Date: 2009
Posted by: Book MMS
Cast: Sofia Mesquita (Ophelia)
Credits: Made by Anaïs Dujardin, Chrystel Orsati, Mélodie Simon. Music by Julien Ruggiero, Amandine Glauser
Duration: 5.07

There is only one Ophelia, and she is drawn to water. Were this film and its protaognist given any other name we would probably see no Shakespearean connection at all, but with the name the film turns into a tantalising, mysterious gloss on Shakespeare’s character. A young woman, in distress at thoughts unspoken (there are no words), gets out of bed and wanders through a house littered with empty water bottles. She is desperate for water (what exactly for is not made clear) and eventually climbs into an empty bath, where she would appear to fall asleep. The camera tracks back, revealing a trail of the empty bottles.

This rough-edged film has a rawness to it, a sense of something personal that had to be expressed but equally needed to remain hidden (the comment function on Vimeo has been disabled for the video). It is also slightly absurd, so that the film teeters on the edge between sorrow and silliness. It is a striking example of the considerable number of Ophelia-themed videos out there, part of a larger online cult that had spread across forums, video and photo-sharing sites in which young women variously inhabit the character Ophelia. Alan R. Young’s essay and website Ophelia and Web 2.0 usefully analyses the phenomenon (including comments on the convenience of choosing bathtubs over rivers or ponds in which to recreate Ophelia’s end). He concludes:

If treated with something like the same intellectual respect now increasingly given to film and television appropriations, the Web 2.0 images and videos of Ophelia’s death will be seen, not as a mere interesting digression away from a Shakespeare-centric world, but as a valid contribution to an already large and ongoing commentary upon Ophelia and upon Gertrude’s speech describing her death.

Indeed this is no digression but rather an extension of Shakespeare’s art into our post-modern world (even if it is arguable whether the greater influence may be Millais rather than Shakespeare, as it is the image of the drowned Ophelia in Millais’ painting – midway between life and death, midway betwen air and water – that so often provides the template for these imaginings). As with online video Shakespeare overall, we see his plays spilling out naturally into the media of our times. If we are looking for Ophelia today, she will be as much on YouTube as she is on the stage or printed page.

Vimeo page
Ophelia and Web 2.0

Romeo speech from Romeo and Juliet

Date: 2011
Posted by:RSC Sound & Fury
Cast: Dyfan Dwyfor (Romeo)
Credits: None
Duration: 1.24

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Sound & Fury project brings together contemporary spoken-word and hip-hop artists and Shakespeare, working with London schoolchildren. ‘Word-artists’ and actors taking part have included polarbear, Kate Tempest, Toby Thompson, and here actor Dyfan Dwyfor giving Romeo’s speech from beneath Juliet’s balcony, “But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?”. With apposite contemporary feel, he gives the speech to a self-held camera while standing in a street with traffic going by. He gives every impression of providing a quick confidence to the camera before uploading the results onto YouTube. The video opens and ends abruptly, consciously not crafted except to be in a form that its target audience will instinctively understand. Hopefully.

Some of the results of some of the work with students in 2011 are seen here, in this fourteen-year-old’s sharp-worded riff on the Hamlet soliloquy.

Vimeo page
RSC Sound & Fury

To Be or Not To Be

Date: 2007
Posted by: fenian47ronin
Cast: Voice by Tamo Noonan
Credits: Produced by Tamo Noonan
Duration: 2.12

Tamo Noona aka fenian47ronin describes himself “writer–film critic, journalist, novelist”. As far as the world of online video is concerned, he’s a producer of reveries into the modern state of things, often laced with passages of Shakespeare. His videos bring together portentous imagery heavily treated with Photoshop and Affect Effects, with unclear music and his distorted voice laid over the top. When it works well, as it rather does here, the effect is kind of a stream-of-visual-consciousness with jazz overtones. The Hamlet soliloquy is spoken with heavy echo, with images of cities, skeletons, statues, basketball players, armed forces, the Titanic, and Noonan himself, and a jazzy drumbeat muttering underneath.

To Be or Not to Be is part four of a five-part video series he calls Empire not Liberty as describes as

five “pieces of work” made in response to the war in Iraq and how rampant consumerism began matching the insane military spending…

So now you know. The other five parts are Othello11tamo, Rogue & Peasant Slave, Drop ’till ya Shop!, and Piece of Work. They’re not going to stop war or consumerism (especially if so few people have actually viewed them so far), but they do show the visual power of Shakespeare’s words, whether heard or half-heard, and the efficacy of using distorted images to portray a world gone wrong.

