Dame Judi Dench has recalled causing on-stage chaos when she blundered over one of William Shakespeare’s lines, adding in the word “erection”.
The veteran performer starred opposite her late husband Michael Williams in an early 70s production of The Merchant Of Venice by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Dench, 84, accidentally mispronounced “election” as “erection”, provoking “unrest” and causing the band the walk off stage “in shock”.
Speaking on the Graham Norton Show, Dench discussed her dislike of The Merchant Of Venice, Shakespeare’s tragicomedy in which protagonist Antonio struggles to repay a large loan.
She said: “I have never been fond of it. Everyone in it behaves very badly. Against my will I did once play Portia the first year I was married and Mike played Bassanio, and I had a speech to him and I made a terrible, terrible mistake.
“Instead of saying, ‘I speak too long; but ’tis to peize the time, to eke it and to draw it out in length, to stay you from election,’ I said ‘erection.’
“The wind band that was about to play put down their instruments and walked off the stage in shock. It caused a lot of unrest.”
Dench appears alongside Sir Kenneth Branagh in the film All Is True, which details the final years of the Bard’s life.
Asked which of them had a better knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays, Sir Kenneth replied: “Of course, she does.”
He added: “When I started paraphrasing his words in the film, she just laughed and finished the end of the scene properly. We kept that in. She definitely knows more than me.”
All Is True is in Cinemas on February 8.