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

1989: Janet Suzman

This is filmed with a cinematic hand from a stage production of one of the most volatile possible plays in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1990, when Apartheid was finally coming apart, but had not yet completely done so. It was perhaps daring to present it at all, given its obvious racial overtones, but it has not been turned into any kind of a screed for or against any political position in and of itself. Instead it takes a very direct approach to the play, and unfolds it with dignity and remarkable depth and finesse.

The production itself is beautiful to see — the costumes are simple and elegant; the sets are theatrical but varied and interesting. All in all it strives to be a straightforward and fairly complete rendition of the play, without any overlay of high concept to take it somewhere else. The script is not wholly uncut, but it’s not brutally reduced either. It’s made with genuine respect for Shakespeare’s text, and it contains most of the play’s critical interchanges, leaving in place its matrix of troubling contradictions.

Othello himself is played by John Kani, recently more widely known for his role in Black Panther, and in the Shakespeare world as Cominius in the 2011 film of Coriolanus. Kani gives us an Othello with a certain amount of reserve, but considerable gravitas. His emotional range is not so wide as some of the others who have taken the part; it’s a different approach, and equally worth watching.

Joanna Weinberg’s Desdemona is somewhat reserved too, but she brings considerable depth and abundant unforced feeling to it: constraining the potentially more lavish outpourings of emotion allows her to negotiate the tricky path between the resentment and confusion she feels at Othello’s unjustified abuse and the love she continues to feel for him, without seeming (like some other Desdemonas) as if she has become a parody of a bipolar character. She does so with grace and feeling, and her presentation of the role is certainly one of the best I have seen. It is hard to describe in small compass what she accomplishes, but it allows the viewer to feel some real sympathy for her in her plight.

Desdemona’s measured but elegant parsimony of expression also leaves room for Emilia’s torrential denunciation of Othello, Iago, and everyone else who has had a hand in the tragedy at the end, and she accomplishes it with real energy. It’s not a long part, but it is arguably a great one, and there are many very creditable renditions of it out there. Even so, I think only Zoë Wanamaker’s Emilia (Trevor Nunn, 1990) is its equal. I continue, however, to savor the variety the actresses who have taken the role have brought to it.

Probably the most remarkable distinctive element in this version is Richard Haddon Haines’s Iago. More than any other production I have seen, it brings him center-stage over and over again, cycling back to his bitter commentary on the unfolding affair in asides. He clarifies his cynical plans, and thus becomes — as those who speak to us in asides often do — the audience’s “friend”, whether we want him for a friend or not. Such quasi-complicity is not a comfortable position for us to be in, but it’s one of those standard tricks with Shakespeare’s villains and their asides — you can see it in Richard III (Richard himself), Titus Andronicus (Aaron the Moor), and elsewhere. The moral toll thus levied on the audience is acute, and invites repeated examination and excavation. Iago is vulgar, protean, and amoral; he resorts to gesticulations and crude similes and seems to relish the role particularly. All the while we are in the know, but can’t do anything to stop him or to extricate ourselves from this relationship.

Some of the smaller parts in Othello are capable of being confused, especially by first-time viewers; another benefit of this production is that both the look and the carriage of each character has been whittled out of the undifferentiated theatrical prime matter in such a way as to make them both visually and personally distinguishable from one another. It doesn’t do to confuse Roderigo and Cassio, for example, but there are some versions in which they do in fact look much alike and sound similar; here they are helpfully distinct. That keeps the viewer — especially one who is not a seasoned veteran — aware of what is going on.

Parents or teacher may be concerned that there is some small amount of partial nudity here, and some rather crude gesticulation by Iago. It would not be enough to keep me from showing it to anyone at the high school level, but others may differ. With that caution, however, it’s a rich and beautiful rendition of a very difficult play. I think it is arguably one of the best versions to see, especially for a first encounter with Othello in a stage/film hybrid form.

Desdmona: Joanna Weinberg

Duke of Venice: Lyndsey Reardon

Emilia: Dorothy Gould

Gratiano: John Whiteley

Iago: Richard Haddon Haines

Lodovico: Peter Krummeck

Michael Cassio: Neil McCarthy

Montano: Martin Le Maitre

Othello: John Kani

Roderigo: Frantz Dobrowsky

Soldier: Adrian Galley

Soldier: David Thomas

Soldier: Dennis Hutchinson

Soldier: John Arranges

Soldier: Robert Coleman

Soldier: Saul Bamberger

Soldier: Terence Reis