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

1922: Dimitri Buchowetzki

1952/1955: Orson Welles

1965: Stuart Burge

1981: Jonathan Miller

1981: Frank Melton

1989: Janet Suzman

1990: Trevor Nunn

1995: Oliver Parker

2007: Wilson Milam

2015: Iqbal Khan, Robin Lough


1992: Nikolai Serebryakov (animated)

2001: “O”

2001: Othello

2006: Omkara


2015: Shakespeare Uncovered, Season 2, Episode 3

1995: Oliver Parker

One of the most recent feature-film representations of Othello, this brings the full panoply of cinematic tools to bear on the play to create a very striking and visually rich film. It is filmed in Venice at the relevant locations, and elsewhere. Unlike most of the other productions, either those for stage or for television, it is also undergirt by a rich score by Charlie Mole, then at the beginning of a career that has continued to this day quite well.

The cinematic medium allows things that neither stage nor a stage-like presentation can afford — for example, flashback scenes in the recounting of Desdemona’s initial infatuation with Othello, or imagined visions of Desdemona and Cassio in flagrante delicto — something that is going on entirely in Othello’s mind. Closeups abound; the camera is constantly moving, and the rapid interleaving of shots is much more characteristic of — and uses the power of — the cinematic approach. Such presentation also admits certain departures from the declamatory stage: as Peter Brook pointed out elsewhere, film allows actors to speak very quietly without losing intensity in the transaction. You will hear Othello differently here than ever you can on stage. Some of the soliloquies or asides are handled as voice-over bits.

Whether such an approach is ultimately desirable is a question you must decide for yourself. Surely it is more immediately accessible to modern audiences attuned to fast-cutting movies and television, and impatient of verbal exposition; but it also comes at a certain cost. Its indisputably lavish visual presentation is elegantly managed, and capable of carrying its own kind of wordless dialogue of symbols, but any footage expended on purely visual exposition — of which there is a considerable amount — inevitably takes up time that could otherwise be spent on conveying the original of the text, hence trimming an already shortened script (playing time barely two hours) even further. The deficiency has to be made up by excellence in acting, or by visual cues, or it will not be made up at all. Much of the narrative line in which Desdemona pleads for Cassio is simply swept aside; it’s virtually impossible to supply this complex piece of motivation from any other medium. Other bits fall through the cracks similarly. The consequence is a kind of streamlining and simpification of a plot in which many of the more interesting points live in the cracks and wrinkles.

That being said, there is some first-rate acting here. The lead part is played by Laurence Fishburne, who is younger than most of the other Othellos I have seen; he was nevertheless mature enough when this was made, and he is both imposing in his physical bearing, and endowed with rich and musical diction. It’s a very different representation from that of Olivier or Hopkins, but magnificent in its portrayal.

Francophone Swiss actress Irène Jacobs plays Desdemona here — an interesting choice. She was not at this point very familiar to English-speaking audiences, though she has done a number of things since. Her English is clear enough, to be sure, but it is tinged with a foreign accent that is odd to account for in any narrative sense. She is somewhat implausibly sensual, too, for a person of her social class and one who hopes to maintain a reputation as a proper aristocratic woman — dancing publicly before the assembly, and ostentatiously and passionately kissing Othello in public; this is rather obviously more a matter of direction and writing than of her performance. She carries the part reasonably well, but not with as pointed articulation as some others.

The cast also includes a few fellow Shakespeareans who have appeared in other Branagh Shakespeare endeavors: Michael Maloney, the Dauphin in Henry V, and Nicholas Farrell, Horatio in Hamlet, appear here as well. Both appear in Branagh’s Shakespeare sendup A Midwinter’s Tale as well.

Parents and teachers may want to note that there are some sexual scenes and nudity that earned the movie an R rating.

This film will supply some powerful visual imagery to those who find it useful to have those supplied; at the same time it deserves to be seen alongside another more complete version — the BBC version or Olivier’s would be adequate points of reference — that preserve more of the language of the original, or, even better, the Trevor Nunn version of 1990.

1st Senator: Philip Locke

2nd Senator: John Savident

Bianca: Indra Ové

Brabantio: Pierre Vaneck

Cassio: Nathaniel Parker

Desdemona: Irène Jacob

Duke of Venice: Gabriele Ferzetti

Emilia: Anna Patrick

Gratiano: André Oumansky

Iago: Kenneth Branagh

Lodovico: Michael Sheen

Montano: Nicholas Farrell

Othello: Laurence Fishburne

Roderigo: Michael Maloney