Bill. Bill Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton). Copyright: BBC Films / Cowboy Films


  • 2015 film

Comedy film charting the young life of William Shakespeare and his finding fame in London, starring the cast of Horrible Histories. Stars Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond

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Bill. Image shows from L to R: Lope Lopez (Laurence Rickard), Juan Domingo (Simon Farnaby), Bill Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton), Anne Hathaway (Martha Howe-Douglas), King Philip II of Spain (Ben Willbond), Gabriel Montoya (Jim Howick). Copyright: BBC Films / Cowboy Films

Key details

Laurence Rickard, Ben Willbond and Richard Bracewell
Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard, Ben Willbond, Helen McCrory, Damian Lewis and more
Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond
Richard Bracewell
Charles Steel, Alasdair Flind, Tony Bracewell, Richard Bracewell, Alice Dawson, Christine Langan, Joe Oppenheimer, Ben Roberts and more

Midlands lutist Bill Shakespeare is distraught when his fellow Mortal Coil players kick him out of the band for being too avant-garde. But Bill has dreams: he's written a fantastic play, and dreams of having it performed in London.

Meanwhile, relations between England and Spain are at all all-time low. The Catholic Spanish king, Philip II, imprisons an English spy and one of Queen Elizabeth's favourites, Sir Richard Hawkins, leaving the monarch with no alternative but to invite her Papist counterpart to England to discuss terms for his release. King Philip accepts, but has more than a simple diplomatic mission in mind.

In the Queen's court, the boastful Lord Crawley Croydon proclaims he is the greatest playwright in the land, and has a piece that can be performed for the celebrations surrounding the coming Spanish guests. Unfortunately for Croydon, it's a complete lie - and writing turns out to be much harder than he'd imagined!

Bill, meanwhile, sets out for London to make his name, with his wife, Anne, and children not far behind. Disillusioned and at a loss as to how to find his way in the bustling Tudor city, a chance meeting in a pub with a fellow writer and part-time thespian, Christopher Marlowe, seems to provide the young Shakespeare with just the guidance he needs...

It's a tale of murderous kings, spies, lost loves, and a plot to blow up Queen Elizabeth. Can one man prove the quill is mightier than the sword?

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Additional details

Where there's a quill, there's a way!
UK certificate
94 minutes
UK release
Friday 18th September 2015
Camera set-up
Single camera
Music performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Website links

Broadcast details

Most recent repeats
  • Friday 5th January 2024 at 8:55am on CBBC
  • Sunday 5th November 2023 at 2:20pm on BBC1
  • Saturday 28th January 2023 at 5:20pm on CBBC

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