Judi Dench and Shakespeare

Judi Dench has played in multitudes of Shakespeare performances in the past 60 years. She has portrayed a wide variety of characters both on stage and screen. Her very first Shakespeare performance was as Titana in a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream at her New York boarding school in 1953 when she was 18. She reprised that role in a 1962 theatre, in 1968 in a stage performance recorded for film, and most recently in 2010, again on the stage.

Judi Dench (center) as Titania 1953
Judi Dench (left) as Titania 2010


Titania isn’t the only character from Midsummer Dench has portrayed, however. She also had roles at First Fairy (1957) and Hermia (1960), both on stage.

In this interview, Judi Dench talks about learning Shakespearean. She describes how director Peter Hall (of the 1968 performance) would tap out the rhythm of speech for the actors, and how that helped her understand his language.


Below is a list of the Shakespeare performances (stage and film), Judi Dench has been involved in as an actor or director.

Note: it was actually easier to copy the entire list and take out the non-Shakespeare performances from the list since she has been in so many!

Year Title Role
1957 Hamlet Ophelia
A Midsummer Night’s Dream First Fairy
1958 Twelfth Night Maria
Henry V Katharine
1959 As You Like It Phebe
1960 Richard II Queen
Romeo and Juliet Juliet
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Hermia
1962 A Midsummer Night’s Dream Titiana
1963 Macbeth Lady Macbeth
Twelfth Night Viola
1968 The Winter’s Tale Hermione/Perdita
Twelfth Night Viola
1971 The Merchant of Venice Portia
1976 Macbeth Lady Macbeth
Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice
The Comedy of Errors Adriana
King Lear Regan
1979 Macbeth on stage (filmed) Lady Macbeth
1987 Antony and Cleopatra Cleopatra
1988 Much Ado About Nothing As director
1989 Macbeth
Hamlet Gertrude
Henry V (Film) Mistress Quickly
1993 Romeo and Juliet As director
1996 Hamlet  (Film) Hecuba
2003 All’s Well That Ends Well The Countess
2010 A Midsummer Night’s Dream Titania/Elizabeth I
2015 The Winter’s Tale Paulina


  1. Hi Mikaela,
    I enjoyed reading your post, as the information was easy to process and therefore really caught my attention. You didn’t overwhelm the post with an abundant amount of information (it was just the right amount, to be informative yet not boring) about the works of Judi, and thus allowed me, as reader, to enjoy reading the information. I enjoyed the aspect of you including all of her involvement in Shakespearean plays  – to me your post covered all the grounds which was asked in the question.  Good job!


  2. Hi Mikaela,

    Thanks for your great entry on Judi Dench and her Shakespeare connection. The interview you posted and how Peter Hall assisted Judi in finding the rhythm of Shakespeare was very interesting. In tutorials when acting out the scenes, this is what I struggled the most with. Perhaps in rehearsal for our performance, I will use this method! I was also unaware that Judi was also a founding member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, though in hindsight, this makes perfect sense!

    What I find intriguing is that Judi played the role of Titania 48 years apart! I also love that when she played the part in 2010, it was Judi Dench as Elizabeth the 1st as Titania. Just a great way to approach the part and I feel excellent way of bringing the play to stage in a brand-new way. I can also imagine the amount of experience and knowledge Judi held when approaching a character, she last played when she was 28!

    Hope you’ve enjoyed exploring Shakespeare as much as I have this semester.


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