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Shakespeareana

Available versions

1972: Charlton Heston

1974: John Scoffield

1981: Jonathan Miller

1984: Lawrence Carra

2015: Jonathan Munby


Related

Macbeth, 1954: George Schaefer (extras)

2015: Shakespeare Uncovered, Season 2, Episode 5


Antony and Cleopatra
1972: Charlton Heston

This is one of the earliest attempts to put Shakespearean drama into a big-screen epic context, with sweeping vistas and lush cinematography. It is variably successful, I think, and some of the dynamics of Shakespeare’s dramatic architecture are obscured in the sheer sweep of the 1960s-1970s sensibility of how historical costume dramas were to be made. This is by the man who was Ben-Hur, after all.

That being said, it’s a respectful and well-acted version overall. Heston himself prized his own Shakespearean roots in live theater, and his dedication shows. His delivery is often more declamatory than it needs to be; he seems to shout his way through what might have been rendered more reflectively to better effect. But there’s a range of acting styles here: the cast is intriguingly composed of veteran Shakespeareans with much more experience than Heston’s, and others whose lines had to be dubbed for them by Richard Johnson (who himself played Antony in a later version). Among the luminaries here are Jane Lapotaire (Charmian) who later plays Cleopatra herself in the BBC Shakespeare Plays rendition. Julian Glover (Proculeius) also presents an interesting and nuanced character. John Castle’s Octavian is nearly as cold as his Geoffrey in The Lion in Winter; perhaps the most engaging and nuanced character of the lot is Eric Porter’s Enobarbus.

All in all, this is a magnificent, beautiful film, following on the heels in in the spirit of other such sword-and-sandals enterprises as Ben-Hur and Kubrick’s Spartacus. One of the most interesting personal encounters of the play — the first meeting of Octavius and Mark Antony — is set against the background of a gladiatorial combat, in what may well be a deliberate hommage to a particular scene in Spartacus: as there, initially, the fighting seems almost irrelevant, adduced merely to add period glamor and color; as it unfolds, however, it slowly reveals the indifference of the main players to matters of life and death in their immediate vicinity, and it mirrors the verbal combat that they’re at the same time engaged in.

Whether all this really adds up to the right treatment for Shakespeare’s text, which is written for and best suited to the more intimate contexts of the Globe, is another question. It’s certainly worth seeing, as a demonstration of how much variety can be brought to bear on this material. If you can only see one version, probably one of the others would be more to the point.


Agrippa: Douglas Wilmer

Alexas: Juan Luis Galiardo

Canidius: Sancho Gracia

Charmian: Jane Lapotaire

Cleopatra: Hildegarde Neil

Enobarbus: Eric Porter

Eros: Garrick Hagon

Guard: José Manuel Martín

Iras: Monica Peterson

Lepidus: Fernando Rey

Maestro: Enrique Alba

Marc Antony: Charlton Heston

Mardian: Emiliano Redondo

Menas: Peter Arne

Menecrates: Fernando Bilbao

Messenger #1: Joe Melia

Messenger #2: Sergio Krumbel

Octavia: Carmen Sevilla

Octavius Caesar: John Castle

Pompey: Freddie Jones

Proculeius: Julian Glover

Scarus: Warren Clarke

Sentry: Manolo Otero

Soldier: Felipe Solano

Soothsayer: Roger Delgado

Thidias: John Hallam

Varrius: Luis Barboo

Ventidius: Aldo Sambrell

Voices of Lepidus, Alexas, and Ventidius: Richard Johnson