‘Upstart crow’ is the derisive nickname his posh fellow playwright Robert Greene gave to middle-class rival William Shakespeare.
How – Greene argues – could a mere glovemaker’s son from Stratford-upon-Avon possibly be the greatest writer of all time when he didn’t even go to Cambridge?
As we continue to be ruled by a government dominated by ex-public schoolboys – this very topical premise is one of the many reasons why Ben Elton’s sitcom Upstart Crow – which returns for a second series on BBC2 – has struck a chord with audiences.
David Mitchell – the deft comedy actor who plays Shakespeare – the ‘Upstart Crow’ of the title – asks in mock horror: ‘How could Britain possibly be run by a public-school elite?
How on earth could that happen?’
Upstart Crow – which may well be Elton’s finest work since his other celebrated historical sitcom – Blackadder – has also chimed with audiences because at its centre lies a classic sitcom figure: an aspiring man whose attempts to make it big are forever thwarted by circumstances beyond his control.