Shakespeare Plays Available in Video Format
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All’s Well That Ends Well
Antony and Cleopatra
As You Like It
The Comedy of Errors
Coriolanus
Cymbeline
Hamlet
Henry IV, part 1
Henry IV, part 2
Henry V
Henry VI, part 1
Henry VI, part 2
Henry VI, part 3
Henry VIII
Julius Caesar
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King Lear
Love’s Labour’s Lost
Macbeth
Measure for Measure
The Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Much Ado About Nothing
Othello
Pericles
Richard II
Richard III
Romeo and Juliet
The Taming of the Shrew
The Tempest
Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus
Troilus and Cressida
Twelfth Night
Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Winter’s Tale
Shakespeareana

Available versions

1982: Elijah Moshinsky

2015: Michael Almereyda


Cymbeline
2015: Michael Almereyda

The box containing the DVD of this film bills trumpets a reviewer’s assessment of it as a “mashup of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and ‘Game of Thrones’”. Whatever one thinks of those, one will notice that neither of them is “Shakespeare”. The quotation is carefully trimmed from David Rooney’s review in The Hollywood Reporter. What he actually says is, “But the central conceit simply doesn’t hang together well enough to create credible dramatic stakes, yielding an underpowered mashup of Sons of Anarchy with Game of Thrones.” It’s probably well to consider this film in those terms. It’s definitely more mashup than play, and more anarchy than Shakespeare.

Opinion may differ over whether making Shakespeare’s weirdest romance into a modern biker-gang story is inventive genius, or simply an instance of free association that could better have been dismissed as a bad idea. Ed Harris is the leader (“the king”) of a motorcycle gang in cahoots with a bunch of crooked policemen (inexplicably called “Roman”). Everything is played out in those terms. There are motorcycles, dive bars, torch singers, cocaine, skateboards, iPads, Che Guevara teeshirts, and a television showing the image of Barack Obama. Apparently these are essential to any modern production of Shakespeare.

In all fairness, yes: there is a bit of Shakespeare too. The words that are spoken are Shakespeare’s, or at least derived from Shakespeare’s text. But they are cherry-picked and falsely contextualized much as the reviewer’s quotation was — to such an extent that one might as well have turned this into almost any story. The film is not much over an hour and a half, while Cymbeline is actually one of Shakespeare’s longer plays. To further diminish Shakespeare’s input, most of the screen time in the film is given not to words, but to action.

The main point of such an operation seems to be to invite the admiration for the cleverness of those who can change one story into another one without altering the scripts. As such, it seems more exhibitionism than art, and even if it were clever, it wouldn’t shed much light on Shakespeare. Unsurprisingly, critics were not invariably impressed. Nor am I.

The main players here are Ed Harris (Cymbeline), Ethan Hawke (Iachomo), Penn Badgley (Posthumus), and Dakota Johnson (Imogen). None of them is in all or even most contexts a bad actor, but none really has much feel for Shakespearean language. (In the thirteen years that have elapsed since Ethan Hawke played Hamlet, he still does not seem to have arrived at a genuine understanding of the words he’s speaking.) The grandeur of this weird play is rendered up as a basically tawdry and inconsequential matter, and its emotional freight is scattered to the winds. A few of those nearer the edges of the play seem to understand it better: Delroy Lindo’s Belarius’ lines occasionally catches a glimmer of the poetic lyricism of the play. But without support, no single actor can carry the whole of the play.

All in all, if you want to see two versions of the play, you will have to see this one, since there are (so far) only two. Otherwise, why would you bother? It was a bad idea from the start.


Amy: India Reed Kotis

Arviragus: Harley Ware

Belarius: Delroy Lindo

Biker (uncredited): James Connelly

Biker (uncredited): Kristoffer Infante

Biker Bartender: Harriet Parker Mann

Briton Biker: Ace Buhr

Briton Biker: Brian McCarthy

Briton Biker: David Schwartz

Briton Biker: Dominick Sabatino

Briton Biker: Gordan Ramsay

Briton Biker: Lawrence Whitener

Briton Biker: Manolo Tenes

Briton Biker: Matthew L. Imparato

Briton Biker: Reno Laquintano

Briton Biker: Ross Pino

Caius Lucius: Vondie Curtis-Hall

Cloten: Anton Yelchin

Cymbeline: Ed Harris

Dr. Cornelius: Peter Gerety

Emerson: Emerson Ray Rosenthal

Emily: Isabelle Link-Levy

Frechman: Diego Cortez

Fu Manchu: Mauricio Ovalle

Guiderius: Spencer Treat Clark

Gun Shop Owner: Mel Slater

Gun Shop Woman: Helen Phillips

Halloween Kid: Aubrey Pilson

Halloween Kid: Jack Pilson

Helen: Charly Bivona

Iachimo: Ethan Hawke

Imogen: Dakota Johnson

Lucky: Jorge Marcos

Man in Mini-Mart: Irvin Gooch

Philario’s Playmate: Rachel Rossin

Philario: James Ransone

Pisanio: John Leguizamo

Posthumus: Penn Badgley

Quarry Cop 1: Paul Lazar

Quarry Cop 2: J.D. Williams

Roadie #1: Kyle Timlin

Roadie #2: Christopher Bizub

Rome Police: Ivan Cardona

Rome Policeman: Atif Lanier

Rome Policeman: Frank York

Rome Policeman: Giuseppe Ardizzone

Rome Policeman: Pedro Carmo

Rome Policeman: Richard Cerqueira

Sicilius Leonatus: Bill Pullman

Spider: Harry Beer

The Hangman: Kevin Corrigan

The Queen: Milla Jovovich

Undercover Cop: Ross Brodar

Wounded Soldier: Rome Neal