A Review of Morse Episode, ‘The Death of the Self’. Plus the Locations, Music and Literary References.

Hello everyone and welcome to my latest post. I’m sorry that this post is a overdue but circumstances at home have kept me busy. Thank you all for your patience and I hope you enjoy this post.


Chronologically this is episode 23. (Series 6 episode 3).

First broadcast in the UK on 25 March 1992.

This episode is not based on a Colin Dexter novel.

Where’s Colin?

Colin does not appear in this episode. It has been written elsewhere that he appears in the crowd attending the opera at the end of the episode but it isn’t him.

Directed by Colin Gregg: Colin also directed “Who Killed Harry Field?” He also directed three episodes of John Thaw’s other hit series Kavanagh QC; – “A Sense of Loss” (1996) “Heartland” 1995) “Nothing But the Truth” (1995).

Written by Alma Cullen: She also wrote “The Secret of Bay 5B”, “The Infernal Serpent” and  “Fat Chance”.


During the inquest of the death of May Lawrence her husband Kenneth Lawrence breaks down while giving evidence. He talks about some conniving, pressure and threats. The coroner decides to allow Kenneth Lawrence some time to compose himself and adjourns to a later date.

Kenneth Lawrence, who owns a bookshop, leaves the country and heads to Vicenza, Italy where his wife was killed.

Chief Superintendent Strange decides to send Morse and a reluctant Lewis to Italy to investigate the circumstances surrounding May Lawrence’s death but more importantly to find out if Russell Clark, a convicted fraudster  is involved. Morse was responsible for for the capture of Russell Clark in 1985 and holds him in very low regard.

While in Italy Morse suspects that Russell Clark and Kenneth Lawrence may be involved in the selling of counterfeit rare manuscripts. But what is the connection to the death of May Lawrence.

Russell Clark, after being released from prison, went to Italy to start a business called The Selfhood Trust. The Trust is a psychotherapy clinic to help those to shrug off their past and help them move on with their lives. One of their clients is the opera singer Nicole Burgess who some years previously suffered stage fright and is on the verge of making a comeback.

Of course Morse has most of her recordings and finds himself falling in love with her. Can Morse “stay out of the byways” as Chief Superintendent Strange so elegantly put it to Morse and go straight for Clark.

(warning, this review may contain some spoilers)

There are two reasons for loving this episode (or four if I’m being crude), the delectable Frances Barber and THAT green top she inadvertently wore back to front. I like to think of myself as an intelligent, thoughtful man without a sexist bone in my body but goddamn I’m also a red bloodied male and would be a liar if I didn’t admit that Ms Barber looks delicious in that top. Do I need to say anymore about the episode? I suppose I should. 😉

This episode is like a mirror image of the Morse episode, The Promised Land. In that episode, set in Australia, Lewis loves the country while Morse is uncomfortable and outside his comfort zone. In this episode Lewis is the uncomfortable one who is outside his comfort zone. Morse on the other hand is in his element. Morse is front and centre in his comfort zone. I wonder if Morse, having been given the opportunity, would have been happy being a policeman in Italy.

There are not many places that could contend with the beauty and grandeur of Oxford but Vicenza comes a very close second. Though Morse has never been to Vicenza he strides through the strade like someone who has lived there all his life.

The director and camera crew made the most of the beautiful cities of Vicenza and Verona and the luscious scenery that surrounds the two cities. What also brings the episode to life is the bright, luminous natural light that makes everything from buildings to the streets and even clothes look like they have absorbed the sunlight.

The cast as so often in a Morse episode are excellent but special mention must go to Michael Kitchen as Russell Clark. Kitchen plays the self assured and charming but conniving Clark with apparent relish and aplomb. Unlike so many actors who play villains in much of today’s films and TV shows he never strays into the territory of making him look or act like a cartoon or pantomime villain. Michael’s acting creates the dichotomy of feeling charmed and revolted by the character. Personally I also love Michael’s voice and its that voice that helps to create the aforementioned dichotomy.

