TV Review: Upstart Crow, Episode 6, The Quality Of Mercy

For those armchair critics that have been constantly comparing Ben Elton’s Upstart Crow to Blackadder there was a delicious surprise in the final episode featuring Gabrielle Glaister from his old series which made it clear that Elton knew the similarities were there when he first put quill to paper to write this comic celebration of the bard.

So I won’t go into a lot of detail about the final episode except to say that it is one of the best in the series. As the title, The Quality of Mercy, suggests, it is peppered with references to The Merchant of Venice, with Shakespeare investing money badly – ie he is stitched up by his nemesis Robert Greene – and facing a painful penalty.

There is certainly no lack of ambition in the script that even includes a few lines of Latin just for the classical scholars in the audience. There are also plenty of more accessible gags that are basically modern Ben Elton quips about the difference between men and women. He also has a typical Eltonesque dig at city traders that was possibly as valid then as it is now. 

The only shame here is that with such a big starry cast luminaries such as Harry Enfield and Paula Wilcox haven’t really had enough to do. Full marks to everyone involved though. And great to hear at the end of the broadcast the announcement that there will be a second series. Maybe with a cameo from Rowan Atkinson or Tony Robinson.

Catch up on iPlayer here.

Read review of Episode 1 here.

Read review of Episode 2 here.

Read review of Episode 3 here.

Read review of Episode 4 here.

Read review of Episode 5 here.

 

 

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