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

1909: Charles Kent, J. Stuart Blackton

1935: William Dieterle, Max Reinhardt

1968: Peter Hall

1981: Elijah Moshinsky

1982: Joseph Papp, Emile Ardolino

1996: Adrian Noble

1999: Michael Hoffman

2010: Bo Bergstrom

2014: Dominic Dromgoole

2014: Julie Taymor


Adaptations

1992: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Animated)

2005: ShakespeaRe-Told: A Midsummer Night’s Dream


Related

2015: Shakespeare Uncovered, Season 2, Episode 4


A Midsummer Night’s Dream
1999: Michael Hoffman

This recent entry into the fray received mixed notices from both the Shakespeare community and from the press in general, and it is bound to stir up controversy for some time to come. It inexplicably sets the play around the turn of the century in Italy — a point that it goes out of its way to belabor in a written note at the beginning of the play — and fills it with bicycles, bloomers, and extravagant displays of fin-de-siecle haute cuisine. Nevertheless, it manages to achieve a remarkable visual power, and after a fairly short time, the cultural transposition is more or less acceptable — at no point does it eclipse the story (as happens in some of the other transposed Shakespeare plays like McKellan’s Richard III or Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet). At a couple of points the most arbitrary parts of the conceit become arrestingly beautiful and take a rather charming place in the story: there is one completely unanticipated piece involving a phonograph.

It is without a doubt the most artistically lavish production, with an august aristocratic villa and a picturesque Italian town for “Athens” and lush woodland settings for the rest. The art direction exhibits a control of imagery that is almost unprecedented, and a receptive viewer will find that it enriches the play considerably, when it is not actively distracting. Titania and Oberon’s first confrontation is a cinematic set-piece worthy of study all by itself. Titania’s awe-inspiring retinue includes an evocative range of fantastical beings from various mythologies from around the world: Janus-headed figures, sphinxes, and — in an inspired touch, an Indian changeling boy who is blue (an otherwise unelaborated reference to the conventional iconography of Krishna).

The best of its performances work well. Kevin Kline is remarkably effective as Bottom, neither as ridiculous nor as contemptible as most, but having a certain melancholy tonality; his troupe of workman-players is realized with an unsurpassed charm and finesse. Stanley Tucci as Puck steals almost every scene he’s in.

Not all the casting is equally successful. Rupert Everett presents a nerveless and languid Oberon against Michelle Pfeiffer’s far more engaging (but still flatly middle-American) Titania. Some may find Calista Flockhart a bit difficult to believe as Helena; never having seen her as Ally McBeal I don’t have that imagery to purge, but persuading myself that she is very tall is a bit of a problem.

Several bold interpretive moves keep the play alive even for the viewer who has seen it one time too many — particularly the novel handling of the Pyramus and Thisbe play-within-a-play, and Bottom’s final wistful recollection of his strange dream. They tend to enhance the sense of the whole without really attacking or subverting it aggressively — a delightful contrast to the belligerent and heavy-handed anarchism of Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet.

There is some restrained depiction of nudity in the film, and implicit sexual activity, but far less gratuitous than what shows up in the Adrian Noble version.


Changeling Boy: Chomoke Bhuiyan

Cobweb: Annalisa Cordone

Demetrius: Christian Bale

Egeus: Bernard Hill

Francis Flute: Sam Rockwell

Hard-Eye Fairy: Deirdre Harrison

Helena: Calista Flockhart

Hermia: Anna Friel

Hippolyta: Sophie Marceau

Lysander: Dominic West

Master Antonio: Valerio Isidori

Moth: Solena Nocentini

Mustardseed: Paola Pessot

Nick Bottom: Kevin Kline

Oberon: Rupert Everett

Peaseblossom: Flaminia Fegarotti

Peter Quince: Roger Rees

Philostrate: John Sessions

Puck (Robin Goodfellow): Stanley Tucci

Robin Starveling: Max Wright

Snug: Gregory Jbara

Theseus: David Strathairn

Titania: Michelle Pfeiffer

Tom Snout: Bill Irwin