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
2006: Bob Komar

This production is one of only two currently available, and as such it’s necessary if you want to do any comparisons. But it runs to only eighty minutes, and its brutal cutting is further controlled by a dominant idea that is, I think, wrong-headed. Finally, it is transferred to a modern (presumably British) military setting, where the cultural and moral significance of its original context are stripped away. It cannot help but go astray.

It’s important to appreciate — even if one does not share the supposition — that a monarch in the sixteenth century was not merely responsible for the physical welfare of his people, but was at least somewhat answerable for their spiritual welfare as well. Within this context, the Duke’s admittedly devious testing of all the major characters in the play is not a sleazy trick or a usurpation: it’s testing them for their own benefit. At every turn, the Duke has his people’s best interest at heart (down to the convicted criminal, whom he refuses to see executed, because “to transport him in the mind he is were damnable”.

This version of the play establishes Isabella’s rejection of the Duke — never at all explicit in Shakespeare’s text — by an unspoken but hostile interchange. Yes, this is possible within the strict scope of the script. It seems inconsistent with the tonal pattern Shakespeare has actually set up, however, and inconsistent with the cultural suppositions of the time as well. Likelihood was high that Isabella had entered the convent (where she had not, it should be noted, taken final vows) out of necessity rather than out of a compelling sense of a call. We hear of her inclination to purity, but never anything about her feeling compelled to become a nun. Likeliest is that her family was unable to provide her with a dowry, which would have made her unmarriagable in most contexts. When the Duke offers his hand without any consideration of a dowry, she has the option to accept or reject him freely. He’s done her a great favor irrespective of the choice she makes, therefore. That he makes the offer purely out of regard for her moral worth (which he has tested down to the end) is even more significant, and (contrary to a number of feminist readings I have encountered) suggests an unusually high personal respect for her.

I have not been able to find this film for sale anywhere, but it is available for streaming viewing on Amazon.

Isabel: Josephine Rogers

Angelo: Daniel Roberts

Duke: Simon Phillips

Mariana (as Emma Ager): Emma Agerwald

Provost: Kristopher Milnes

Claudio (as Simon Nuckley): Simon Brandon

Lucio: Luke Leeves

Escalus: Dawn Murphy

Juliet: Kate Sullington

Soldier Overdone: Hanne Steen

Pompey: Leah Grayson

Elbow: Piers Pereira

Priest: Roberto Argenti

Soldier Froth: Robert Anderson

Soldier in Bar (as Danny Idollor Jnr.): Danny Idollor

Duke; Angelo Guard: Rossa McPhillips

MP Officer (as Annabelle Munro): Anabelle Munro

Barman: Kuldip Nandula

Soldier 3 (as Oliver Millward): Oliver Dawsson

Soldier 4: Harry Hayes

Priest (voice): Peter Bevins