Drama on 3 | The Rival

The Sonnets

An erotically charged re-imagining of how Shakespeare came to write the sonnets. Written by Jude Cook. In 1590, young dramatist and actor William Shakespeare is called to Titchfield House, seat of the Countess of Southampton where he’s hired by Lord Burghley to write a series of sonnets encouraging the young Earl of Southampton to marry Burghley’s granddaughter. When the playhouses are closed due to plague in 1592, Will is forced to flee London to live at Titchfield, where he’s given a second commission to write a poem for the Countess’s son. However, Will finds himself writing secret sonnets in praise of the ‘lovely youth’. To complicate matters, he’s also attracted to Aline, the wife of the young man’s tutor, John Florio, occasioning more poetry about a ‘Dark Lady’. When middle-aged poet and translator George Chapman arrives, Will sees he has real competition – professionally and personally, for the Earl’s affections. The sonnets have since become the most anthologised of Shakespeare’s words – memorised, recited and translated around the world. The play is introduced by Dr Will Tosh, Research Fellow and Lecturer at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.


Licence: ERA Licence required

  • Type: Entertainment
  • Channel: BBC Radio 3
  • Duration: 1'30'00''
  • Broadcast date: 2021

UK only
Staff and students of licensed education establishments only
Cannot be adapted

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  • Shakespeare Archive Resource