I, Claudius

Season 1 Episode 5

Poison is Queen

Aired Unknown Oct 11, 1976 on BBC Two

Episode Recap

Emperor Claudius continues his history, pillaging the very cellars of the palace for documents. He finds Augustus' will . . .

Four years have passed and Germanicus returns in triumph, having vanquished the Germans. He goes to Claudius and the brothers discuss their marriages - Claudius is unhappy with both his wife and new son but delighted to be reunited with his brother.

Germanicus asks Claudius about Postumus - Claudius was unwilling to write him explicitly for fear of Livia reading his letters. He repeats Postumus' tale of being framed for attempting to rape Livilla. He goes on to Postumus' theories of how Livia has been clearing a path to the throne for Tiberius. Germanicus believes him and speaks to Augustus.

Augustus tends his garden when Livia approaches him. She asks him if he is going to see Postumus on a coming trip to Corsica. He denies it and pretends to be senile, but his attitude concerns Livia. She confronts Livilla, asking if she told Augustus the truth. Livilla suggests Claudius told him, but Livia is convinced her grandson is nothing but a fool.

Augustus visits Postumus, who is bitter over his exile. Augustus begs his forgiveness, telling him that Claudius has told him all through Germanicus. He promises to bring Postumus back to Rome as soon as he can.

The Chief Vestal is brought to Livia. Livia tells her that she thinks Augustus has altered his will to leave money to the vestals and the Chief Vestal confirms that he changed his will. Livia then persuades the vestal to give her access to the will so that she can make sure the vestals will be provided for.

Soon after, Augustus falls very ill. Livia drinks heavily as she listens to his groans. Augustus is convinced that there have been portents of his death. Livia speaks to Claudius, who exaggerates his afflictions severely. She dismisses him, threatening to cut off his head if it doesn't stop twitching.

Livia tells Tiberius that Augustus has changed his will to favor Postumus. Tiberius loses his temper, saying he doesn't care any more. Livia tells him not to travel too fast to his next duty.

Augustus comes to see Claudius. He tells Claudius he's cured himself by eating figs from his garden and milk from his cow. He tells Claudius that he's misjudged him - he's realized Claudius isn't as much of a fool as he appears. He admits to having his own Republican sentiments and then tells Claudius that he has seen Postumus and changed his will to bring him back. He promises to speak to him more in the future - he's found a new friend.

At Capri, Caesar is gambling with his friends when he is suddenly taken ill. He is taken to his chamber after exchanging a meaningful look with Livia. He refuses to eat anything touched by human hands - he'll only take figs from his garden that he picks himself.

Livia visits him later. As he dies, she tells him that everything she's done, she's done for Rome - as a Claudian should. After he's gone, she tearfully closes his eyes. Tiberius arrives and she tells him not to eat the figs.

She tells the Senate that Augustus is merely sleeping and then meets with Sejanus, a young soldier. She sends him out to kill Augustus' lawyer and Postumus before Augustus' death is announced. The will is read, which names Tiberius his chief heir.

Claudius visits Livia to give his condolences. He tells her that Tiberius has been named Caesar and that they are debating whether to make Augustus a god. He explains some signs that have been seen, but she ignores him. She clutches a document and laughs that the Senate merely think they've read Augustus' will.

Decades later, the Emperor Claudius shakes the real will at the empty room, shouting "Poison is Queen!"