The BBC Television Shakespeare is a series of British television adaptations of the plays of William Shakespeare, created by Cedric Messina and broadcast by BBC Television. Transmitted in the UK from 3 December 1978 to 27 April 1985, the series spanned seven seasons and thirty-seven episodes.
Development began in 1975 when Messina saw that the grounds of Glamis Castle would make a perfect location for an adaptation of Shakespeare's As You Like It for the Play of the Month series. Upon returning to London, however, he had come to envision an entire series devoted exclusively to the dramatic works of Shakespeare. When he encountered a less than enthusiastic response from the BBC's departmental heads, Messina bypassed the usual channels and took his idea directly to the top of the BBC hierarchy, who greenlighted the show. Experiencing financial, logistical and creative problems in the early days of production, Messina persevered and served as executive producer for two years. When he was replaced by Jonathan Miller at the start of season three, the show experienced something of a creative renaissance as strictures on the directors' interpretations of the plays were loosened, a policy continued under Shaun Sutton, who took over as executive producer for seasons five, six and seven. By the end of its run, the series had proved both a ratings and a financial success.
Initially the adaptations received generally negative reviews, although the reception improved somewhat as the series went on, and directors were allowed more freedom, leading to interpretations becoming more daring. Several episodes are now held in high esteem, particularly some of the traditionally lesser known and less frequently staged plays. The complete set is a popular collection, and several episodes represent the only non-theatrical production of the particular play currently available on DVD.