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: 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
1971: Roman Polanski

This was the first major film project Roman Polanski undertook following the horrific murders of his wife and others at his home at the hands of the Manson Family. It seems clear that he was to some extent using the film to purge certain imagery from his mind. You need to consider whether that’s imagery you want living in your own.

It is a thoroughly cinematic treatment of the play, shot in gorgeous widescreen, with lavish Scottish locations and an extremely sure hand with the camera. There’s a strange and atmospheric score under the whole, made up largely of Celtic instruments probably more characteristic of the eighteenth century than of the twelfth or even the sixteenth, and one painfully anachronistic song at the banquet about half an hour into the film (nothing half as excruciating as “A Time for Us” from the Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet, however). Some of the action (especially the battles) are not shown, rather than shown: that is, we hear them, while looking at “fog and filthy air”. This doubtless saved expense in the production, but the depiction of the battles (which are not onstage) is really not necessary anyway, and the imagination is perhaps more powerful in expressing what’s going on than anything less than a very lavish depiction. As often in cinematic versions of Shakespeare, soliloquies tend to be done by means of voiceover. It’s a convention, as much as the spoken soliloquy is, and it seems perfectly reasonable to handle them this way.

The principal characters — especially Jon Finch as Macbeth and Francesca Annis as Lady Macbeth — are extraordinarily well-played. Both are seasoned players with a good sense of the text. Annis is still young and very striking, and she is an appealing character until her cold disposition begins to unfold. Duncan, on the other hand, is shown as reasonably young and vigorous (in contrast to many other performances, where he is presented as old and feeble).

The script is nonetheless cut at least somewhat, which is unfortunate, given the brevity of the play overall, and rearranged in parts to make the pacing more cinematic. Polanski seems not to have been quite sure what to do with Malcolm’s elaborate “confession” scene. It remains (as it does in many productions) largely uninterpreted and hence puzzling.

As a caution to parents and teachers, I should mention that this is certainly the bloodiest and most grotesque of all the versions of Macbeth I have seen, and it also includes some non-sexual nudity. In some ways, however, it is among the best of the movie versions.


Angus: Bernard Archard

Banquo: Martin Shaw

Caithness: Bruce Purchase

Cawdor: Vic Abbott

Doctor’s Apprentice: Paul Hennen

Doctor: Richard Pearson

Donalbain: Paul Shelley

Duncan: Nicholas Selby

First Murderer: Michael Balfour

First Thane: Ian Hogg

First Witch: Maisie MacFarquhar

Fleance: Keith Chegwin

Gentlewoman: Patricia Mason

King’s Groom: Bill Drysdale

King’s Groom: Roy Jones

Lady Macbeth: Francesca Annis

Lady Macduff: Diane Fletcher

Lennox: Andrew Laurence

Macbeth: Jon Finch

Macduff’s Son: Mark Dightam

Macduff: Terence Bayler

Malcolm: Stephan Chase

Menteith: Frank Wylie

Old Seyward: Alf Joint

Porter: Sydney Bromley

Ross: John Stride

Second Murderer: Andrew McCulloch

Second Thane: Geoffrey Reed

Second Witch: Elsie Taylor

Seyton: Noel Davis

Third Thane: Nigel Ashton

Third Witch: Noelle Rimmington

Young Seyward: William Hobbs