus are watching a gladiatorial contest.]
Augustus: Herod, what about a little bet? I'll take the fat one for twenty gold pieces.
Herod: Caesar, it would be against my religion to bet on the life of a man.
Augustus: Oh, really? I would have thought it against your religion to bet on anything.
Herod: Caesar, it's true: Jews love gambling. But we fear our god more.
Augustus: Which one?
Herod: We have only one, Caesar.
Augustus: I've never understood that, it's quite insufficient. Why don't you take some of our gods? You know, plenty of people do.
Herod: Believe me, Caesar, the one we have is hard enough to live with.

Livia: [to the gladiators] These games are being degraded by the increasing use of professional tricks to stay alive! And I won't have it! So put on a good show, and there'll be plenty of money for the living and a decent burial for the dead. And if not, I'll break this guild up and I'll send the lot of you to the mines in Numidia.

Postumus: [to Augustus] Oh, grandfather, open your eyes. Over the years, everyone you knew and loved has either died or disappeared. Do you think it was all an accident? My father Agrippa, and before him Marcellus, my brothers Gaius and Lucius, my mother Julia - now me.

Poison is Queen

Tiberius: [to Augustus, concerning Claudius] That grandson of yours could wreck the empire just by strolling through it.

Tiberius: [about Augustus] Gods know I've done my best. He's never liked me, never. Thirty years I've run his errands for him; I've fought on his bloody frontiers, collected his taxes. Never once has he put his hand on my shoulder and said "Thank you, what would I have done without you?" He sends me off again and doesn't even give me a goodbye, just "Get on your horse and ride." Well, damn him. I retired before once and I can do it again. Let his precious grandson run his empire for him. I'm sick to death of it.

Livia: No one can talk to you any more.
Augustus: Anyone can talk to me at any time, except you. You don't talk to people. You bully them.
Livia: This conversation is becoming ridiculous.
Augustus: No, this conversation was ridiculous from the start.

Livia: [to Claudius, concerning the Senate] They won't allow me in because I am a woman, and they won't allow you in because you're a fool. That's strange when you come to think of it: because it's filled with nothing but old women and fools.

Claudius: [To Livia's empty chair] Poison is queen! Poison is queen!

Some Justice

Tiberius: Has it ever occurred to you, mother, that it's you they hate and not me?
Livia: There is nothing in this world that occurs to you that does not occur to me first. That is the affliction I live with.

Tiberius: [to Livia] I tell you what I'm going to do. It's your letter: you stick to it. And if it's read in the House, I'll deny all knowledge of it and excuse you on the grounds of mental incompetence brought on by extreme old age!

Caligula: [to Antonia] Evil German woman! I'll burn your German house down!

Queen of Heaven

Claudius: [about Livia] We haven't even spoken for seven years. Did you know the last time she spoke to me was when Caligula burned the house down? Even then, all she said was, "If you haven't got a bucket, piss on it."

Livia: [about her horoscope]It's a present from Tiberius. Isn't that nice of him? Of course, what he really wanted to know is how much longer I'm going to live.

Claudius: Why do you allow Caligula to act like that?
Livia: Because it amuses me. And because he will be the next emperor of Rome. You don't believe me?
Claudius: If you say so, grandmother. You know I don't concern myself with higher politics. Still, what about Castor? And Caligula has two older brothers.
Livia: Castor is ill and Thrasyllus says he won't recover. He also says Tiberius will choose Caligula to succeed him.
Claudius: Why?
Livia: Vanity. Tiberius wants to be loved, at least after his death if not before. And the best way to ensure that-
Claudius: Is to have someone worse to follow him. He's certainly no fool.
Livia: He's the biggest fool in my family. I had always thought that that was you... but I think now I was wrong.

Livia: Claudius... I want to be a goddess.

Caligula: I hear you're dying, great-grandmother.
Livia: You won't forget your promise, will you?
Caligula: To make you a goddess? And what makes you think that a filthy, smelly old woman like you could become a goddess? Let me tell you something: :[gets into bed with her] Thrasyllus has made another prophecy. Told Tiberius. He said, "One who is going to die soon will become the greatest god the world has ever known. No temples will be dedicated to anyone but him in the whole Roman world, not even to Augustus." Do you know who that one is? Me. Me. I shall become the greatest god of all. And I shall look down on you suffering all the torments of hell and I shall say, "Leave her there. Leave her there forever and ever and ever." [kisses her on the lips] Goodbye, great-grandmother.

Reign of Terror

Tiberius: My dear, You look like a Greek tragedy.
Agrippina: And you look like a Roman farce.

[Antonia is sitting outside Livilla's locked door]
Livilla: [screaming and pounding from the inside] Mother! Let me out! Let me out!
Claudius: How long are you going to sit here?
Antonia: Until she dies.
Claudius: Dies? Dies? Have you gone mad? She is your daughter. How can you leave her to die?
Antonia: That's her punishment.
Claudius: How can you sit out here and listen to her?
Antonia: And that's mine. Leave me, Claudius. I shall not move from here until they open the door and find her dead.

Guard: I can't do it. I can't just kill them: they're underage.
Macro: They're on the list. Now get on with it.
Guard: The girl is a virgin. It's unprecedented to kill a virgin. It will bring bad luck to the city.
Macro: Then make sure she's not a virgin when you kill her. Now get on with it!

[on hearing the fate of Sejanus's children]
Claudius: [sobbing] Rome, you are finished! Finished! You are despicable.

