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
King John
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

1948: Laurence Olivier

1964: Philip Saville

1964: Bill Colleran, John Gielgud

1964: Grigori Kozintsev

1969: Tony Richardson

1976: Celestino Coronada

1980: Rodney Bennett

1990: Kevin Kline

1990: Franco Zeffirelli

1996: Kenneth Branagh

2000: Michael Almereyda

2000: Campbell Scott, Eric Simonson

2002: Peter Brook

2003: Michael Mundell

2007: Alexander Fodor

2009: Simon Bowler

2009: Gregory Doran

2011: Bruce Ramsay

2014: Adam Hall

2015: Sarah Frankcom, Margaret Williams

2015: Dick Douglass, Obie Dean

2016: Jennifer Nicole Stang

2016: Simon Godwin


Adaptations

1992: Natalya Orlova, Dave Edwards (animated)

2004: Hamlet (opera, Ambroise Thomas)


Production drama

2003: Slings and Arrows (Season 1)


Educational

1990: Discovering Hamlet

2010: This is Hamlet

2013: Shakespeare Uncovered (Season 1, Ep. 6)


Related

1990: Rosencrantz and Guildernstern are Dead

2008: Hamlet 2

2014: Hamlet A.D.D.


Hamlet
2000: Michael Almereyda

This is one of those versions of Shakespeare that is dedicated to making everything modern and relevant to today’s audiences — especially those with trivial attention spans and a complete lack of imagination for how the world could be other than it is right now. Michael Almereyda seems to specialize in this flattening transpositional approach to Shakespeare. Rather than relying on the penetration and the universality of the play as it stands, he needs to control all its implications. On my more skeptical days, I’m inclined to believe that he’s chiefly seeking to be admired for his cleverness in finding some arch contemporary mapping for something old and less obviously relevant to the viewer’s daily experience. The drama of Hamlet is not entirely expunged, but it’s kicked into the back seat rather unceremoniously. The central driving question seems to be about bit-to-bit mapping: what would this element in that culture mean if brought forward to our own? On its own terms, this is probably not a wholly fruitless exercise, but it’s problematic. Teaching people how to parse the elements of another culture by translating it to our own also teaches them that our own is really the only one that counts, and that understanding can only be achieved in the here and now. It’s a narrowing, rather than a broadening experience.

The production of The Mousetrap, therefore, is reduced to a video montage made up of snippets from other movies that Hamlet has rented at the local Blockbuster. (What’s darkly amusing is that this push toward contemporary relevance will age more quickly than others: Blockbuster is now extinct. Do we need a revision, for those who don’t remember video-rental stores, based on Netflix or YouTube?) Guns and elevators are much in evidence, and video technology. To see how these same elements might be used more plausibly, I would recommend that one compare this production with the Bruce Ramsay production (2011) with David Tennant, who is magnificently in control of the language of the play, even while setting things in a contemporary context.

This is Ethan Hawke’s first foray into Shakespeare. One might well wish that it were his last, though that’s perhaps ungenerous. He doesn’t seem, however, to understand much of what he’s saying, and that’s one of the recurrent problems I have with modernized Shakespeare productions. He recites some of his lines as a six-year-old might repeat an assigned piece for memorization. I think there’s reason to believe that he’s learned something since then (at least he claims so in the production interviews on the Cymbeline DVD), but he was really not in control of the language when this was made.

In all fairness, though, it’s worth noting that not all the other players have the same problem. Diane Venora, who has played Ophelia and even Hamlet with aplomb, brings equivalent acting chops to the role of Gertrude. Kyle McLachlan of “Twin Peaks” fame also has a surprising degree of depth as Agent King Claudius. Perhaps more revealing is Bill Murray as Polonius: there’s more depth in both of them than one often finds. I’m less certain either way about Julia Stiles’ Ophelia. Some days she seems to me to be convincing.

All in all, this is probably a worthwhile addition if one is doing a survey of several productions, but it’s not certainly in my top ten.


Bernardo: Rome Neal

Blockbuster Clerk: Bernadette Jurkowski

Claudius’ Bodyguard : John Wills Martin

Claudius: Kyle MacLachlan

Flight Captain: Tim Blake Nelson

Fortinbras: Casey Affleck

Gertrude: Diane Venora

Ghost: Sam Shepard

Gravedigger: Jeffrey Wright

Guildenstern: Dechen Thurman

Hamlet: Ethan Hawke

Horatio: Karl Geary

Laertes: Liev Schreiber

Marcella: Paula Malcomson

Ophelia: Julia Stiles

Osric: Paul Bartel

Player King: Robert MacNeil

Polonius: Bill Murray

Priest: Robert Thurman

Rosencrantz: Steve Zahn