The Tempest – The Missing Scene

Date: 2015
Posted by: Noor Ghuniem
Cast: Maryam (Sycorax, The Lucifers), Maryam’s brother (Caliban, Sycorax’s Dad), Friend (Sycorax’s Mom), Friend (Ariel)
Credits: Noor, Maryam, Alexis (writer and directors), Noor (video editor), Alexis (cameraperson),
Duration: 9.00

So, who wants to know Caliban’s back story? Certainly Shakespeare doesn’t give us much to go on. All we know is that his mother Sycorax was a witch, came from Algiers, arrived on the island pregnant with Caliban, and died before the action of The Tempest begins. Now here’s a video to fill in this lamentable gap left by the bard.

Hearts may sink to see that this is another sock puppet video, but stay with it because it’s actually rather good. It’s a school project (age of the students unclear), and they have gone to a considerable amount of trouble to imagine a sustained and plausible prequel to The Tempest, explaining what made Sycorax so bitter and how she ended up on the island. There’s a substantial amount of pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue which hopefully got them good marks for effort. It’s a genuinely creative piece of imagination, conducted as best they could with the tools at their command. It ends with Sycorax’s death and Caliban taking over the island, leaving us still with the question of her influence on him, but for the rest of the story you’ll just have to watch – and hopefully applaud.

Links: YouTube page

Ophelia’s Lullaby

Date: 2008
Posted by: thedivisionbella
Cast: None
Credits: ‘Credits go to Myself [Carrie], Joseph, C.J, Square Enix / Disney Interactive (for transitional clips from the Kingdom Hearts video game series)’. Music from the Silent Hill video game series: “Room of Angel” by Akira Yamaoka from “Silent Hill 4: The Room”
Duration: 6.37

The cult of Ophelia is a strong one, and it is reflected in numerous online videos which amount to a significant subset of the kinds of work BardBox is interested in. Ophelia the rejected figure, lost in love, a tragic person caught up in someone else’s tragedy, has a strong iconographical appeal which finds outlet today in artworks, montages, photographic essays, self-portraits as Ophelia, videos and websites.

This example is a school project, and a remarkably accomplished one at that. Mostly in monochrome, it artfully combines shots of parting hands, water, flowers, a graveyard and quotations, overlaid by a sorrow-filled, new age-ish song of the kind intended to appeal to the Twilight generation. It demonstrates how the ease of production and access to digital media, alongside with sharing sites, has led to new avenues of expression for those whose emotional response to Shakespeare needs to find an outlet other than that offered by the scholarly essay.

YouTube page
Ophelia and Web 2.0 (site on Ophelia and popular culture)


Date: 2007
Posted by: hdflopeck
Cast: James Huessy (Iago), Samantha Dickey (Desdemona), Claudia Tellez (Emilia), Nathan Hutchins (Cassio), Mike Thomas (Othello)
Credits: There You Have It Productions presents. Shot and chopped by James Huessy
Duration: 9.37

How do you take a tale of jealousy, power and racial prejudice in 16th century Venice and reposition it in a 21st century high school in Vermont? The feature film O demonstrated very ably how it is possible to translate Othello‘s particular passions to a modern-day American setting, but such a bold stroke of the imagination requires technical skill beyond the imagination and budget of the average high school English project. But that’s no reason not to try, and this is a lively and intriguing failure. The style adopted is to intercut often overlapping dialogue between the performers (the opening titles claim that the video was unscripted) with pieces to camera from the leading players, as they explain their actions – with the peculiar exception of Othello himself. The tone wavers uncertainly from seriousness to mocking, so that we get a vigorously conducted strangulation scene but then a silly suicide from Othello. Perhaps what’s most interesting is that Iago is the director, editor and lead performer, while Othello seems unclear what he is supposed to be doing (he questions how to pronounce Iago in the end credit ‘outtake’ sequences), redued to a mere cipher (his name is bottom of the acting credits). Iago the engineer of his own downfall, Othello the minor dupe – with a little more seriousness this could have been a quite interesting attempt at portraying the tragedy of Iago.