YouTube page
fenian47ronin YouTube Channel
fenian47ronin website

Klingon Hamlet: taH pagh taHbe’

Date: 2009
Posted by: klingonhamlet
Cast: Brian Rivera (Hamlet)
Credits: Cinematographer, assistant editor and director, Amir Sharafeh; capture editor and sound, Suzanne Tyler; costume, make-up designer and editor, Brian Rivera. A Still Picture Production.
Duration: 3.25

Firstly, I must admit to a strong aversion to all things to do with Star Trek and indeed to any cultish science fiction. Secondly, if anything were to make me change my mind and see virtue in what on most occasions is mere childishness, then it would be a sincere and effective rendition of the ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy in Klingon. And here one is.

Claiming to have been coached by Jane Lapotaire, no less, Brian Rivera gives an intense and expressive rendition of Hamlet’s speech in pure Klingon (the language of the villainous race of beings in Star Trek which has been constructed by addicts of the television series and films). As invented languages go, it is convincing and rich in tone, while for those of us whose feet remain on planet Earth, the words are given in English subtitles. And who would have thought there would have been a Klingon word for ‘contumely’?

The location is a little strange: a road bridge at night, with a tree overhanging the speaker (with full Klingon make-up), one of whose branches hangs distractingly over his face. Such minor details aside, this is something to watch with interest, then to listen to alone with increased interest. Truly, as Gorkon says (in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, naturally), “You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon”.

YouTube page
Hamlet in Klingon (the text, that is)
Klingon Hamlet MySpace

Hamlet – the music video

Date: 2008
Posted by: larryc56
Cast: Laurence Olivier (Hamlet) and cast of 1948 film
Credits: Edited and performed by Laurence Campling, song by Adam McNaughton
Duration: 4.53

Here’s a classic parody with a YouTube twist. Scottish folksinger Adam McNaughton’s chirpy song ‘Oor Hamlet’ takes us through the main plot points of Hamlet, gently mocking its absurdities until the final pay-off line, “If you think that was boring, you should see the bloody play”. Video editor Laurence Campling plays and sings the song, delivered in a folky style (without the original’s Scottishisms) reminiscent of Martin Carthy (who does in fact include this song in his repertoire), which he has edited to clips from Laurence Olivier’s 1948 film. The earnestness of Olivier’s film cries out for sending up, and the video achieves the clever trick of pleasing both those who have suffered Hamlet in the classrom and those who love their Shakespeare and find that satire only increases that love.

YouTube page
Adam McNaugthon’s lyrics to Oor Hamlet
Adam McNaughton on Wikipedia
Laurence Campling’s website

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)

Hamlet: Prince of Denmark

Date: 2007
Posted by: ghitchco
Cast: Hitchcock (Hamlet), Julie Jones (Death), Daniel Fachler (Claudius), Edgar Miles (Guard), Bret Walden (Guard), David Reimche (Ghost)
Credits: script: Hitchcock, Julie Jones, Daniel Fachler; cinematography: Daniel Fachler, Chris Gillen; editing: Hitchcock
Duration: 7.13

Here’s the sort of Shakespeare video that YouTube is there to encourage. The filmmaker has been driven to put together his vision of Hamlet (for his Shakespeare class), and with camera, a few friends, the obliging help of a local church and cemetery (in Augusta, Georgia), his CD collection and bags of enthusiasm, he puts together this distinctive take on the ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy. It is technically gauche and a bit silly in places, but it also shows real imagination and feeling for the play.

To begin with, the seven-minute film has a two-minute prologue, which in portentous dumbshow (and with ‘Carmina Burana’ blasting away over the top) shows Hamlet’s encounter with his dead father. The main title then follows, and we see that this is has been prelude to the main business, which is Hamlet delivering the soliloquy while dressed as a seminarian kneeling in church (the video is heavy on Catholic symbolism) and in then a cemetery trying to away from Death. And this is where the imaginative novelty comes in, because Death is a visible figure, female and dressed in white with white face mask. Death shares the words of the soliloquy, acting either as a prompter (“to be” says Hamlet; “or not to be” says Death) or as a voice in Hamlet’s mind, expressing the thoughts that he would rather not say. In the final line Death speaks the words, but it is Hamlet’s lips that mouth them.

It’s an intelligent conceit, thought out visually, and earnestly executed.

YouTube page
A droll teaser trailer for the Hamlet video

H to the Rizzo

Date: 2009
Posted by: juicymedia
Cast: Horatio ft. The Crew
Credits: Directed by Anthony Wong for Juicy Media
Duration: 3.56

There are plenty of Shakespeare raps out there, mostly performed with a snigger by American high school students and not telling us a great deal beyond the realisation that fashion does not necessarily equate with relevance.

