I, Claudius: Season 1, Episode 4

What Shall We Do About Claudius? (4 Oct. 1976)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama | History
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Six years have passed. Germannicus has joined Tiberius in the Germanian campaign, to avenge the Roman legion slaughtered at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Claudius remains at home, ... See full summary »

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Title: What Shall We Do About Claudius? (04 Oct 1976)

What Shall We Do About Claudius? (04 Oct 1976) on IMDb 8.2/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
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Fiona Walker ...
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Postumus
Norman Shelley ...
Horace
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Donald Eccles ...
Pollio
Denis Carey ...
John Truscott ...
Librarian
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Storyline

Six years have passed. Germannicus has joined Tiberius in the Germanian campaign, to avenge the Roman legion slaughtered at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Claudius remains at home, researching his family history and despised for his weakness - he faints at the gladiatorial games. In the library Pollio the historian advises him to accentuate his deficiencies. That way he will not be seen as a threat in the murderous world about him and has a greater chance of survival. Augustus names Postumus as his successor but Livia aims to thwart him. She gets Livilla to invite him to her room and then claim that he tried to rape her. Postumus is banished but manages to briefly escape before recapture and tells Claudius that he believes Livia killed Marcellus, Agrippa, Lucius and Gaius and that Claudius should inform Germannicus. He too advises the young man to play on his weaknesses. Some time later Claudius is again an object of scorn as he is married to the considerably taller Urgulanilla. Written by don @ minifie-1

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Drama | History

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Release Date:

4 October 1976 (UK)  »

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Quotes

Augustus: What is going on here?
Postumus: [indicating Livia] Ask *her*. She knows.
Augustus: I'm asking you.
Livia: He'll incriminate all of us before he's finished.
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What Should Claudius Do About Himself?
29 July 2012 | by (Cieszyn, Poland) – See all my reviews

"Do you want to live a long and useful life? In that case, exaggerate your stammer and your limp, let your wits wander and play the fool as much as you like." (Pollio's advice to young Claudius)

In the previous episode, Claudius was a twitching, stammering boy who did not deserve 'contemporary' attention. 'A model of idiocy' to his family, or 'embarrassment' in the least severe cases. With this in mind, the title of this episode, "What shall we do about Claudius?" somehow stimulates our curiosity. The first person Plural creates an assumption of a family scheme.

With some knowledge of the source novel by Robert Graves, one can deduce the fact that there are letters between Augustus and Livia in which they discuss Claudius' role in the coming games: where to seat him, how to endure his company, what to do about him. Should he appear in public as an equal member of the imperial family? Such a fool growing up to be an adult son of noble Drusus? Jack Pulman, however, deals with that aspect only 'in between the lines' making it one of 'many' issues being dealt with by Augustus and Livia. The title, therefore, occurs to mislead our expectations. Along with some best scenes of the episode, we would rather ask "What should Claudius do about himself?" But in the almost flawless depiction of a 'library scene' quoted at the beginning, we accompany Livia's yet another dilemma: "What shall we do about Postumus?" But before coming to Postumus, let me first focus on the protagonist. This episode, actually, in its flashback introduces young Claudius played by wonderful Derek Jacobi.

It is AD 9 so Claudius is a young adult, yet, he is cruelly ignored by others. That is nicely depicted in a visual manner of the opening flashback scene of (again) a Roman feast. Apart from many new characters within the imperial family, including Germanicus (David Robb), Horace presents his opus (implying a historical error). But this is not Claudius' world...it cannot be. It is neither in family pleasure nor in male duty. A historical background to the episode is bad news about Varus and three legions vanquished in Germania. Soon we find Claudius at a place where he really belongs with his interests and a place that best describes his inner world of the time – LIBRARY. He gathers historical information because he is keen on writing about his father, the republic follower. Will anyone care about 'a fool's efforts?' Hal Himmelstein nicely observes this aspect in his article saying that "in the Imperial Rome of his (Claudius') day, obsessed with the exercise of power through treachery and brute force, such preoccupations of the mind were considered little more than idle pastimes." Was there anyone who could listen to his ideas? In one of the best scenes of the entire serial, two people who represent the intellect of the period actually realize he is not an idiot but a keen historian and a clever diplomat. Livy is somehow overcome by his pride but Pollio notices a great intelligence in young Claudius. The advice that he gives him in the scene echoes in the events to come. Yes, the struggle to survive in the world corrupted by power and decadence is never achieved by revealing your intellect. There will be a time in the episode when Claudius hears the same advice from someone else, someone who is predominantly present in this episode. As Livia wisely observes a strange coincidence of mind, "as always, we come back to Postumus."

Postumus (John Castle) is the youngest and only surviving son of Julia and Agrippa. In the finale of the previous episode, he was a desperate kid who asked sadly: "Where is my mother? Where are my brothers?" Now he is an adult with quite a sympathetic eye from Augustus who could offer him a sweet fig for his future existence. No wonder he becomes a victim of poison that spreads in the imperial family: two women and their wicked scheme. Played by John Castle, Postumus is a combination of young man undeniably charmed by desire and naive man easily trapped in clutches of serpent's plot. The scenes are almost flooded with very provocative images that symbolize the ever present roar of evil, its sarcasm, its deception, its destructive power. Livia (Sian Phillips) and Livilla (Patricia Queen), in their talk of 'perfect manipulation' highlight the ruthless work of cold, controlled, closely knit wicked plan. Almost unforgettable in her Virgin-like clothing and posture, Livia remains mute. A wolf disguised as a lamb, a roaring lion as a sheep. Yes, when evil resorts to silence, it puts all possible values upside down. It celebrates its short-lived victory. It directs towards unrestrained sarcasm. Sian Phillips handles the moments exceptionally. Augustus somehow moves to shadow for the sake of other character performances.

Apart from the Postumus' plot, the episode boasts of an aspect of Roman life that made the empire so evocative – gladiatorial games. How funnily the scene opens with Claudius sitting down on the imperial chair! It's not your time yet, Clau Clau! Although there is not a slightest graphic depiction of actual fights, we are absorbed by the scene of games due to characters' reactions from fancy of gambling through skepticism to the blood lust in .... a woman. Although the polemics of Claudius and Herod Agrippa (James Faulkner) finds its historical resemblance of two constructive world views of the time (the Romans and the Jews), Claudius is least historical here. Actually, he promoted games and loved violence being watched...however, how would it be possible to like a protagonist who shouts lustfully: Kill him!

Laughter again...laughter that makes I CLAUDIUS so stagy, laughter that tells more than words and mocks even more intensely than insults. The wedding of Claudius and Urgulanilla is presumably a greatest mockery in the serial. And yet, he who laughs last laughs best...


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