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: Campbell Scott, Eric Simonson

In keeping with the principle that a Shakespeare play should be set in any time but its own, this one seems to have been placed willy-nilly in a wealthy estate in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century in the United States. One might have suggested the American South, though there are no real southern accents in evidence (nor are there British accents), and the production notes say that it’s set in a rural estate near to New York. The estate is opulent, though, wherever it is, and the musical backing is largely jazz. In that cultural context it seems somewhat curious that Polonius, Laertes, and Ophelia are black. They are not particularly subservient: they’re sitting at the table and white waiters are waiting on them, but it does create an odd cultural resonance given the culture of America at that time. It seems as it if might be intentionally significant (far more than it would be to have black actors in a scene set in, say, ancient Rome); but what it intends to be saying is far less clear.

That being said, I hasten to point out that neither this bit of casting nor the setting especially intrudes upon the unfolding of the narrative. The setting provides a context of genuine beauty against which the story plays out. All the technical aspects of the production are in fact quite elegant. The score is not especially to my taste, but it’s well-done and not intrusive. The art direction is excellent, and every shot is framed expertly.

Opinions clearly differ on the acting: I’ve read some negative reviews of the performances here, but I personally find the acting effective across the board, with the possible exception of Fortinbras. Scott both directs and himself plays Hamlet. His delivery is intellectual and a bit severe, but to my mind this is an often-neglected aspect of the role that deserves to be brought forward. He seems to have sought something similar from the rest of the actors — reserved and precise diction, but one hinting at a reservoir of emotional depth behind it. All the accents are American, but meticulous and intentional: American actors often tend to be lazy in their vowels, in particular, and that’s really not the case here. All the actors seem to understand what they’re saying (which ought to go without mention, but it sometimes seems not to be the case). Roscoe Lee Browne’s delivery is particularly mellifluous, as befits one of Polonius’s affection for sonorous diction. Blair Brown (Gertrude) has a tight control over her part — not immediately engaging, but over time she assumes a real stature. Jamey Sheridan’s Claudius is slick and ingratiating, and he’s easy not to trust. Ophelia’s transformation is quite striking: she’s a bit mousy during the first part of the play, but in her madness she becomes a fearfully imposing figure.

The play runs for nearly three hours, which does provide enough time for Hamlet to develop. The critical pieces of the play remain intact. There are some cuts, but they are not overly bruising to the whole.

In sum, this is a beautiful, cinematic version of the play that has some very solid performances, and really has not been appreciated sufficiently. The more I watch it, especially in comparison with other versions of Hamlet, the better it seems to become. The DVD has an enlightening ten-minute piece on the production, as well.


Bernardo: Bill Buell

British Ambassador: Ryan Carey

Captain: Matt Malloy

Claudius: Jamey Sheridan

Court Musician; Pianist: Gary DeMichele

Fortinbras: Sam Robards

Francisco: David Debesse

Gertrude: Blair Brown

Ghost; First Player: Byron Jennings

Gravedigger: Dan Moran

Guildenstern: Marcus Giamatti

Hamlet: Campbell Scott

Horatio: John Benjamin Hickey

King’s Attendant: Robert Simonton

Laertes: Roger Guenveur Smith

Marcellus: John Campion

Musician: Peck Allmond

Musician: Steve Berger

Ophelia: Lisa Gay Hamilton

Osric: Denis O’Hare

Player Queen: Lynn Hawley

Player: Clark Carmichael

Player: Jillian Crane

Player: Ramon De Ocampo

Polonius: Roscoe Lee Browne

Priest: Peter McRobbie

Queen’s Attendant: Elisa Hurt

Reynaldo: Christopher Evan Welch

Rosencrantz: Michael Imperioli

Second Grave Digger: Eric Simonson

Third Player: Leon Addison Brown

Voltimand: Lewis Arlt