I hate my own voice. When I was younger and my friends dreamed of becoming actors or footballers or musicians I dreamt of waking up one morning and having a voice like Orson Welles or Richard Burton. If I had been aware of Michael Kitchen at that time I would also have added him to my list of wanted voices.

The episode is well written and moves effortlessly from a whodunit murder to art forgery. The episode has more red herrings than an Agatha Christie novel so keeping the viewers on their collective toes and makes them work that bit harder to solve the mystery.

The direction is deceptively simple with no overbearing jump cuts or ostentatious camerawork. Colin Gregg the director correctly allowed the country of Italy to do work for him. He uses only slow pans and dolly shots and limited edits to allow the episode to flow gently but workmanlike, not dissimilar to the Bacchiglione during the summer months.

Episode Jag Rating – out of 10.


The first piece of classical music we hear is nine minutes into the episode when Lewis and Morse (or Moose 🙂 ) arrive at Vicenza train station. The music is by the Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741). The musical piece is from Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Mandolini in G Minor.

The RV code in the title of the video above relates to the Ryom-Verzeichnis or Ryom Verzeichnis (both often abbreviated RV) a (now standard) catalog of the music of Antonio Vivaldi created by Peter Ryom. The catalog is often used to identify Vivaldi’s works by a simple number.

The Concerto for Two Mandolini replays several times through the episode: at 13 minutes and 25 seconds when Morse, Lewis and the Italian policeman are walking through the strade and piazza. The piece occurs again when Morse, Lewis and Claudio Battisti first arrive at Clark’s abode at the 16 minute and 10 seconds mark.

At 39 minutes and 38 seconds Nicole Burgess is driving Morse to her house and again we hear the Vivaldi piece.


At 24 minutes and 45 seconds we hear Nicole Burgess sing in the lobby of Morse’s hotel. She sings Caro Nome form Verdi’s Rigoletto.


At 56 minutes and 25 seconds we have Nicole Burgess singing in The Arena in Verona while Morse listens . The piece is the aria Signore, Ascolta! from the opera Turandot by the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini (1858 -1924).

This piece is heard again at the end of the episode when Nicole Burgess performs in front of an audience.

Literary References.

I only came across one reference in the episode and that was around the one hour and 24 minute mark. Lewis is in his room attending to Morse’s head wound. Morse says, “Stop being a nursemaid Lewis…Not so deep as a well, and nor so wide as a church door. But, twill serve..”

This is from Romeo and Juliet Act 3, Scene 1.  Romeo breaks up a fight between Tybalt and Mercutio. Mercutio is stabbed.

MERCUTIO: I am hurt. A plague o’ both your houses! I am sped. Is he gone and hath nothing?

BENVOLIO: What, art thou hurt?

MERCUTIO: Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch. Marry, ’tis enough.
Where is my page?—Go, villain, fetch a surgeon.


ROMEO: Courage, man. The hurt cannot be much.

MERCUTIO: No, ’tis not so deep as a well nor so wide as a church-door, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve. Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man. I am peppered, I warrant, for this world. A plague o’ both your houses! Zounds, a dog, a rat, a mouse, a cat to scratch a man to death! A braggart, a rogue, a villain that fights by the book of arithmetic! Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm.


There are only a few paintings in this episode and only one I can fully identify. At 12 and a half minutes we are inside Nicole Burgess’s villa. On the wall are two paintings.

The painting on the left is possibly of the architect of the villa, Vincenzo Scamozzi. The portrait on the left I believe maybe Andrea Palladio. The Pisani families supported Palladio’s career. The Pisani family have owned the above mentioned villa for hundreds of years.


When Nicole is showing Morse around the vineyard they visit a small cottage. On the wall is a painting.

The above is a very poor copy of a painting by the Italian painter Elizabeth Sirani (8 January 1638 – 28 August 1665). The painting is titled Herodias with the head of John the Baptist.

Interesting choice of painting to have in the above scene and i’m sure it was a deliberate choice. Herodias and her daughter Salome were often used as subjects in paintings to show the power of women.

Herodias asked for the head of John the Baptist as a reward from her husband Herod Antipas. Herodias’s daughter Salome delivered the head to her mother.

Nancy has provided the following information.

