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

1981: Jonathan Miller

This is the BBC Shakespeare Plays version of Othello. As such it’s reliably traditional in production design — costumes and sets are Elizabethan or Jacobean, as are the architectural features. They are also fairly spare in production values, simple in delivery and photography, but filled with first-tier actors. They are sometimes not the most intuitively obvious actors for the job, however, and occasionally those casting choices produce interesting twists in the play. John Cleese’s phlegmatic Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, for example, inverts many expectations from more animated productions, and reiinvents the play somewhat without transgressing Shakespeare’s meaning and text.

The role of Othello here is envisioned not as a black sub-Saharan African, but a Moor of more typically Semitic coloration, and the role is given to Anthony Hopkins. Of the issue of white actors playing Othello I have written elsewhere; here, as in most of those other instances, the intention is not even remotely abusive or condescending.

Hopkins is one of those rare actors who seems to do more with less: he seldom carries on wildly, and tends to be most reserved in his expression when the emotional stakes are highest. He is not very demonstrative of emotions most of the time, though there are conspicuous exceptions. One might recall his painfully reserved demeanor in The Lion in Winter, The Remains of the Day, or The Silence of the Lambs — where the external serenity masks either inner turmoil or downright sociopathy. He can carouse with the best, but usually for outward show. The effect in this play is unusual, to say the least, but it is interesting. His reserve presents itself as severe repression, and he himself seems a coiled bundle of springs. In the second half of the play his emotion is more freely demonstrated on the outside, and the effect is all the more intense. His final fall is not merely that he has been deceived by Iago, but his person, his values, and his sanity have all been undone by Iago’s treason. The effect is frightening.

Bob Hoskins, who most often played comic parts, from Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) to Smee in Hook (1991), was certainly capable of carrying serious roles as well, and his Iago (insistently referred to with epithets of praise by Othello) is ample demonstration. He is not as outwardly cold as many another Iago: he seems affable and friendly to just about everyone, until he admits his purpose in his various asides. His very inconsistency allows him to impart far more nuance to his character by balancing the polar opposites.

Desdemona is carried by the seasoned professional Penelope Wilton. She is reserved in her way too — it’s a very British production — but she carries it off with dignity and class. She seems more mature than the other Desdemonas, and that is consonant with the more nuanced flow of the script. Her deathbed scene is particularly affecting; in spite of her desperate situation, pleading at the last with Othello, she retains her personal core and her center, and even her love for the husband who is killing her, making the situation all the more devastating.

A few of the other players may be familiar from different contexts: Rosemary Leach, who plays Emilia, is Mrs. Honeychurch in A Room with a View, and David Yelland (Casio) played the Prince of Wales in Chariots of Fire. Tony Steedman may be remembered by some as Socrates (pronounce So-crates) from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and as Dr. Everett Jacobs in the episode “Hunter, Prey” of Babylon 5.

As noted, this is a fairly minimalistic production — there is no significant music in the scenes, and the sets are few and basic. But compensatorily, the script is much more nearly complete than those used in most other versions, and it is given full room to maneuver, since it is unencumbered by a lot of merely visual material. This is characteristic of the Shakespeare Plays sequence in general, and, I would argue, it expresses faith in Shakespeare’s artistry and design. In this play in particular, the more truncated scripts tend to make the transformation of Othello’s own character and the slow growth of his suspicions more plausible — less governed by unaccountable leaps and jumps. The restoration of the normally elided sections can bring forward features that one might never have seen before. In comparison to some of the other more demonstrative but trimmed-down and (usually) agenda-driven productions, it’s quite enlightening.

If one wants a fairly conservative and mostly straightforward presentation of the play, this is certainly an excellent candidate. It is not visually extravagant or very beautiful, and — more importantly — it is not of quite the same emotional shape as many of the others, but that can be salutary. It’s not the most gripping or fast-paced version of the play I’ve seen, but it's certainly one of the best.

Bianca: Wendy Morgan

Brabantio: Geoffrey Chater

Cassio: David Yelland

Desdemona: Penelope Wilton

Duke of Venice: John Barron

Emilia: Rosemary Leach

First Gentleman: Max Harvey

First Senator: Seymour Green

Gratiano: Alexander Davion

Iago: Bob Hoskins

Lady in Waiting: Arabella Weir

Lodovico: Joseph O’Conor

Montano: Tony Steedman

Officer: Peter Walmsley

Othello: Anthony Hopkins

Roderigo: Anthony Pedley

Second Gentleman: Terence McGinity

Second Senator: Howard Goorney

Third Gentleman: Nigel Nobes