I, Claudius: Season 1, Episode 11

Fool's Luck (22 Nov. 1976)

TV Episode  |  Not Rated  |   |  Drama, History
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Claudius accepts the crown and spares all the conspirators except Cassius for killing Caligula's wife and family. He also deifies Livia. Messalina, having borne him children, persuades him ... See full summary »



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Bernard Hepton ...
John Cater ...
Moira Redmond ...
Lyndon Brook ...
Sam Dastor ...
John Bennett ...
Norman Eshley ...
Geoffrey Hinsliff ...
George Little ...
Neal Arden ...
James Fagan ...


Claudius accepts the crown and spares all the conspirators except Cassius for killing Caligula's wife and family. He also deifies Livia. Messalina, having borne him children, persuades him to let her rule alongside him and brings in senator Silanus as an aide, Silanus marrying Domitia, Messalina's mother. However Messalina attempts to seduce Silanus, leading him to try and kill Claudius, for which he is executed. Not for nothing has Claudius's friend Herod Agrippa warned him to trust nobody. Written by don @ minifie-1

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Plot Keywords:

messalina | baby | See All (2) »


Drama | History




Release Date:

22 November 1976 (UK)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The corn supply is discussed by Claudius. This might be thought an anachronism by viewers in North America, Australia or New Zealand, where "corn" means maize, unknown to the Romans. But in the UK and elsewhere it means any cereal crop major to a region or locality. In Latin the word would have been "granum". See more »


Claudius: [Cassius Chaerea and three senators are on trial for murdering Caligula] I cannot find it in me to condemn you, Cassius, for murdering my nephew. But you also murdered the lady Caesonia and their child, and you meant to murder me and my wife, none of whom had ever done you any harm. Is this true?
Cassius Chaerea: I did it for the Republic, and I'd do it again.
Claudius: No, you did it more for injuries to yourself. But even *that* doesn't weigh with me. What weighs with me is what I've heard: that it was agreed among you ...
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User Reviews

Republican's Bad Luck
7 October 2012 | by (Cieszyn, Poland) – See all my reviews

  • "Trust no one, my friend, no one. Not your most grateful freedman.

Not your most intimate friend. Not your dearest child. Not the wife of your bosom. Trust no one!" (Herod Agrippa)

  • "Noone? Not even you?" (Claudius)

A.D. 41 "Long live the emperor!" is being heard in the most unusual circumstances...The source novel by Robert Graves, I CLAUDIUS, came to its 'climactic final moment' when the most shocking aspect of the Sybilline prophesy came true. The sequel, CLAUDIUS THE GOD, the literary source of the three remaining episodes (starting with this one), depicts the 14 year-long reign of our protagonist. Made the ruler of Rome by the Praetorian Guard, he is indeed the only man in the empire who does not want to be an emperor; yet, he is chosen to be one. Not fit to be an emperor? A 'funny chap' who has played a fool for all his life and HAS done nothing extraordinary but merely survived? So little and yet so much... A republican doomed to bad luck? There is much he says to the Senatorial assembly but one statement highlights the very gist of his features: "quality of wits is more important than quantity"

All is about to come to normality in the empire (being sometimes even historically idealized) and the new emperor at last uses his brains instead of lusts (occurs clever while dealing with justice and state affairs). But that finds no relevance within the imperial family. Caught within the claws of a scheme, Claudius proves to be absorbed by 'fool's luck' in his yet another disastrous affair with a woman. Hal Himmelstein, quoted several times before in my reviews, memorably puts this: "while Claudius was wise in matters of history, he was apparently less so in matters requiring discernment of human character. His repression as a child led to his weak reliance on other people as an adult, especially the ruthless women in the Imperial family."

No doubt that Episode 11 calls our attention to Claudius as an emperor. This is actually his chance, the beginning of his reign, the beginning of his policy. Not only an adult but an emperor! That resembles little boredom of historical accuracy but rather fills our imagination with excellent psychological assumptions. We mostly empathize with him at his speech to the senators. It occurs, however, that the major problem lies in the fact he DOES NOT want to be an emperor - it is the bad luck of a republican he has always been. Therefore, he does not act totally on himself but is ADVISED by everybody around. These pieces of advice come from King Herod Agrippa (James Faulkner) - the wonderfully symbolic touch of their dialog I contained at the beginning; they also come from some 'frank' senators who try to accuse Claudius of not being fit for the emperor; from the sarcastic self-confident physician from Greece. Finally, the pieces of advice come from the person who causes and will cause most trouble within the heart of the empire, Claudius' young wife Messalina.

Skillfully played by Sheila White (she is all beautiful, tempting, daring, shocking and still easily empathized with), Messalina of Herbert Wise's I CLAUDIUS is truly a sort of biblical 'whore of Babylon,' a woman-serpent who burns inside, manipulates and makes all men around 'simpletons' within the skillful and wretched web of her schemes. Although she refers to Livia in some of the moments (including her desire to deal with the administrative matters), she differs considerably from Augustus' wife and from all other female characters of the series. She is the Messalina to be remembered, the unique woman driven by lusts and desires that have their roots in early childhood. In that case, she is not mature. The moment with Appius Silanus (Lyndon Brook) whom she brings back from Spain, allegedly to marry her mother, is a gorgeous representation of what happens with a young person who rises too high long before she actually realizes she is not yet grown up. A sort of rebellious, pretentious teenager on a high position in the empire...Sheila White gives a magnetic performance - from subtlety, passion of dreams to disappointment and rage - "You forget who I am!" she says to Appius Silanus. She achieves the climax of panic combined with two-fixedness at the finale of the episode. Simply unforgettable Sheila White...more of her interpretation of Messalina awaits us in the next episode... Poor Claudius, anyway.

The supporting cast of the episode include characters who are practically of no greater relevance to the story and serve, in a way, to fill the dramatic relations that grow within the imperial court. The three, actually, Derek Jacobi, James Faulkner and Sheila White, share one of the greatest scenes of the series when the positions and intentions of them all are clear to us: Messalina's clever manipulations, Herod's revealing advice and Claudius' honesty and honor. But Derek Jacobi and Sheila White, indeed, hold viewers' interest throughout.

Republican's bad luck? Perhaps! But who cares what Rome is when the soon 'tired emperor' is the single most important person in the empire. Dangers actually hide nearer than one could suspect...

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