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

1922: Dimitri Buchowetzki

The obvious fact here is that this does not preserve the spoken language of Shakespeare: it’s a silent film, and the bits of dialogue are all present on interstitial “cards” conveying bits of Shakespeare’s verse or other things. It takes up the story earlier than the play does, and tries to approach it as a somewhat simplified narrative. Some of that works. Some does not.

Shakespeare’s dramatic corpus, noted since the beginning for the richness of its language, seems an odd vein for the earliest practitioners of cinematic arts to be mining for silent films, but they did so, and fairly extensively. Some of the plays are absurdly reduced in the process: some are no more than ten minutes or so. They are obviously extremely superficial. In its defense, however, this film is considerably longer. It is still not as long as even the shortest of the other versions of Othello listed here: it runs seventy-five minutes. In the DVD release I had, it was accompanied by a relentless organ score, which I personally find wearying after five minutes. But it does fill in some of the tonal deficit left by the inability to hear the actors directly.

All in all, this is probably best seen as a kind of reception-study document — about how people in a later age (ca. 1920-25) saw and appreciated Shakespeare’s plays. It’s not going to add a lot to anything beyond that. That’s okay. It’s worth seeing in its own terms. Emil Jannings brings some genuine (if dated) pathos to the role of Othello. Desdemona seems more a creature of the makeup studio than a genuinely desirable beautiful woman on her own, but I perhaps betray my own prejudices. Iago is just kind of pathetic, and it’s hard to see why anyone would pay him any mind. All in all, this is an intriguing movie; it’s not something to be taken as definitive in the universe of Shakespeare representations. If anything is to be garnered from it, it is that the period is not as simplistically racist as one might have expected. Othello himself is august and serious, and deserving of our pity, even as he is sucked into a vortex of self-destructive fantasy. It’s not a movie to see entirely on its own terms, but as a document showing the process of historical reception through the ages, not a bad way of investing an hour or so of your time.

Brabantio: Friedrich Kühne

Cassio: Theodor Loos

Desdemona: Ica von Lenkeffy

Emilia: Lya De Putti

Iago: Werner Krauss

Montano: Magnus Stifter

Othello: Emil Jannings

Rodrigo: Ferdinand von Alten