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Six Centuries of Verse

8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Poetry’s highlights through the years, as read by distinguished actors

Rediscover the music of the spoken word as John Gielgud (Arthur) conducts a grand tour of English-language poetry through the centuries. Compiled by poet and literary critic Anthony Thwaite, these works show the power of verse to stir the emotions and fire the imagination. They include not only classics by Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Whitman, and Yeats, but also surprising, often-overlooked gems. Gielgud provides the literary and historical context for each, while readings by outstanding British and American actors reveal the rich textures and seductive rhythms in every line.

The performers include Peggy Ashcroft (A Passage to India), Lee Remick (Days of Wine and Roses), Stacy Keach (Mike Hammer, Private Eye), Ralph Richardson (Doctor Zhivago), Ian Richardson (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Julian Glover (By the Sword Divided), and Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs), among others.

One of the finest Shakespearean actors of his generation, John Gielgud won an Oscar®, Emmy®, Grammy, and Tonys® during his long career. An accomplished poet and writer, Anthony Thwaite received the Order of the British Empire for his services to poetry in 1992.


Special Features

  • 20-page viewer’s guide includes what to listen for, questions to consider, avenues for further learning, glossary, English verse by era, and more.
  • Lives of the Poets
  • About the Actors SDH subtitles

Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Athena
  • DVD Release Date: April 27, 2010
  • Run Time: 410 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0035ECI1M
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,164 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Harold Wolf TOP 50 REVIEWER on March 8, 2010
Sure to heighten your appreciation of poetry regardless of current level. A terrific presentation for the intellectually curious, or those literary enthusiasts who wish a sprinkling of some of the world's and history's greatest verse. Sir John Gielgud (Brideshead Revisited,) presents and occasionally reads poems. Many British stars assist, some since deceased. Like a university course: Brit Bards 101.

1 Chaucer to Ted Hughes--Intro of poetry from 14th-20th century. Sets the tone for following episodes.

2 Old English--Episode jumps ahead of the 6 centuries for an OE poetic treat. Some old English religious verse, riddles, plus 'Boewolf.'

3 Chaucer--1st poem written in English done by Chaucer, presented in middle-English spoken word. A Canterbury delight. Good dramatization sets and film locations--you'll beg for the 'Tales' in completeness.

4 Medieval-Elizabethan--Carols, heartfelt sentimental verse, & even social comment abounded in an abundance of preserved Medieval poetry by common people & upper-class. Sonnets.

5 Shakespeare--Plucks out poetic moments of several Shakespeare plays. More, much more, RECOMMENDED viewing found in the DVD called "PLAYING SHAKESPEARE".

6 Metaphysical & Devotional--John Donne's, 'The Flea' opes the episode, metaphor of an insect and lovers. Metaphysical branded to poetry of Donne and other. Great footage inside Medieval Rycote Chapel, Oxfordshire.

7 Milton--Milton, blind prior to either marriage, wrote a sonnet 'On His Deceased Wife'. He's better known for "Paradise Lost", 1667, also covered here.

8 Restoration & Augustan--Satire is the focus. Contemptuous, the intent. Poets use words to slap the faces of aristocrats, politicians, and even themselves.
Read more ›
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Robin Simmons VINE VOICE on April 11, 2010
Rediscover the beauty of the Britain's mother tongue as Sir John Gielgud conducts a grand tour of English-language poetry through the last six centuries. Compiled by poet and literary critic Anthony Thwaite, these works show the power of verse to stir the heart and fire the imagination. They include not only classics by Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Whitman, and Yeats, but also surprising, often-overlooked gems.

I liked again hearing the American poets. Especially Egar Allan Poe's "The City in the Sea" and Emily Dickinson's "Because I Could Not Stop for Death." And (British) Romantic Realist Rudyard Kipling's "The Windhover." There's a treasure trove of superb writing here, too long to list. It's amazing to me how careful consideration of spoken words can heighten emotion so much more than the mere reading of the same. These poems are clearly meant to be heard.

Gielgud provides the literary and historical context for each, while readings by outstanding British and American actors reveal the rich textures and seductive rhythms in every line.

The performers include Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Lee Remick, Stacy Keach, Sir Ralph Richardson, Ian Richardson (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Julian Glover and Sir Anthony Hopkins, among others.

It's been said that the extraordinary power of the spoken word cannot be described but only felt. Listen to these immensely gifted performers as they read and recite the words that we continue to hold dear -- the words that confirm our humanity and our ability to be civilized. There is hope for us all when we recall the things we most have in common.

The three-disc boxed set includes a 20-page viewers guide. Athena. (Unrated, Full Frame, 16 Episodes, 410 Minutes)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Customer X on September 12, 2010
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You can't take your eyes (and ears) off the screen. Great English spoken here. Spoken by some of the richest voices of several generations.

Except for Emily Dickinson, who I think gets short-changed, this expanded my appreciation of every poet surveyed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Eagle on January 31, 2013
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If you believe that good poetry is a close relative of good music SIX CENTURIES OF VERSE is a collection for you. One does not hear a really good piece of music and say, “Okay, I’ve heard it now and never have to hear it again.” That would be absurd and certainly does not apply in this case. The enjoyment of music is there for you for your lifetime. The same holds true for good poetry. It is there to be enjoyed for a lifetime just as a good piece of music is. Someone once said that the way to read poetry is to read it again. With the SIX CENTURIES OF VERSE video collection you can hear and read (with the English subtitles) these classic poems for years whenever the mood strikes you. And what voices are here to read these works to us; John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, Ralph Richardson, Ian Richardson, Julian Glover, Anthony Hopkins, Stacy Keach, and others. If you are a person who can be thrilled with the power of language you will not watch this collection only once, but will come back to it again and again. As is true for all general collections you will find imperfections, things missing, particularly contemporary works, but with a survey like this that spans six hundred or more years there is plenty to keep you busy for a long time.
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