Shakespeare Plays Available in Video Format
Scholars Online Educational Resources


All’s Well That Ends Well
Antony and Cleopatra
As You Like It
The Comedy of Errors
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
Measure for Measure
The Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Much Ado About Nothing
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

Available versions

1979: Desmond Davis

2006: Bob Komar

Measure for Measure
1979: Desmond Davis

This production is one of the earliest and one of the best of the BBC Shakespeare series, and it deals with what that series delivered best: top-notch acting presented with a minimum of frills. Despite the modest budget for the production, it manages to pack a serious punch.

The keynote of the production (perhaps unsurprisingly) is balance. The plot and the characters both require it. Kate Nelligan plays Isabella with a fine balance of power and restraint, supported by a sense of intelligence and spiritual depth, emotion and reason. Kenneth Colley (whose most famous role was undoubtedly his turn as the slightly intimidated Captain/Admiral Piett in “The Empire Strikes Back”) here juggles both the ambiguous diction and the nuances of the dual role of the Duke/Friar without straying too far in either direction. He is admirable and suspicious, godlike and demonic, appealing and repellent, and apparently always in charge. It is said that several dozen other actors turned the role down before he accepted it, but it would be hard to imagine the role being done better. Tim Pigott-Smith shows us Angelo’s dark hypocrisy, but it is all the more pungent because he clearly is yet moved by purity and honor, even as he is trying to destroy them. It is not impossible to believe at the last that even he may be redeemable.

The minor parts are no less polished: Lucio is brilliantly annoying, but also convivial and appealing; the low clownish characters Pompey, Elbow, and Mistress Overdone deliver their ludicrous lines with relish and conviction; Claudio and Juliet are endearingly sincere, with the barest whisper of intellect between them.

There is nothing explicit in the production that should offend anyone willing to read the play in the first place. The text certainly contains themes that could raise eyebrows, because that’s what the play is about. But in realizing that content, it imposes nothing else that should be objectionable; it delivers the story solidly and with finesse.

Duke Vincentio: Kenneth Colley

Isabella: Kate Nelligan

Angelo: Tim Pigott-Smith

Claudio: Christopher Strauli

Lucio: John McEnery

Mariana: Jacqueline Pearce

Pompey: Frank Middlemass

Provost: Alun Armstrong

Mistress Overdone: Adrienne Corri

Elbow: Ellis Jones

Froth: John Clegg

Barnardine: William Sleigh

Abhorson: Neil McCarthy

Juliet: Yolanda Vazquez

Francisca: Eileen Page

Escalus: Kevin Stoney

Friar Thomas: Godfrey Jackman

First Gentleman: Alan Tucker

Second Gentleman: John Abbott

A Justice: David Browning

Servant: Geoffrey Cousins

Pageboy: David King Lassman