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
1969: Tony Richardson

Judith Crist hailed this as the finest Hamlet ever (at least as of the date of the production) and there’s something to be said for it. I doubt that she could or would say the same today. Certainly Nicol Williamson was at this point near the pinnacle of his somewhat manic career, and he delivers a rich, nuanced performance, colored with a wonderfully flexible voice. It’s a fully cinematic treatment, with understated but distinctly real-world sets and dark corridors; some of the visual moves one finds here foreshadow those undertaken by Zeffirelli about twenty years later.

Some of the production values are strikingly dated, though, with such features as a storm of shrieking strings (a la Psycho) to herald anything unusual, and a hollow electronically enhanced gong-like sound behind the ghost’s speech; the ghost is never seen save as a reflected light in the faces of those observing him, and he speaks in Hamlet’s voice (i.e., Williamson’s). The point, accordingly, seems to be that the ghost is a projection of Hamlet’s own psyche, and so the whole is a kind of split-personality form of internal dialogue. The result is a very psychologized version of the play, presupposing that Hamlet’s mind is genuinely breaking down, which is (to my way of thinking) one of its distinct weaknesses. It downplays the supernatural element, which is necessary for a serious understanding of the play as it was written, and it tends to psychologize what I think Shakespeare meant to be taken literally. I have already put elsewhere what I think is going on in Hamlet, so I won’t repeat that here.

The play is also cut brutally — the whole running length is less than two hours (114 or 117 minutes, depending on what sources you believe). Selections of lines are thinned out like so much hair, and other sections are discarded wholesale. The scene where Hamlet discovers Claudius at his prayers is nowhere in sight, and to my thinking this is a fatal flaw in the production. Eventually Claudius delivers his own speech, but Hamlet does not appear, and hence his decision not to kill Claudius there is swept under the rug. At least on my own understanding of the play, this is the single most important episode, so its inclusion is paramount.

For all its very real limitations, the acting is remarkably good throughout. Williamson at thirty-one is about perfect for the thirty-year-old Hamlet. He plays the role with a restrained power, showing the kinds of nuances one cannot easily realize on stage. Judy Parfitt (the older queen in Ever After and Lady Catherine de Bourgh in the older BBC Pride and Prejudice), only three years older than Williamson, plays Gertrude, and so seems a bit unlikely to be his mother. A youthful Anthony Hopkins is only a year older than Williamson, but he is robustly degenerate as Claudius, and his performance really deserves particular attention.


Bernardo: John Trenaman

Captain: Michael Elphick

Claudius: Anthony Hopkins

Cour Lady: Anjelica Huston

Cour lady: Jennifer Tudor

Courtier: Bill Jarvis

First Sailor: John Railton

Francisco: Robin Chadwick

Gertrude: Judy Parfitt

Guildenstern: Clivr Graham

Hamlet: Nicol Williamson

Horatio: Gordon Jackson

Laertes: Michael Pennington

Lucianus; Gravedigger: Roger Livesey

Messenger: David Griffith

Ophelia: Marianne Faithfull

Osric: Peter Gale

Player King: John J Carney

Player Queen: Richard Everett

Polonius: Mark Dignam

Priest: Ian Collier

Reynaldo: Roger Lloyd-Pack

Rosencrantz: Ben Aris