I watched this with my Godmother in the early days of my working on crypto during the day, surfing at dawn, and carousing at night. Those parts rhymed well with the exquisite tale told by Claudius. But I never imagined the story of a Republic collapsing into mad egoistic decadence would come true in my Republic in my lifetime.
Might I say, ENJOY!
I watched the series when it was first rerun on PBS in the summer of 79. Bought the Graves book (“I Claudius” and “Claudius The God”) and read them too.
First take-away, don’t marry an ambitious woman who has a son from a previous marriage.
One of the books had a Herod family tree, but not a Claudian tree, so I pieced together a Claudian tree: Augustus poisoned by his wife to make her son Tiberius Emperor. Tiberius snuffed by Caligula’s guard so Caligula could be Emperor. Caligula killed by his own Praetorian Guards, who then declared Claudius Emperor. Claudius poisoned by his wife so her son Nero could be Emperor. I can’t remember for sure now, but I think it was Nero who tried to kill his mother. Previous attempts had failed, so he suggested she take a vacation in North Africa. He had a ship specially built for the trip, designed to fall apart at sea, so mother dear would drown. The designers erred and the ship came apart while still in sight of land, and the old girl swam ashore.
It is one of the best things ever made for TV. I also watched it on its first run in the US on PBS.
Excellent bit, early in the series: an old guy is giving young Claudius some advice; accentuate his (l)imp, and his stutter, and play the fool as much as he likes, and he may live a long life.
And you get to see Patrick Stewart with hair, tho I’m pretty confident it’s a really bad wig.
Yes, but Siân Phillips as Livia was one of the best things about the series.
The books have details that the series omits. Livia was using a chest of poisons that someone had found in the east somewhere, and bought for Livia. The underside of the lid had a painting of Medusa on it, and the face in the painting was a dead ringer for Livia. When she died, a couple guys took that chest offshore and dumped it in the water. Moments later, vast numbers of dead fish floated to the surface of the water.
That series seems to have made Derek Jacobi a star. Now, nearly 50 years later, if it was remade, Jacobi could play the elderly Claudius without any makeup.
Very true. And true of most books made into cinematic productions.
The tv series, though, was excellent. Well-acted, with often sparkling dialogue. And of course, Graves was not writing history but historical fiction, albeit very scholarly and accurate in the sense that he used many classical sources.
Yes. I gather much of the content was drawn from Suetonius, and embellished with gossip.
If it were truly an apt tale for our time we’d give House members swords and daggers and let them fight it out for speaker. Et tu, Matt?
Well put. Let me hit that ball back.
Swords and daggers are old tech and leave the identity of the cause of mayhem too obvious. Nowadays we have electronic game techs and social media, and “caesars” and would be “caesars” along with the congresscritters can motivate mayhem from a safe distance… Et tu, Jim?
I enjoyed the series the first time around and also read the books.