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
1990: Kevin Kline

This is a filmed production based closely on a stage version of the play, specifically Joseph Papp’s 1990 production for the New York Shakespeare Festival. It has generalized costuming, minimal sets, and props include guns and other twentieth-century trappings. Still, it’s just a generalized setting, not an attempt to force it into some other time period in order to make it into something that it’s not.

One problem that attends almost all modern performances of Hamlet is the extensive cutting that takes place. This version runs to almost three hours, which, while not perhaps quite enough, is still more capacious than most of the rest. Not a lot of time is taken up with wordless action sequences, either, so that what time there is can be given to the dialogue.

The success of any production of Hamlet (unsurprisingly) depends on the performance of the title role. One can perform Henry IV, Part 1 without a great actor as Henry IV (Prince Hal is more significant), or Julius Caesar without a great Caesar. Without a good Hamlet, though, this play will completely collapse. Where all the main parts are well managed, though, it has a unique magic. Kevin Kline in 1990 was also extremely fit (his performance of the Pirate King in the 1983 version of The Pirates of Penzance is awe-inspiring in its athleticism), and his physical acting of the role is full of energy.

The subtlety of some of Hamlet’s lines occasionally seems to elude Kline. He is a singer, and he relishes the music of the poetry, but occasionally his devotion to Hamlet’s lyricism obscures the overall content of what he’s saying (for example, in the “O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!” speech (usually II.ii), he gets a bit carried away with histrionics, while obfuscating the meticulous self-examination that underlies it.) Overall, however, he’s very good at capturing the intelligence and irony of Hamlet’s lines. He moderates his diction between his internal and more reflective deliveries and a boisterous declamatory style in other situations.

The remainder of the cast is sound, and occasionally brilliant. Diane Venora plays Ophelia with finesse, and in her interactions with Hamlet she impressively holds her own, conveying both the confusion and pain that has descended upon her for no reason she can understand. (Venora had the curious distinction of playing Hamlet in the same festival seven years earlier, and she played Gertrude in the 2000 Michael Almereyda film.) Her rendition of the mad Ophelia strikes me as initially brilliant, but eventually as somewhat too wild, but that’s a matter of taste.

Claudius carries himself as an established, self-satisfied, and self-justifying bureaucrat. Josef Sommer’s Polonius is canonically perfectly acceptable, though I believe that the character has more on the ball than is normally thought: he is not merely a buffoon. (David Ball’s exploration of Polonius in his Backwards and Forwards is, I think, completely correct.) Dana Ivey brings a cool elegance to the role of Gertrude that is not compromised by the Oedipal nonsense that preoccupied Zeffirelli.

This may not be the definitive version of Hamlet. Odds are good that there isn’t and won’t ever be any such thing, and perhaps that itself is all to the good. But it’s within the bounds of the reasonable, solidly performed and conceived, and definitely worth seeing.


Bernardo; Lucianus: Rene Rivera

Claudius: Brian Murray

Fortinbras: Don Reilly

Francisco; Gravedigger; Player: MacIntyre Dixon

Gertrude: Dana Ivey

Ghost; Priest: Robert Murch

Guildenstern: Reg E. Cathey

Hamlet: Kevin Kline

Horatio: Peter Francis James

Laertes: Michael Cumpsty

Lord: Kenton Benedict

Marcellus; Sailor; Player: Bill Camp

Norwegian Captain; Soldier: Larry Green

Ophelia: Diane Venora

Osric: Leo Burmester

Player King; Lord: Clement Fowler

Player Queen; Lady-in-Waiting: Tanny McDonald

Polonius: Josef Sommer

Rosencrantz: Phillip Goodwin

Servant; Messenger: Erik Knutsen

Soldier: Curt Hostetter

Soldier: David Landon

Soldier: Joseph M. Costa

Voltimand: Tom Klunis