On stage, the classically trained, stark-featured English character actor John Shrapnel wove a forceful, occasionally even scabrous dramatic undercurrent into his evocations of the figures inhabiting the great tragedies of literature. Maintaining a frequent presence at theaters such as The Aldwych, The Warehouse, and The Piccadilly, Shrapnel earned enthusiastic notices for his supporting contributions to productions of Julius Caesar, The Greeks, Hamlet, and innumerable others. On camera, the thespian built up a massive resumé beginning in the early '70s and emphasized both television and cinematic work. Filmed roles in the early years (such as that of Petya in the 1971 Nicholas and Alexandra, or that of Hector in the 1982 Troilus and Cressida) seemed primarily an offshoot of his theatrical stock, but by the late 1980s, he expanded his repertoire to include more commercial (Hollywood-oriented) fare. On that note, Shrapnel did effective supporting work in films as diverse as How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989), 101 Dalmatians (1996), and K-19: The Widowmaker (2002). Producers still often reserved him for classical and/or historical roles, however, per his portrayal of Lord Howard in Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007).