MCM: Derek Jacobi


Veteran of the stage, as well as the big and small screen alike, Sir Derek Jacobi’s career goes back 50 years and covers every era from Ancient Rome to the modern day. And it just so happens that yesterday, October 22, was his 79th birthday, that means we celebrate his contributions to historical film and TV like the fangirls we are!


Othello (1965) – Cassio

Othello (1965)


Much Ado About Nothing (1967) – Don John

Much Ado About Nothing (1967)


Three Sisters (1970) – Andrei

Three Sisters (1970)


The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (1973) – Mr. Drew

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (1973)


The Pallisers (1974) – Lord Fawn

The Pallisers (1974)


I, Claudius (1976) – Claudius

I, Claudius (1977-78)


Richard II (1978) – Richard II

Richard II (1978)


Hamlet (1978) – Hamlet

Hamlet (1978)


The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982) – Dom Claude Frollo

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982)


Little Dorrit (1987) – Arthur Clennam

Little Dorrit (1987)


Henry V (1989) – Chorus

Yeah, I know, he’s not in period costume as Chorus, but I don’t care. I love this prologue so much.


The Story Teller: Greek Myths (1991) – Daedalous

The Story Teller: Greek Myths (1991)


Hamlet (1996) – Claudius

Hamlet (1996)


Cadfael (1994-98) – Brother Cadfael

Cadfael (1994-1998)


The Wyvern Mystery (2000) – Squire Fairchild

2000 The Wyvern Mystery


Gladiator (2000) – Gracchus

Gladiator (2000)


Gosford Park (2001) – Probert

Gosford Park (2001)


Inquisition (2002) – Cardinal Grand Inquisitor

Inquisition (2002)


The King’s Speech (2010) – Archibishop Cosmo Lang

The King's Speech (2010)


Ironclad (2011) – Baron Reginald de Cornhill

Ironclad (2011)


The Borgias (2011) – Cardinal Orsini

The Borgias (2011)


Titanic: Blood and Steel (2012) – Lord Pirrie

Titanic: Blood and Steel (2012)


Cinderella (2015) – King

Cinderella (2015)


Murder on the Orient Express (2017) – Edward Masterman

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)


What’s your favorite of Derek Jacobi’s historical costume role?

32 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    It’s Cadfael and ‘Claw-Claw’ Claudius although Lord Fawn would win my Most Clueless Aristocrat award. And the Chorus from Henry V is a close second.

    • Lady St. Columb

      Archibald Craven – The Secret Garden (1987) – my favourite adaptation by the by.

      And Cadfael for obvious medieval reasons.

      • Melanie Clark

        Definitely the best adaptation of The Secret Garden. And Colin Firth even makes an appearance! Chopin’s Nocturne in Eb so haunted me as a kid that I had to learn how to play it as an adult.

        • Lady St. Columb

          Oh my goodness, me too! I play the first few measures or so in a medley I made when introducing people to piano. : )

          And also as far as added atmosphere for the film – Highclere will always forever first and foremost be Misselthwaite Manor and NOT – Downton Abbey!

          When I was a girl I so wanted to be the lady of the house and envisioned a way to jump-roll-land to not get killed when the tree branch fell and live happily ever after with the brooding perfect voiced Jacobi as Archibald!

          Thank you for jogging that memory forward!

      • Sarah Lorraine

        The Secret Garden was a huge part of my childhood, in both book form and film. I grew up with Jacobi’s version of Archibald Craven, but I couldn’t find ANY good images of him from the film when it came time to do this post. It pained me to not include it on this list, but if we can’t find images and there’s not enough time to watch the film and screen cap it, we just skip it. :-/

  2. Jenno

    Anything with that voice. I did love him striding across the fields in his trench coat in Henry V — reminded you this is supposed to be a stage play where you can see the edges, not an immersive cinematic piece.

    Of everything he’s been in, I Claudius is probably my favorite for the scope of it, mid-70s videotape crappy production values notwithstanding. He did a modern-day detective flick with Kenneth Branagh in the 90s called Dead Again where he got to bring back Claudius’s stammer, and my friend and I were the only nerds in the theater screeching with joy to hear it. He elevates whatever he appears in, like Gladiator and Cinderella. That voice!

