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
1980: Rodney Bennett

This is the BBC Shakespeare Plays version of Hamlet, and despite its several significant shortcomings, I personally think it’s on balance one of the finest renditions of the play as a whole, and one of the best portrayals of the character of Hamlet himself.

Like almost all the plays in this massive undertaking, it was made on a relative shoestring. While not a mere recording of a stage production, it is overtly stagey, shot on a soundstage with limited and rather abstract sets and moderate costumes; there is some background music, but it is budget-rate cinematic fare designed to emphasize critical points with ominous chords, devoid of very much interest or color of its own. The play is, however, nearly uncut, and arguably of all available versions, this is one of the few that really trust Shakespeare to know what he’s doing. For my money, it is one of the brightest gems of the whole BBC Shakespeare Plays enterprise.

There are a number of fine performances, but chief among them is Jacobi himself as Hamlet. He brings to the role a sensitivity and subtlety that reveals more about Hamlet than any other performance I, at least, had ever seen when I first encountered it. He imbues the part with rich ironies both in his delivery of his dialogue and in his actions, and he conveys the genuine horror that accompanies the unfolding revelations about Claudius and his father. Jacobi portrays Hamlet as a man of prodigious natural gifts, keen intelligence, and a passionate soul that is always calculating, but is morally overwhelmed by the situation in which he finds himself. Jacobi is uncannily able to imbue potentially weary and overly familiar speeches like “To be or not to be” with a sense that they are being newly discovered and explored; in the next scene his violent treatment of Ophelia is positively frightening.

Patrick Stewart plays Claudius, fresh from his role of Sejanus in the BBC I, Claudius (also starring Jacobi) well before he became widely known as Star Trek’s Capt. Jean-Luc Picard. Claire Bloom, twenty-five years after appearing as Anne in Olivier’s Richard III, has more grace than ever she did there, and wears the role of Gertrude very well. Other lesser parts are less impressive, but all of them are at least adequate, and at best remarkably good. Lalla Ward’s Ophelia is not as memorable, perhaps, as those of either Helena Bonham Carter (1990: Zeffirelli) or Kate Winslet (1996: Branagh), but she brings a good deal of subtlety to the role.

One comic note from a contributor at IMDB: apparently during filming, Patrick Stewart was twitting Lalla Ward because she was currently playing a role in Doctor Who. He would never, he insisted, sink to doing science fiction. Seven years later, of course, he was the linch-pin of the new Star Trek empire. (There are those who would yet argue that he hasn’t done science fiction, but that’s another matter.)


Bernardo: Niall Padden

Claudius: Patrick Stewart

Cornelius: John Sterland

English Ambassador: David Henry

First Gravedigger: Tim Wylton

First Player (King): Emrys James

Fortinbras: Ian Charleson

Francisco: Christopher Baines

Gertrude: Claire Bloom

Ghost of Hamlet’s Father: Patrick Allen

Guildenstern: Geoffrey Bateman

Hamlet: Derek Jacobi

Horatio: Robert Swann

Laertes: David Robb

Marcellus: Paul Humpoletz

Messenger: Reginald Jessup

Norwegian Captain: Dan Meaden

Ophelia: Lalla Ward

Osric: Peter Gale

Player King: Bill Homewood

Player Murderer: Terence McGinity

Player Queen: Peter Richard

Player: Peter Burroughs

Player: Stuart Fell

Polonius: Eric Porter

Priest: Michael Poole

Reynaldo: Raymond Mason

Rosencrantz: Jonathan Hyde

Sailor: Iain Blair

Second Gravedigger: Peter Benson

Second Player: Jason Kemp

Third Player: Geoffrey Beevers

Voltimand: John Humphry