Shakespeare Plays Available in Video Format
Scholars Online Educational Resources

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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: Orson Welles

1954: George Schaefer

1961: Paul Almond

1971: Roman Polanski

1979: Philip Casson

1981: Arthur Allan Seidelman

1983: Jack Gold

1997: Jeremy Freeston

1998: Michael Bogdanov

2001: Gregory Doran

2006: Geoffrey Wright

2009: Colleen Stovall

2010: Rupert Goold

2014: Eve Best


Adaptations

1957: Throne of Blood

1991: Men of Respect

1991: Scotland, PA

1992: Nikolai Serebryakov, Dave Edwards (animated)

1999: Macbeth in Manhattan

2005: ShakespeaRe-Told: Macbeth


Production drama

2003: Slings and Arrows (Season 2)


Educational

2008: This Is Macbeth

2013: Shakespeare Uncovered (Season 1, Ep. 2)


Macbeth
1948: Orson Welles


Orson Welles was still trying to reclaim his legacy as the Hollywood enfant terrible of Citizen Kane fame when this was made, and it was not an unqualified success. He both directs and stars in the film, and appears to have resorted to some of its peculiar maneuvers more for the sake of novelty than for any good dramaturgical reasons.

The film is poised halfway between a cinematic and a stage treatment. It makes use of varied camera angles, and much larger sets than the average stage, but most of them feel much like the standard sound-stage of the 1940s.

The black and white photography is inventive and challenging for its day, of the sort Welles was noted for: in some ways it’s the production’s strongest feature. While it can’t really compete with Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood for tonal mastery, it manages to achieve some striking visual effects. Beyond that, however, the details of the production vacillate between a rather arbitrary realism and the weirdly stylized. Everyone speaks in a Hollywood-bred Scottish accent that’s not very convincing. The sets and props are mannered and stylized, and the costumes are eminently forgettable, with the single exception of Macbeth’s two crowns, one of which looks like a square box or horned altar on his head, and the other of which makes him look like Lady Liberty with a mustache. The musical score by Jacques Ibert is really not terribly interesting, and sometimes it’s positively obtrusive. It advises us with strident and dissonant strings when Something Bad is happening, lest we be in doubt about it.

Taken purely as a treatment of the play, the film broadly and fairly brutally cuts the script, and shuffles the pieces that remain about with uncommon freedom; many of the pivotal points of the play are simply discarded in the general rush to truncate and simplify. Some of the things Shakespeare leaves ambiguous are made explicit or simply invented: we see, for example, Lady Macbeth fling herself from a cliff; Macbeth himself is among the attackers in Macduff’s castle. Much of the thematic content of the play (for example, the whole unfolding discussion of equivocation) is stripped to a bare minimum (with the porter having only a handful of lines remaining from his keynote soliloquy), with the result that the latter stages are wholly unprepared. In other scenes, lines are assigned to different speakers altogether — sometimes to people who shouldn’t have been on hand at all (as with Lady Macbeth’s inexplicable appearance at Macduff’s castle just before the slaughter). The feast at which Banquo’s ghost appears — arguably the pivotal point in the play — is reduced to a short scene emphasizing spectacle more than discourse.

The acting (from Macbeth on down) is very broad as well; combined with the accents, the net effect is very much reminiscent of a reasonably good amateur theatrical. The film is worth seeing for a number of lesser reasons. The current DVD release of the film does restore at least the footage (almost twenty minutes) that the studio (Republic) stripped from it in a bid for even more popular banality than it had already achieved. It’s worth seeing as a bit of film history, and as a way of seeing the extraordinary lengths some people have taken with Shakespeare, but as a representation of the play itself, it’s not showing either Shakespeare or Welles in anything like their best light.

Banquo: Edgar Barrier

Doctor: Morgan Farley

Duncan: Erskine Sanford

First Murderer; The Three: Brainerd Duffield

Fleance: Jerry Farber

Gentlewoman; The Three: Lurene Tuttle

Lady Macbeth: Jeanette Nolan

Lady Macduff; The Three: Peggy Webber

Lennox: Keene Curtis

Macbeth: Orson Welles

Macduff Child: Christopher Welles

Macduff: Dan O’Herlihy

Malcolm: Roddy McDowall

Porter: Gus Schilling

Priest: Alan Napier

Ross: John Dierkes

Second Murderer: William Alland

Seyton: George Chirello

Siward: Lionel Braham

Young Siward: Archie Heugly