    • Sarah Lorraine

      I almost included Dead Again on this list… It’s technically a historical film, but Jacobi’s character is a little boy in the 1940s scenes.

      It was one of my favorite films as a teenager, and probably one of the most overlooked Brannagh films out there. There was a time when I wanted to decorate my sewing studio with huge hanging sculptures of scissors thanks to it. ;)

  3. Inkstain#35

    He’s amazing in everything! I will always have a soft spot for I, Claudius and Cadfael.

    Though not technically a historical costume role, I also have to give a special shout out for his performance on an episode of Frasier as a terrible Shakespearean actor – the exaggerated death gasps crack me up every time!

  4. MrsC (Maryanne)

    Clavdivs all the way. As for Cadfael, sadly I discovered the audio books then the books first, and he is so far from the original in physicality and manner I can’t warm to it. Cadfael was a swarthy welshman. Jacobi wold ave made a wonderful Prior.

  5. anna

    Pleeaaze Ladies! Be kind enough not to use black-and-white pictures in the teaser for these kinds of celebatory posts. Mondays are hard enough as it is, no need for unnecessary heart attacks!

  6. Charity


    He played Arthur Clennam in an earlier version of Little Dorrit?! MUST SEE IT.

    Cadfael is my favorite, but I also love his character in “Gladiator.” That line about, “He knows what Rome is. It’s the MOB” always sends chills up my spine. So, so true, then and now.

    I freely and willingly admit that I may or may not have watched some… err… a lot… of his later stuff because he was in it. ;)

  7. melponeme_k

    It looks like this man found the Fountain of Youth! LOL. He hasn’t really changed all that much.

    Loved him in I,Claudius.

  8. Shirley

    It makes me happy to see all the I, Claudius love here! Barely anybody I know in irl has heard of it, which makes me sad, because I reference it all the time. Even named my Chihuahua Claudius because I loved it and Jacobi’s performance so much.

  9. Kathleen Norvell

    While I love all of them, I saw “Richard II” FOUR TIMES! Listening to Derek Jacobi speak Shakespearean verse was almost a religious experience.

  10. crystabrittany

    So I first discovered Derek Jacobi in Cadfael and that was only a few years ago. I was like, “WHO IS THIS FELLOW!” And now, this list, be still my heart. Can’t wait for Murder on the Orient Express (for many reasons, but he’s high on the list).

  11. Cheryl from Maryland

    Saw him live at the Old Vic in 1978 in “The Lady’s Not For Burning,” which is a terribly romantic play modern Elizabethan style play. His leading lady was Eileen Atkins. I was in the front row, so I could see the force of his voice and the spit that accompanied it, some of which landed on me. Well, if you have to be spit on by someone …

  12. Lynne Connolly

    At one point in my life I became obsessed with seeing all the versions of Hamlet I could possibly get to. So I saw a lot. I’ll leave the worst one in the bin, but Jacobi’s was the best – I saw him live on stage and got the BBC Hamlet version.
    He brought a light, intelligent subtlety to the part which worked perfectly. It seemed natural rather than imposed, or an opinion of the actor
    The Hamlet I regret missing most was Simon Russell-Beale, followed by Mark Rylance. Both of those were supposed to be spectacular.
    Jacobi has the gift of inhabiting historical costume as if it’s natural, as if he belongs in it.

  13. Lynne Connolly

    Oh, and I forgot. His version of Alan Turing is far superior to Bumblebee Cariatrack’s, even though I’m not averse to a bit of the Cumber from time to time. You can see the whole play (the Jacobi one) on Youtube. That’s historical costume, isn’t it?

  14. Karen K.

    Saw him at the Garrick last summer in Kenneth Branagh’s Romeo & Juliet, he was Mercutio and was by far the best part of the production (it was set in 1950s Italy which was pretty cool). And I’m embarrassed to say I still haven’t seen I, Claudius but perhaps now is the time.

    I did just see the new Murder on the Orient Express and CANNOT WAIT for the Frock Flicks reviews. Jacobi is sadly under utilized but then so is pretty much everyone.