YouTube page

How to marginalise women like a Shakespearean

Date: 2008
Posted by: 104thouot
Cast: Mike, Bob, Jake, Steve
Credits: Made by Jake, Bob, Mike and Honeybuns
Duration: 5.29

A smart critique of Shakespearean dramatic logic (specifically Hamlet) and the treatment of women. It is made in the most rudimentary form with stick-people drawings, overlaid by commentary in the form of advice to the distracted male. So Hamlet, things are looking bad for you, but what’s worse is that your girlfriend’s going crazy. What do to?

Well, as any good Shakespearean knows, a verbose use of dialogue’s absolutely essential to the situation. Tell her your plans and hope she understands? That’s not a good idea. As everyone knows she’ll probably misunderstand because her mind works differently. Instead of listening to logic she will attempt to describe how your lives together will be much better than any silly bit of revenge your deceased father has cooked up in the underworld. To avoid this, it is always best to profess that you have never loved her…

And so on. The American 12th grade students who made this jest know the play well (though not so well that they don’t get a few words wrong in their quotations) and have thought about it acutely, albeit with all the narrowness of a 21st century sensibility. Once you have taken from Shakespeare all feeling and poetry, perhaps all you do have left are stick people.

YouTube page

Straight Outta Denmark

Date: 2004
Posted by: soonest2turn
Credits: Not given
Cast: Not given
Duration: 2.58

School project Shakespeare raps are scattered all over YouTube, and most are lame and annoying. This Grade 12 English project video from Canada stands out from the crowd by some realistic venom amid the goofy performance, and its strong language (a broadminded English teacher was involved, clearly). The lyrics show a strong engagement with the play, more than vindicating the exercise:

Straight Outta Denmark a crazy m———r named Hamlet
I’m a bad ass hero that’s tragic
Thoughts are pending, time’s not mending
Tragic means I die in the ending.

The full text is given on the YouTube page. Just a shame about the half-hearted lip-synching.

YouTube page

When Hamlet met Ophelia

Date: 2007
Posted by: lpdisney
Credits: Storyboard and animation by Liron Peer, background colouring by Shaul Dadon
Cast: Shaul Dadon (Ophelia), Liron Peer (Hamlet)
Duration: 0.48

An animation of Act 3 Scene 2 of Hamlet (‘Lady, shall I lie in your lap?’), made by a student in the third year of Animation Studies at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. The animation is assured but conventional; the novelty comes in that the dialogue is in Hebrew (without subtitles). Title and credits are bi-lingual.

YouTube page
Liron Peer’s website

情非得已 Qing Fei De Yi MV based on Love Labour’s Lost

Date: 2005
Posted by: objredline
Credits: Directed and edited by Long Lin and David Wu
Cast: Annie Brown, Long Lin, David Wu
Duration: 7.04

A curious cross-cultural mix, a karaoke Shakespeare of sorts. It is a mixture of music video and modern language version of Love’s Labour’s Lost, inspired by the pop song ‘Qing Fei De Yi’ by Taiwanese singer/songwriter Harlem Yu. The cast is Chinese-American, and the song which is performed for most of the video is their own rough (and painfully flat) rendition of Harlem Yu’s original. We are told that play and song were so similar in theme that it seemed logical to blend the two together. Produced as a high school literature project from Grindle Gifted Language Arts, Shakespeare Unit, 6th period.

YouTube page

Shakespeare Paradox

Date: 2005
Posted by: ElMatadore88
Credits: Created by Edward
Cast: Andrew Dexter, Casey Inouye, Edward Fan, Maki Hattori, Nolan Chung
Duration: 10.43

Posted on 18 December 2005, this must be one of the earliest original Shakespeare titles on YouTube. It’s certainly not a conventional production. Describing itself as ‘all the confusing themes of Shakespeare packed into one!’ the video is tagged with such terms as ‘blood’, ‘honor’, ‘ghosts’, ‘romance’ and ‘love’. It starts with Shakespeare’s name written out in what look like cushions, with a piano is played and voices mutter in the background. The images that follow include a church, a paper boat in water having rocks dropped on it (and then the film reversed), birds by a pond, schoolroom actors (mostly Chinese-American) with masks grimacing at the camera, a boy giving birth to a rock, a young woman with a moustache (‘this is what’ll you learn in Shakespeare’), an invisible man, ghostly figures (some of whom dance in the style of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’), blood, fighting, and snatches through out of Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and the sonnets. With snatches of music, messages written on hands, and voices played backgrounds, this is a puzzle, if not quite a paradox. To a degree, it’s just a silly student jape, but it’s a creative jape for all that.

