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

1967: Alan Cooke

1973: Nick Havinga (Joseph Papp)

1984: Stuart Burge

1987: Herb Roland (Peter Moss)

1993: Kenneth Branagh

2010: Brandon Arnold

2011: Josie Rourke

2012: Joss Whedon

2012: Robin Lough (Jeremy Herrin)


Adaptations

2005: ShakespeaRe-Told: Much Ado About Nothing


Much Ado About Nothing
2010: Brandon Arnold

This is only available for viewing on Amazon, as far as I can determine. It runs only 67 minutes, and it’s very hard to characterize. It’s a student production, made by the students and faculty of East Hollywood High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s set in a high school, unsurprisingly, where the drama class or club run by Mrs. Leonata is preparing to stage Romeo and Juliet. The lines run into and out of Shakespeare’s language in two or three different plays, though the one most represented is Much Ado About Nothing. Most references to “husband” are translated to “boyfriend”, while people still salute each other with such honorifics as “my lord”. I realize that high schools have their own internal hierarchies, but I don’t think they’re normally expressed in such terms. Why change the one and not the other? What is a school at one moment is Italy or Messina at another. Difficult words are sometimes translated to easier ones, but to no particular purpose — they are often the wrong ones. In fine, after being dumbed down layer by layer, what Shakespeare remains still affords plenty of opportunity for the actors to confuse themselves. The language is apparently mostly impenetrable to them, and most recite the words as if they were incantations rather than as an expression of their own thoughts. The Benedick character inexplicably begins his first confrontation with Beatrice by quoting the beginning of Richard III, but he doesn’t know or understand the word “lowered” (which is effectively a variant of “glowered”, and should rhyme with “flowered”, not with “slower”). There are also random lines thrown in apparently for amusement value that fall rather flat. “Want a Pez? Are you sure?” What? Why?

Another logical problem with the whole conceit is the splicing of the concern the play exhibits for chastity into the culture of the sexually “liberated” modern high school, in which there is not even an intention of getting married. It’s hard to calibrate what’s going on in the context.

The characters playing Beatrice and Benedick are marginally better than the others in imparting meaning to their lines, and there are some amusing bits of scenes, as when Hero and Claudio kiss, and everyone else is looking on with embarrassment. There’s a painfully funny bit in the middle where the students are rehearsing — or maybe performing — Romeo and Juliet, and they’re getting direction to impart meaning to their lines, which is criticism that could be applied fairly broadly to the whole of the film. This scene in turn is convergent with the abortive wedding scene of Hero and Claudio. The consequence is so confused that one can’t really follow it. The immediately following scene in which Beatrice asks Benedick to kill Claudio acquires a weird and chilling resonance, especially after an occasion that could not possibly be understood to justify it. Of course high school killings are (among other things) outside the law in a way that dueling was not in the time in which the play was set. The principals subsequently ascribe Hero’s death to suicide, which is again somewhat darker than Shakespeare’s version, which has her (reputedly) die of a natural death; that’s compounded by the fact that the teacher who is asking about her blandly says, “Okay, then I’ll take her off the roll.” That’s meant to be amusing, in a black-comic way, I assume, but it probably won’t be very funny to anyone who has encountered high school suicide in the real world, and there are regrettably too many of us who have. Modern students may well appreciate the fact that Hero punches Claudio out at the end, but it’s not really the story Shakespeare was telling. You can have one or you can have the other, but not both.

All in all it’s an inventive exercise in high concept that aims too high most of the time, very low some of the time, and falls too short of either goal. I admire a group of students for trying to put something like this together, and it’s worth watching if that’s what you’re looking for. As a representation of Much Ado About Nothing, though, it leaves a great deal to be desired.

High school adaptations of Shakespeare are becoming a micro-genre of their own, and some of them are reasonably good, but one needs to decide whether one is doing the play or doing an adaptation. This vacillates between the one and the other, and stitches them together with a certain vulgar sensibility that just makes it all fairly unappealing from top to bottom.


Claudio: Jimmy Cudahy

Hero: Brighton Metz

Benedick: Jake Larrabee

Beatrice: Robin Noble

Don Pedro: Zach Nelson

Don John: Brad Rouzer

Ms. Leonata: Brianna Cootey

Borachio: Scott Wabel

Dogberry: Dakota Nelson

Conrade: Kyle Swanson

Verges: James Johnson

Margaret: Markie Dunn

Ursula: Shelby Clarke

Balthazar: Gabe Kimball

George Seacole: Jonas Hanspach

Frances Seacole: Evan Fietkau

Hugh Oatcake: Holden Smith

Jerry Cantrell: Taylor Clough

Lady Macbeth: Chrissy Ellison

Macbeth: Hans Totterer

Principal Antonio: Nathan Smith Jones

English Teacher: Matt Thomas

Richard II: Jeremy Higley

Let’s Go Korea: Spencer Ditta