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

1911: Frank R. Benson

1912: André Calmettes, James Keane

1955: Laurence Olivier

1960: Michael Hayes

1983: Jane Howell

1995: Richard Longcraine

2008: Scott Anderson


Related

1994: Natalya Orlova (animated)

1996: Looking for Richard

2014: NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage


Richard III
1995: Richard Longcraine

Massively acclaimed when this was first released, and based on a celebrated production spearheaded by Sir Ian McKellen, this is brilliantly cinematic, filled with a range of remarkable actors, and, for my money, largely a waste of time.

The chief point here seems not to be the play itself at all, but the arch ingenuity entailed in retrofitting it to the the high-concept setting. Everything is recast in a period roughly approximating the 1930s or 1940s, and Richard and all his company are given a Nazi makeover and hijacked to serve an aesthetic more appropriate to Cabaret than anything Shakespeare ever wrote. The corruption of the court is signaled by the glitzy cocktail parties, hazed with cigarette smoke and fringed with people injecting themselves with one drug or another. People are blasted away with machine-guns and flamethrowers; Kristen Scott Thomas (brilliantly but pointlessly) plays a degenerate Anne who conducts her wooing interviews with Richard apparently under the influence of heroin. Somehow that makes Richard’s achievement in winning her over somewhat less impressive, and it makes her own pain considerably less sympathetic.

All the while the characters continue to speak Shakespeare’s English about events that are increasingly unconnected with what we’re being shown. At the beginning, maintaining this tension is a strain, but at least amusing; as the play progresses it sags more and more under the weight of maintaining the preposterous metafiction, and more and more of the text has to be discarded outright on the way. Ultimately Richard delivers his famous line, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” because he cannot get his Jeep started. By the end, all that’s left is a shell of fatuous cleverness. Richard ends up dying in a pistol-duel on some unfinished buildings, and plunges to his death in a fiery cinematic effect not really worthy of a B-list science fiction film of the 1930s. All in all, it’s a disappointing expenditure of a phenomenal amount of acting and directorial talent.

The film is for the most part well-made, but I for one have to question whether it was really worth the effort. Those concerned for exceptionable content will probably also want to skip it, given its graphic violence, nudity, sexually explicit behavior, and drug use — none of it (of course) native to Shakespeare’s own text.


1st Subaltern: James Dreyfus

2nd Subaltern: David Antrobus

Archbishop: Roger Hammond

Ballroom Singer: Stacey Kent

Brackenbury: Donald Sumpter

Catesby: Tim McInnerny

City Gentleman: Bruce Purchase

Duchess of York: Maggie Smith

Duke of Buckingham: Jim Broadbent

George, Duke of Clarence: Nigel Hawthorne

George Stanley: Ryan Gilmore

Henry, Earl of Richmond: Dominic West

Jailer in Tower: Andy Rashleigh

James Tyrell: Adrian Dunbar

King Edward IV: John Wood

King Henry VI: Edward Jewesbury

Lady Anne: Kristin Scott Thomas

Lord Hastings: Jim Carter

Lord Mayor: Denis Lill

Lord Rivers: Robert Downey Jr.

Lord Stanley: Edward Hardwicke

Prince Edward: Christopher Bowen

Prince of Wales: Marco Williamson

Princess Elizabeth: Kate Steavenson-Payne

Queen Elizabeth: Annette Bening

Ratcliffe: Bill Paterson

Richard III: Ian McKellen

Rivers’ Mistress: Tres Hanley

Young Prince: Matthew Groom