|Written by||Ben Elton|
|Directed by||Matt Lipsey|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||3|
|No. of episodes||21 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer||Myfanwy Moore|
|Running time||30 minutes (series), 40 minutes (Christmas specials)|
|Original network||BBC Two|
|Picture format||16:9 1080i|
|Original release||9 May 2016 –|
Upstart Crow is a British sitcom based on the life of William Shakespeare. Written by Ben Elton, it premiered on 9 May 2016 on BBC Two as part of the commemorations of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. Its title quotes "an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers", a critique of Shakespeare by his rival Robert Greene in the latter's Groats-Worth of Wit.
The show is set from 1592 (the year of Greene's quotation) onwards. Shakespeare is played by David Mitchell; his wife, Anne Hathaway, is played by Liza Tarbuck; and Greene himself by Mark Heap. Shakespeare's father, John Shakespeare is played by Harry Enfield. The first series was directed by Matt Lipsey, with subsequent series being directed by Richard Boden.
The first series follows the writing and preparation to stage Romeo and Juliet after William has gained some early career recognition for his poetry, Henry VI and Richard III. Events in each episode allude to one or more Shakespeare plays and usually end with Will discussing the events with Anne and either being inspired to use, or dissuaded from using, them in a future work. Along with the many Shakespearean references (including the use of asides and soliloquies) there are also several references to the television shows Blackadder and The Office. There are running gags in many episodes: the casual sexism towards Kate's attempts to become an actress, Shakespeare's coach journeys between London and Stratford which refer to modern motorway and railway journey frustrations, and are delivered in a style that references the 1970s sitcom The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, Shakespeare (and in one episode Marlowe) demanding ale and pie from his servants or family, and Shakespeare frequently claiming credit for common turns-of-phrase that predate Elizabethan times (many of them now commonly misattributed to Shakespeare).
A 2020 Christmas special, "Lockdown Christmas 1603", depicted William and Kate during the plague of 1603, making references to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in Britain during the year of broadcast.
In September 2019, a stage play adaptation was announced for the Gielgud Theatre, City of Westminster, also written by Elton and with Mitchell and several others reprising their roles. The play opened on 7 February 2020 under the title The Upstart Crow: Elton commented that it was "an entirely original excursion, not a 'TV adaptation' ". The play reopened in the West End at the Apollo Theatre for a ten-week season from 23 September until 3 December 2022, with Mitchell and Whelan reprising the roles of William Shakespeare and Kate.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||6||9 May 2016||13 June 2016|
|2||6 (+1)||11 September 2017||16 October 2017|
25 December 2017 (special)
|3||6 (+1)||29 August 2018||3 October 2018|
25 December 2018 (special)
|S||1||21 December 2020|
- David Mitchell as William Shakespeare, aspiring playwright who wishes to overcome his humble origins. He commutes between his family's home in Stratford-upon-Avon and Central London, where he does most of his work. Recurring humour is drawn from parallels between Will's travels and frustration with modern day transportation.
- Liza Tarbuck as Anne Hathaway, wife of Will, an older and commoner woman.
- Paula Wilcox as Mary Arden, Shakespeare's mother, who looks down on Anne.
- Helen Monks as Susanna, daughter of Shakespeare and Anne. According to her mother, "a grumpy little bitchington."
- Harry Enfield as John Shakespeare, father of Will, formerly wealthy but less educated than his son. Will bases the Falstaff character on him.
- Gemma Whelan as Kate, daughter of Shakespeare's London landlady; she yearns to become an actress.
- Tim Downie as Kit Marlowe, playwright and spy. The series makes a recurring joke on the Marlovian theory of Shakespeare authorship, making Shakespeare the actual author of some of Marlowe's plays. Downie's portrayal resembles Lord Flashheart from Blackadder.
- Rob Rouse as Ned Bottom, household servant of Shakespeare. He is the namesake of Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
- Mark Heap as Robert Greene, Master of the Revels and author of Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit. Shakespeare's nemesis.
- Dominic Coleman as Henry Condell, actor, prominently of female roles.
