November 9, 2012

The Bard and the Beatles


Over the years, an impressive array of the world’s greatest talents has performed the works of Shakespeare on stage and screen. Think Sarah Bernhardt in Hamlet, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in The Taming of the Shrew, or Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in Romeo + Juliet (alright, maybe not).

Now, add to the list … John, Paul, George, and Ringo?

That’s right, the Beatles once tried their hands at the Bard’s words as well, with predictably comic results. On a 1964 television special called Around the Beatles, the Bards of Liverpool marked Shakespeare’s 400th birthday with a performance of the play-within-a-play Pyramus and Thisbe, from Act V of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Amid heckles both scripted and not, the show brought the house down, not least because of the boys’ additions to the text. Thus, the Lion’s ad libbed entrance:

“…Then know that I, one Ringo the drummer, am / for if I was really a lion, I wouldn’t be making all the money I am today, would I?”

Without further ado, here’s the full performance:



Christopher King is the Art Director of Melville House.