YouTube page

The Passenger

Date: 2006
Posted by: johnrobinhartel
Credits: Directed and photographed by John Robin Hartel, written by Trevor Emmett and Kyle Farrell, edited by John Robin Hartel and Kyle Farrell, produced by Kyle Farrell and Trevor Emmett, for the Filme Company
Cast: Camron Crooks (Ulysses), Trevor Emmett (Thersites), James Warmles (Paris), Brandon Smith (himself), Rich Ward (Troilus), Adi Beged-Dov (Cressida), Travis (Pandera), Kyle Farrell (Diomedes), Jamen Lee (Hector), Mike Johnson (Achilles), The Clerk (The Clerk)
Duration: 5.55

This is a truly odd interpretation of of Shakespeare’s oddest play. Set among American small town slacker youth, it start with two young men in a car, one silent, the other smoking heavily while complaining of the damage cigarette smoke can do to children. They stop outside a store where two more young men are standing. The man smoking gets out of the car and berates the two for smoking themselves (“babykillers”). A young man and woman come out of the store as he goes in. The couple speak lovingly to each other, then she leave him to get in a car, where a young man takes some money from her. Another man joins them in the car, and she pats him on the leg, while the man she has left looks on ruefully. Elsewhere a man is trying to read a map, and another one offers to help him. The latter then talks to one of the men standing outside the store, whom he criticises for upsetting their mother. A thief runs out of the store and the man who helped the map-reader gives chase. He stops the thief and berates him, only to be struck down by the thief when he turns his back.

What has all this to do with Troilus and Cressida? The filmmaker has this to say on the YouTube comments:

Trevor explained the plot of the play to me, then we worked out a script in about an hour. When he handed it in though (it was a final for his Shakespeare class, I believe) everyone in the class was quickly pointing out which characters in the film represented which characters in the play, so it worked for its purpose.

Since there is no way anyone (outside of that English class, perhaps) would recognise this drama as being derived from Shakespeare’s play without prompting, our only clues are the cast list, which we are informed shows the players in order of appearance. So, the two men in the car are Ulysses and Thersites, with Ulysses the one with the smoking obsession. The two outside the store are Paris (in a green shirt) and the unquestionably unShakespearean Brandon Smith. The couple who come out of the store are Troilus and Cressida. The man in the car is Pandera (i.e. Pandarus), and they are joined in the car by Diomedes. The map reader is probably unidentified, as it must be Hector who helps him and Achilles whom Hector chases and who then turns on him at the end. Obvious, really.

Is it any good? That depends on what you are looking for. Viewed without prior knowledge of intentions, it’s a rough, puzzling short film that doesn’t go anywhere. But the puzzle’s the thing. It’s being able – or not being able – to see Shakespeare’s own odd work encoded in the film’s off-hand conceit that challenges the viewer and makes us look again. So, is Thersites the passenger?

YouTube page

The Office Othello

Date: 2007
Posted by: smathew3344
Credits: Filmed by Stephen Mathew
Cast: Not named
Duration: 10.52

Just how many American high schools are out there where the English teacher has set the class the task of producing a video parody of the Shakespeare play they are studying using some popular culture reference or other? From the evidence of YouTube, there are hundreds. Most are wearisome and would seem to have little instructional value; a handful amuse or intrigue; just one or two are exceptional. The Office Othello comes under the intriguing category – a moderately skilful but ultimately quite peculiar attempt to marry the style of the television series The Office to Shakespeare’s play. The effort is praiseworthy for the accuracy of some of the parody, and for not slavishly following the plot line of the play. But the light tone sits uneasily with jealousy and having Pam (the Desdemona figure) have her throat cut with a pair of office scissors. So, more marks for inspiration than execution.

The same filmmaker has also made Crouching Tiger, Hidden Macbeth, a juvenile romp redeemed somewhat by its title and the comic use of dubbing.

YouTube page