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

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
2015: Polly Findlay

This is one of the productions of the Royal Shakespeare Company of the latest generation. As such I found it both puzzling and disappointing. It’s played on a highly stylized gold-colored stage with a huge pendulum ball swinging for no particular reason in the background and random geometrical shapes lowered from time to time by wires. (We can understand that the pendulum might well indicate the passage of time. It seems labored and relatively uninteresting all the same, and adds nothing that I can identify to the story-telling.) The costumes are random mixtures of contemporary street clothes and other more costume-like garments that nevertheless bespeak no period or cultural affinity.

The flow of the story seems to me to be remarkably disjunct throughout. Some of this may be because of the relatively extreme cutting of the script — it comes down to 150 minutes, many of which are consumed in non-essential stage business — but some of the discontinuities come from the acting: sometimes the actors seem less to be playing with or against each other than reciting set pieces; at other times they seem to bite the words from a sour apple and spit them out in a monochromatic and adversarial way, whether the situation really calls for an adversarial posture or not. Shylock is adequate, but has relatively little nuance compared to that of many others (Henry Goodman’s especially comes to mind). The young Portia carries herself now like a mall-hopping teenage girl and now like an embittered wife, but in either case lacks the gravity one might hope for in the role. Antonio is a loathsome, gratuitously belligerent and yet self-pitying character with a rather passive-aggressive manner that makes one rather hope that at least this time Shylock will take his pound of flesh if only to put Antonio out of our misery.

The stage business plays up the homosexual link some have claimed to find in the play by finding Bassanio and Antonio in lengthy kisses at the beginning of the play, and again at the trial. Nerissa is a giggling wreck when Gratiano proposes to her; at other times she seems to snap her lines out with a snarky fervor generally out of tune with the character. In a commentary, the director explains that she sees the whole play in terms of the arc of Shylock’s character (which is not an uncommon approach, but still, I think, not wholly correct), and that she sees it also in terms of a lover who leaves a man for a woman (which is really not established explicitly in the play, and is certainly open to debate). The latter she substantiates by reference to the Sonnets, which she contends shows Shakespeare himself in the midst of the same issue. It seems to be arguing much from little: the jury is still out on Shakespeare’s own biography.

There are a variety of visual effects, all of them adding up to not much of anything; in an almost random salute to authenticity, there are little bits of choral music throughout that seem to be derivative of Gabrieli (who was an actual Venetian composer of the period). All in all, it seem an imposition of a kind of television game-show physical aesthetic and a turgid sexuality-driven ethic on a play that has more complexity and deserves better. Taken as a whole, it’s as unfocused and unengaging a version of the play as I have seen.

Antonio: Jaimie Ballard

Aragon: Brian Protheroe

Bassanio: Jacob Fortune-Lloyd

Citizen of Venice: Eva Feiler

Duke of Venice / Portia’s Servant: Rina Mahoney

Gratiano / Morocco: Ken Nwosu

Jailer: David Ajao

Jessica: Scarlett Brookes

Launcelot Gobbo: Tim Samuels

Leonardo / Servant: Guy Hughes

Lorenzo: James Corrigan

Nerissa: Nadia Albina

Portia: Patsy Ferran

Salerio: Owen Findlay

Shylock: Makram J. Khoury

Solanio: Jay Saighal

Tubal : Gwilym Lloyd