Zeus, by Jove!

Caligula: [to Claudius] Go in peace. I was thinking about killing you, but I've changed my mind.

Hail Who?

Caligula: Do you think I'm mad?
Claudius: Mad?
Caligula: Yes. Sometimes I think that I'm going mad. Do you — be honest with me — has that thought ever crossed your mind?
Claudius: Never. Never. The idea is preposterous. You set the standard of sanity for the whole world.

Caesonia: Claudius, we must help him — the emperor.
Claudius: He's your husband: you help him.
Caesonia: Claudius, he's sick. He needs good people around him.
Claudius: He's killed them all!

Marcus: To tell the truth, lord, nature calls. It must have been something I ate last night...
Caligula: Don't look at me. If I decide to doctor your food, you won't have to wait until morning to find out.

Caligula: [to an unruly crowd] If you only had one neck, I'd hack it through!

Cassius Chaera [before killing Caligula]: The watchword, butcher, is liberty.

Fool's Luck

Senator: You are not fit to be Emperor.
Claudius: I agree. But nor was my nephew.
Senator: So what difference is there between you?
Claudius: He would not have agreed. And by now your head would be on that floor for saying so.

Claudius: Senators, it is true that I am hard of hearing, but you will find it is not for want of listening. As for speaking, again, it's true I have an impediment. But isn't what a man says more important than how long he takes to say it? It's true again I have little experience of government. But, then, have you more? I at least have lived with the imperial family who has ruled this empire ever since you so spinelessly handed it over to us. I've observed it working more closely than any of you. Is your experience better than that? As for being half-witted: well, what can I say, except that I have survived to middle age with half my wits, while thousands have died with all of theirs intact. Evidently, quality of wits is more important than quantity. Senators, I shall do nothing unconstitutional. I shall appear at the next session of the senate, where you may confirm me in my position or not as you wish. But if it pleases you not to, explain your reasons to them [points to the Praetorians], not to me.

Herod [to Claudius]: Trust no one, my friend, no one. Not your most grateful freedman. Not your most intimate friend. Not your dearest child. Not the wife of your bosom. Trust no one.

A God in Colchester

Mnester: Permit me to introduce myself. My name is Mnester, I'm an actor. Most people have heard of me.
Scylla: My name is Scylla, and I'm a whore. Everybody's heard of me.

Mnester [reciting a poem]
The golden hair that Gala wears is hers.
Who would have thought it?
She swears it's hers, and true she swears:
For I know where she bought it!

Mnester [reciting a poem]
You ask me how my farm can pay,
Since little it will bear.
It pays me thus: 'tis far away,
And you are never there.

Scylla: The difference between you and me, actor, is you're a snob and I'm not. And the difference between this great lady and myself is that my work is her hobby. My hobby happens to be gardening, for which I don't expect to be paid.

Quintus Justus: What am I to do?
Pallas: What can a dead man do? Go and get buried.

Old King Log

Claudius: By dulling the blade of tyranny, I reconciled Rome to the monarchy.

Claudius: Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.

Nero: What a pretty thing a fire is!

Narcissus: Unable to poison Claudius' food, Agripinilla must have poisoned hers. It was in a dish of mushrooms, which he loved and out of which she had been eating. He had finished his own and had called for more, which he often did. Then she offered him hers, out of her own dish. At first I thought nothing of it. When you're used to seeing someone eat out of a dish it doesn't occur to you that it may contain something different in just one part. And then, she lifted the mushroom onto her fork and held it out for him to take. I knew then there was something different about it. And I knew too, as certainly as I knew that, that he knew. He knew it was poisoned, that his end was near, and he didn't care. He welcomed it.

The Sibyl: Farewell, Tiberius Claudius, God of the Britons, one-time Emperor of the Roman world. Farewell.

Cast

Actor Character
Derek Jacobi Claudius
Siân Phillips Livia
George Baker Tiberius
John Hurt Caligula
Brian Blessed Augustus
Patric Stewart Sejanus
Margaret Tyzack Antonia
Patricia Quinn Livilla
John Paul Marcus Agrippa
Sheila White Messalina
Christopher Biggins Nero
Ian Ogilvy Drusus
David Robb Germanicus
John Castle Postumus
Fiona Walker Agrippina
Frances White Julia
James Faulkner Herod
Kevin McNally Castor
John Rhys-Davies Macro
Christopher Guard Marcellus
Stratford Johns Piso
Bernard Hepton Pallas
John Cater Narcissus
Barbara Young Agrippinilla
Beth Morris Drusilla
Actor Character
Simon MacCorkindale Lucius
Sheila Ruskin Vipsania
Angela Morant Octavia
Graham Seed Britannicus
Jo Rowbottom Calpurnia
Sam Dastor Cassius
Kevin Stoney Thrasyllus
Freda Dowie Caesonia & Sibyl
Irene Hamilton Plancina
Darien Angadi Plautius
Peter Bowles Caractacus
Norman Eshley Marcus
John Bennett Xenophon
Patsy Byrne Martina
Douglas Melbourne Gemellus
Karin Foley Helen
Earl Rhodes Gaius
Richard Hunter Drusus Caesar
Russell Lewis Young Lucius
Robert Morgan Young Caligula
Cheryl Johnson Claudia Octavia
Isabel Dean Lollia Paulina
Liane Aukin Aelia
Moira Redmond Domitia
Bernard Hill Gratus

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