A variation of Arena de Verona opera poster on the wall outside the diva’s dressing room appeared on two occasions during episode “The Death of the Self.”

In Lewis’ hotel bedroom on wall above the bed, there is picture

“A View of the Arena in Verona 1744.”


I suppose the first thing to do is establish where Vicenza and Verona are in Italy.

First up is Vicenza railway station at 9 minutes.

Here is a video someone uploaded recently to Youtube of Vicenza railway station.

The hotel that Lewis and Morse stay in while in Vicenza.

This hotel is not in Vicenza but in Verona where Morse and Lewis will visit later in the episode.

The hotel is adjacent to the Santa Anastasia Church as can be seen in this shot from the episode.

Here is a recent view of the church.

Why they filmed the scene in Verona rather than Vicenza I can only speculate. It’s possible the setting was more favourable and it was easier to film at that location. Maybe the actors were staying at this hotel so it made sense to film there as well. Only speculation.

At 20 minutes and 49 seconds Morse and Lewis are walking in Vicenza.

The stairs that Morse and Lewis are walking down are known as  Portico della Basilica Palladiana.

At 31 minute mark Lewis and Alistair Haines are walking through Vicenza.

This area is called Piazza dei Signori.

At just over 32 minutes Morse is talking to Kenneth Lawrence at the house owned by May and Kenneth Lawrence.

The above house is the Trento Carli Villa in Costozza.

At 40 minutes Nicole Burgess drives Morse to her villa.

The above building is the Villa Pisani, also known as La Rocca Pisana in Lonigo, Veneto, Italy.

At 52 minutes Nicole arrives for her rehearsal at the ancient Roman amphitheatre the Arena in Verona.


Well let us start at the obvious place and that is the singing voice of Nicole Burgess. The ‘voice’ of Nicole is the wonderful Janis Kelly. Who is she? She is the wonderful opera singer who not only sings many of the soprano pieces used in many of the Morse, Lewis and Endeavour series but also provides the voice for those actors playing singers.


The Glasgow born actor and singer is the voice of Rosalind Stromming in the Endeavour Pilot episode. She is the voice in Endeavour singing from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, ‘Un bel de’ (One Beautiful Day).

In the  Endeavour pilot episode she is also the soprano voice at 27m42s singing ‘Signora, Ascolta’ from Puccini’s Turandot. (This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Volume 2 also sung by Janis Kelly and used in the Morse episode ‘The Death of the Self’ first aired 25th march 1992. Yes guys, THAT episode).

Also from the Endeavour episode the soprano is Janis Kelly singing ‘Terzettino ‘Soave Sia Il Vento’ by Mozart. (This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Volume 2 also sung by Janis and used in the Morse Episode ‘Happy Families’ first aired 11th march 1992)

Janis Kelly’s voice is also heard in the following episodes of Morse:

  • ‘The Day of the Devil’ first aired 13th January 1993. She was the soprano voice singing ‘Adieu Notre Petite Table’ from Manon by Jules Massenet. This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Volume 3).
  • ‘The Death of the Self’ first aired 25th March 1992. Janis is the voice of Francis Barber’s character Nicole Burgess.
  • ‘Cherubim and Seraphim’ first aired 15th April 1992. Janis is the soprano singing ‘Che Faro Senza Eurydice’ by Von Gluck. This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Volume 2.
  • ‘Absolute Conviction’ first aired on the 8th April 1992. Janis sings ‘Mitradi Quell’ Alma Ingrata by Mozart. This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Volume 2.
  • ‘Masonic Mysteries’ first aired on the 24th January 1990. Janis sings ‘Bei Mannern’ – Welche Liebe Fuhlen’ by Mozart from The Magic Flute. This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Volume 3.
  • ‘Promised Land’ first aired on the 27th march 1991. Janis sings ‘Hab’mir’s Gelobt’ from Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Volume 3.
  • ‘Second Time Around’ first aired 20th February 1991. Janis Kelly sings ‘Senza Mamma’ from Suor Angelica by Puccini. This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Vol. 1.