- Steve Speirs as Richard Burbage, actor and leader of Will's theatre company.
- Spencer Jones as William Kempe, comic actor; his portrayal is a parody of Ricky Gervais.
- Jocelyn Jee Esien as Miss Lucy, pub landlady, native to Africa and a former slave. Based on the historical Lucy Negro.
- Kenneth Branagh as Colin / The Stranger
- Lily Cole as Ephie
- Adrian Edmondson as Sergeant Dogberry, who inspires the fictional constable
- Beattie Edmondson as Toby
- Noel Fielding as Thomas Morley
- Gabrielle Glaister as Judge Robert Roberts, a call back to her character Bob from Blackadder II and Blackadder Goes Forth
- Peter Hamilton Dyer as Sir Francis Bacon
- Adam Harley as Lord Southampton, Shakespeare's "Fair Youth"
- Montserrat Lombard as Emilia Lanier, the Dark Lady of the sonnets
- Ben Miller as Wolf Hall, an actor; a parody of Mark Rylance
- Ken Nwosu as Puck
- Nigel Planer as Lord Egeus
- Dan Tetsell as Earl of Oxford
- Emma Thompson as Queen Elizabeth
- Steve Toussaint as Othello
- John Sessions as Lord Inquisitor
- All Is True, another piece about Shakespeare written by Ben Elton.
- Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit - 1592 pamphlet, source of the phrase "upstart crow"
- "Upstart Crow". Radio Times. Retrieved 28 April 2016.[failed verification]
- "David Mitchell to play Shakespeare in new BBC sitcom". RadioTimes. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
- "David Mitchell to star as Shakespeare in new BBC Two sitcom by Ben Elton". BBC Media Centre. 7 December 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
- "Upstart Crow Series 2, Episode 1 – The Green-Eyed Monster". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
- "Upstart Crow will return for a second series plus a Christmas special in May 2017". Radio Times. 13 June 2016. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
- Guide, British Comedy (16 October 2017). "Upstart Crow gets Series 3". British Comedy Guide.
- "Upstart Crow is set to return for a third series". www.bbc.co.uk. BBC Media Centre.
- Singh, Anita (21 December 2020). "Upstart Crow, review: Is Covid comedy is a plagued format?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 December 2020.
- Wiegand, Chris (25 September 2019). "David Mitchell and Ben Elton's Upstart Crow sitcom to become stage show". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
- Programme, The Upstart Crow, Gielgud Theatre (2020), p. 
- Dustagheer, Sarah. "Upstart Crow: Shakespeare sitcom is really quite educational". Retrieved 31 August 2018.
- Dugdale, John (28 October 2016). "How close were Marlowe and Shakespeare?". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 September 2017 – via www.theguardian.com.
- Dessau, Bruce (26 May 2016). "TV Review: Upstart Crow, BBC2, Episode 3 – The Apparel Proclaims The Man". Beyond The Joke. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
- Dugdale, John (28 October 2016). "How close were Marlowe and Shakespeare?". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
- Elton, Ben (18 October 2018). Upstart Crow. Random House. ISBN 978-1473561229 – via Google Books.
- Raeside, Julia (10 May 2016). "Upstart Crow review: Ben Elton finds the comedy in Shakespeare's history". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
- Cowell, Rob (2 May 2018). "New Ben Elton comedy about Shakespeare takes a pop at… Ricky Gervais". Radio Times.
- "Emma Thompson to join the cast of Upstart Crow". www.bbc.co.uk. BBC Media Centre. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
- Low, Valentine (11 September 2018). "Mark Rylance ridiculed by upstarts over comedy of errors". The Times.
- Moore, William (12 September 2018). "Much ado about Shakespeare's plays, but Ben Elton has the last laugh". Evening Standard. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
- "Upstart Crow (TV Series 2016– )". Retrieved 2 August 2020 – via www.imdb.com.
- Raeside, Julia (10 May 2016). "Upstart Crow review: Ben Elton finds the comedy in Shakespeare's history". the Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
- "Upstart Crow's David Mitchell on Shakespeare, Peep Show and jokes". Independent.co.uk. 6 September 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2018.