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Shakespeare Studies: Shakespeare on Film

A guide for students and professors interested in the study of Shakespeare's life and works

Theatre in Video


New York Public Library for the Performing Arts - Video Archive

Now Available on DVD

Macbeth w/ Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard

Macbeth opens December 4, 2015 in the U.S. Elizabeth DebickiSean HarrisDavid ThewlisJack Reynor, and Paddy Considine also star.  I can't wait!

Shakespeare on Film

The Shakespeare's Globe Theatre production of Twelfth Night from the 2002 Season, which recently ran on Broadway in 2013, starring Mark Rylance and directed by Tim Carroll, aims to replicate the authentic Shakespearean experience as accurately as possible.  This all-male production featuring  "original practices" was filmed and is now available on DVD.   In his dual role as actor and Artistic Director for the Globe TheatreRylance was recognized (and often criticized) for his attempts to envision and re-create Shakespeare's plays as they may have appeared to Shakespeare's original audiences.  While watching this clip, observe the meticulous attention to detail in the construction of the Theatre, the stage decoration, and the lavish costumes.  But, more importantly, pay attention to the interplay between actor and audience that the open playing space of the Globe Theatre encourages.      

New Resource! - Digital Theatre Plus


At the heart of Digital Theatre Plus is the ethos to share the best of British theatre with teachers and students all over the world. Digital Theatre Plus captures the moments before the curtain rises and after the curtain falls, providing valuable insight into the play making process. We share the hidden drama of the weeks, days, and hours before ‘lights up’ on stage. By revealing the world of the rehearsal room, dressing room, backstage and beyond, our documentaries and interviews introduce theatre as a vibrant, exciting art form through a familiar and accessible medium.

The Sonnet Project

The Sonnet Project is a completely crazy idea dreamed up by Ross Williams from NY Shakespeare Exchange. 154 sonnets, 154 NYC locations, 154 actors. It’s a tapestry of cinematic art that infuses the poetry of William Shakespeare into the poetry of New York City. It’s huge, it’s visceral and it’s right here.

We began this project as a continuation of our mission – getting new audiences to like Shakespeare.   After raising almost $50,000 in a Kickstarter campaign we embarked on a journey – to film all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, each performed by a different actor in a carefully chosen New York City location. It began as project with a deadline – by Shakespeare’s 450th birthday (April 23rd 2014) all 154 sonnets would be assigned, filmed and released on our website and YouTube.

The Sonnet Project very quickly blossomed into something more. It became apparent that each sonnet was not simply a ‘video’ – not simply an actor standing at a monument reciting a sonnet – but a short independent film. Every single sonnet required time and effort beyond our imagining. But the finished product! Each one is expansive, narrative – a work of art.

We decided to focus on the journey rather than the destination – the Project will not be finished by April. But that’s ok. In fact, it’s more than ok because the Project has exploded into a sprawling, barely controllable, ever-growing, ever-changing tribute to Shakespeare’s art, New York City, and the artists that live here. And we love it.


Hamlet: Then and Now

Laurence Olivier in 1948 film production of Hamlet

Sir Laurence Olivier directed and starred in his 1948 film production of Hamlet

David Tennant as Hamlet in 2008 production directed by Greg Doran for the RSC

                                                                             photo credit: Ellie Kurttz/RSC

David Tennant in the 2008 production of Hamlet directed by Greg Doran for the Royal Shakespeare Company.   

Theatrical performances of Shakespeare's plays are unique and ephemeral experiences for the lucky few in the audience.  However, versions of Shakespeare's plays are often filmed and preserved for posterity either as filmed stage performances or cinematic adaptations of the plays.  The Avery Fisher Center for Music and Media located on the second floor of the Bobst Library holds over 28,000 videos including a wide variety of Shakespearean performances and documentaries.  The database, Theatre in Video, contains more than 250 performances of the world's leading plays, together with more than 100 documentaries.  It includes recently captured productions from Shakespeare's Globe Thetare in London as well as documentaries on acting from the Royal Shakespeare Company and a documentary on the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London, all in streaming video.  The BBC Shakespeare Plays/Ambrose Video offer in streaming video the historical BBC television event which features productions the whole Shakespearean canon.  Check the “Shakespeare on Film” page in this guide for links to locating Shakespeare's works on film.


Internet Movie Database (IMDb)

Literature Film Quarterly Journal

Theater Talk

Theater Talk is a television series devoted to the world of the stage.  CUNY TV provides on-demand streaming of these wonderful interviews with theatre's most interesting and influential artists. 

BBC Shakespeare Plays

The BBC Shakespeare Plays collection captures the television adaptions of Shakespeare's plays that were a defining moment in British television history. Filmed between 1978 and 1985, the full-length productions are traditional interpretations of the plays set in either Shakespeare's own time (1564 to 1616) or in the historical period of the events depicted (such as ancient Rome for Julius Caesar, or c1400 for Richard II etc). This series features one of the greatest casts ever assembled with actors from both stage and screen including notable classical actors such as John Gielgud, Patrick Stewart, Anthony Hopkins, Bob Hoskins, Jane Lapotaire and Helen Mirren.

Avery Fisher Center

The Avery Fisher Center for Music and Media (AFC) is located on the 2nd floor of Bobst Library. Our collections include over 28,000 videos (with U.S. and foreign cinema, drama and music performances, documentaries, art films, and more) and over 76,000 sound recordings (featuring music from a broad spectrum of classical, traditional, and popular artists and genres, from throughout the world and across history). Our viewing and listening facilities support a variety of analog and digital formats.  Here is just a sampling of the Shakespearean films available at the AFC:


Books on Shakespeare and Film