But this looks and sounds like the real deal. Made by a Los Angeles video production company, it has all the moves, poses (guns pointed at the camera), flash style (DeLorean car), clothes and locations (sunny Los Angeles with the Hollywood sign in the background), plus a fine music track. But then the words reveal that what is being played out is the relationship between Hamlet and Horatio, and not in any superficial manner but one in which real psychological dilemma is displayed through poetry. The text for the rap is helpfully given with the video:

I walk poetic with a bop in my step,
With a hip-hop heart beat pounding in my chest
Manifest smooth moves and work through the grooves
Yea, so suave they never catch me on review
Never one to intrude, calm collected and cool
As I, master the challenge and discover the balance
That provides me with talent to amaze the town with,
Level headed and steady as I keep my mind grounded
Cats torn between reason and passion, while I’m straight maxin
With the walkman blastin word, and I fused the views
Inked em in my skin, respect em like they kin
As they flow deep within, sweep through my veins to
maintain my persona from here to barcelona, cuz I’m my only owner.
And I stay low-key, and show the new kids how its supposed to be
Play premier, fresh fitted with gear, state of mind stays severe
Represent for the crew, Rearrange the frames of old flicks
of wicked kick it scenes yo of me and team, before we reigned supreme
and I swerve and I merge outta memory lane, supports the key to the game
I got yo back kid in fact thats automatic, so chill with the whack shit

Whaddup H, fresh fit, my boys got taste,
But yo the streets is calling, snakes forever crawling

(Horatio Phone)
Yo I just seen Claud with the federalis, back of the black denalis, handshakes with the jakes

Oh for real?

(Horatio Phone)
Word, he probably bout to squeal, so keep ya eyes on the trap and watch for the phone tap.

Damn, livin wicked and my man broke the code
Commited ultimate sin and shattered the oath
Composed on the road where our homie’s ghost rose.
Exposed and betrayed, the fucks wrong with today
Yo the parks where we played, the blocks where we stayed, the nikes fresh suede, and damn I’ve slayed
word life..feel like ive been tossed a grenade, pulled pin, im no longer in it to win it,
Yo I just hit my limit, H can you check into it?

(Horatio Phone)
Word, right this minute kid

Yo Ive had enough of the crew, its too much about you
Cuz im in need of cream, want more chains to gleam,
push bigger machines, fine dine quisine,
appear on everyscene, man fuck the low key
Only got one option, need Hamlet’s body droppin, outlined in chalk and locked in a coffin,
Devils swarming in my brain, but yo rebels maintain
G&R you got a mission, have techs split em hard, and make sure theres chance for a D&R

(Horatio Phone [To Hamlet])
Yo inside information, you needa watch your location
They plannin to attack armed with techs and macs
Best go grab ya vest and jet just like that

(Hamlet Phone)
Word is bond, pray I still see dawn

Deep sleep, dreams of reminicin, missin old times when rhymes was our only crimes and no one held a nine
Pager starts beepin, non stop, check the clock
4:07 now im stressin as I return the call, whats poppin?

(Phone Voice)
The guns went off and Hamlets body dropped

As the sun begins to raise and blaze across my face,
Lost in deep space, empty place left in my chest,
Frozen blood halts my breath, cuz my main man left
Whats the next step? Feel like I should follow,
fuck tomorrow, cuz I could hardly swallow, hallowed and cold,
But nah I cant leave the story needs to be told
I carry on tradition, no emissions, withs strictly poetic compositions, and I miss em
But I hold em on back, like ya’ll gold plaques
RIP Hamlet….

“Deep sleep, dreams of reminicin, missin old times when rhymes was our only crimes…” This reads like a compelling re-imaging of Hamlet to a hip-hop world, all the more startling for choosing to make Horatio the central figure rather than Hamlet. What is being said may not be clear to everyone, and it is a video to watch once for its own sake, and then again after reading the words and seeing that real drama is being played out. A smart imagination was at work here.

Note: The full on-screen title is H to the Rizzo – Horatio ft. The Crew – The Soliloquy

Vimeo page

Shakespeare Shortz

Date: 2009
Posted by: citizenstheatre
Cast: Staff of the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Credits: not given
Duration: 2.56

Shakespeare Shortz was a competition launched by the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, in 2009, inviting anyone to contribute a video of them reciting their favourite lines from Shakespeare in under two minutes. The winners won tickets to the theatre’s production of Othello. The video above illustrates what they were looking for, with various staff members of the theatre delivering their lines with affection, like a deeply-held passion at last brought forth. The competition is over now, though submissions are still invited just for fun, and in a way it’s similar to what BardBox is aiming to do – documenting, storing and redistributing a new form of Shakespearean production whose strength lies in its community.

The sixteen responses to the video can be found on YouTube here or on the Citizens Theatre’s own site, here. The two winners were Max Does Shakespeare by yobkulcha (yet another example of children reciting words beyond their understanding):

and Calum MacAskill Porter by SkinheadNinja, a particularly clever piece of elementary animation, which merits far more YouTube views than it has received so far:

All in all, this was a good idea that should have had far wider distribution. If only the RSC or the National had come up with it – then Shakespeare and online video might have started to gain the attention it undoubtedly deserves.

YouTube page
Responses to the competition on YouTube
Citizens Theatre Shakespeare Shortz site

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