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
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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

1984: David Hugh Jones


Pericles

This is one of the late plays that are sometimes categorized as comedies and sometimes put into the distinct category of romances. It is useful to bear in mind what makes up a romance in literary tradition. The story is based (proximately) on a fragment of John Gower’s Confessio Amantis, though there are many other versions going back to ancient times; Gower himself is brought on stage as the narrator. Curiously, he even speaks a conspicuously archaic form of English — not strictly Middle English, but Shakespearean English adorned with a variety of Middle English forms (like participles beginning in y-, and old forms like “eyne” or “eyen” for “eyes”).

The thing to keep in mind about romance is that it takes place in a chiefly internal landscape. It’s not about physical realism (which is a good thing, since this elevates improbability to a high art) or even realism of character or psychology. In a sense, all the characters are aspects of the self — they may be at war, or separated, or at odds, but the ultimate resolution of their story must of necessity entail their final harmonization and reconciliation. If one looks at the play this way, it is (even in the midst of its most sordid stretches — and there are a few) a strikingly beautiful piece of work.

The play has never been hugely popular, but there have always been those who have been fond of it. T. S. Eliot (who, as you may recall, scorned both Titus Andronicus and Hamlet) apparently found something in it to which he could respond, and wrote a poem “Marina” based on the story.

There are very few performances of this available to see in local theaters, as a rule; Shakespeare companies will usually get around to it sooner or later in their rotations, but they’re not likely to be the best-funded of their productions, inasmuch as they really can’t expect them to get as much attention, and they’re going to spend their usually marginal resources on the big blockbuster names. Similarly, there are few film versions. They’re nevertheless worth tracking down.