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

1908: Stuart Blackton

1972: Cedric Messina

1973: John Sichel

1980: Jack Gold

2001: Chris Hunt, Trevor Nunn

2004: Michael Radford

2015: Polly Findlay


The Merchant of Venice
1908: Stuart Blackton

Running a total of about twelve minutes, this is another early silent take on Shakespeare.

The end product is about what one might expect — there are of course no words, and so none of Shakespeare’s lyrical lines. The outlines of each of the several scenes is presented on a card before the scene, which is then mimed with extravagant gestures. The value of these pieces is less for their illumination of Shakespeare as such, and more as a piece of cinema history. They necessarily trivialize the plots and characters to the point that there’s not a lot to be garnered from them. They also do exhibit some of the turn-of-the-century popular impression of each story, however, along with some of the almost casual anti-Semitism it entails, and that may illuminate even some of the real scholarship of the period.

Here all the characters are reliably two-dimensional; Shylock is posturing and exuding Evil Intent at every possible turn. Most of the rest of the males of the piece are simply interchangeably bland. Portia appears to be a somewhat Wagnerian lady, dragging her august mass into court, and telling Shylock that he must not spill a drop of blood. That accomplished, the film ends, without any of the nuance or the sense of Shylock’s own loss. The Lorenzo-Jessica plot is maintained, but rendered trivial; the fanciful elaboration of the ring plot is simply dropped.

As currently available on DVD, this is part of the valuable Silent Shakespeare collection; the pieces are presented in reasonably clean format (especially for film so old); some of them are hand-tinted, but most are black and white; this one makes good use of the color tinting to help one keep characters straight when they might otherwise be harder to differentiate. The more recent musical sound-track is not particularly good, but it’s at least a bit more entertaining than that available on some of the other things to appear on this collection, being made up of cobbled-together scraps of Renaissance music.


Jessica: Florence Turner

Portia: Julia Swayne Gordon

Shylock: William V. Ranous