Next up is the array of film posters on the Italian police station walls. The main one behind Claudio Battisti is a Sylvester Stallone film, Cobra. Terrible film.

Other film posters on the wall are;

Second from the left is the execrable Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol’. Next to that is the excellent Terminator. I don’t recognise the others.


Strange that John Thaw looks at the camera at one hour 37 minutes and stranger that they kept the shot in and didn’t retake the scene or edit it out. Possibly the crew were under time constraints.


Christopher Hunter as Andreas Heller / Louis Picard

Julia Goodman as May Lawrence

Allan Mitchell as Coroner

Peter Blythe as Kenneth Lawrence

Frances Barber as Nicole Burgess

Georges Corraface as Claudio Battisti

Georgio Serafini as Tomaso Salafia

Jane Wenham as Judith Haines

Jane Snowden as Maureen Dyson

Jolyon Baker as Guido Ventura

Alan Rowe as Alistair Haines


Kate Harper as Patti Wilcox

Here we are at the end of another post and hard to believe that there are only ten more Morse episodes to review. I will need to get my thinking cap on as to what I will do after those ten episodes have been reviewed. Take care everyone.

Author: Chris Sullivan

Up until a few years ago I was my mum's full time carer. She died in, 2020, of Covid. At the moment I am attempting to write a novel.

118 thoughts

  1. Love this episode- one of my favourites definitely in the top 5. It’s as if one goes to Italy along with Morse and Lewis- the architecture, buzz of the streets, the lovely bright sunlight and music. It’s great to see Morse brighten up and be in his element- played brilliantly by John Thaw. I love the exchange between them about asking for Lewis to attend his son’s sports’ day. Not sure Morse would have been so accommodating back home.
    I am visiting Italy this summer but sadly won’t make it to Verona or Vicenza- will have to go again another time.

  2. Wonderful story, wonderfully told by Chris Sullivan. Yes, I thought I might have been transported to Verona also. One minor point… did Chris Sullivan really like the movie “Terminator?” Very popular, I know. Being from California, I always thought Arnold S. was a barely-capable actor who morphed into a barely-capable Governor. But then, in the States, we have a long tradition of questionably competent people rising in politics. Just look at the current House of Representatives and Senate. Excellent review, though, and thank you.

  3. By far my most favourite episode. A cheerful, sympathetic, affectionate Morse is the detective at his very best.
    Lewis has his own renaissance, morphing from anxious father into a bit of a culture vulture willing to stop in Italy long enough to enjoy the performance of Turandot.
    I have always had a problem with Maureen’s time line..how can she be on the plane to America and hitting Morse over the head.
    Secondly the American dancing Queen whose frame harboured the parchment …was she in on the scam?

    1. Hi Loretta. The American knew nothing about the scam. She was a stooge being used by Russell Clark. The main reason Maureen was going to America was to remove the fake paintings from the American’s belongings.

  4. Hello and thank you for this real treasure trove! I’m watching Inspector Morse for the first time, having first fallen in love with Endeavour. You make a giant work, full of interesting insights and information.
    Being Italian, I particularly enjoyed this episode. I can help with the first film poster from the left (the two on the right are being covered and impossible to recognise, I’m afraid). “Via Montenapoleone” (1986, by Carlo Vanzina) is your typical Italian comedy of the 80s, quite a blockbuster at the time. Rather trashy, but we’ve seen worse. Via Montenapoleone is the most fashionable street in Milan, where all the most famous Italian stylists have their shorooms.
    A very small contribution, but I’m so glad I’ve been able to make one!

  5. I’m very much enjoying your reviews as I re-watch all the Morse series. I’m sure someone has already noted (too many great comments to read all) but of course, Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is also set in Verona. That has nice resonance with this episode. Here, Lewis once more finds himself in the ‘nurse’ role. I’m also enjoying watching Lewis’ own character development – note what a stylish dancer he is!

    1. Hello carol and welcome to my website. Lewis’s character development is very good in the Morse series as is the relationship shifts between Morse and Lewis.

  6. Please tell me who murdered May Jackson? Is that ever revealed? Or did she simply lose her footing and fall on the spike?
    Thank you very much.?

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