Read it First: At Home Edition - Shakespeare With Familiar Faces

Elizabeth Graney, Librarian, Literature & Fiction Department,
Film and play adaptations of Shakespeare's favorite works
Film and play adaptations of Shakespeare's favorite works

Ah, April. The month we celebrate Spring, National Poetry Month and the birth (and death) of one Mr. William Shakespeare. Arguably the most famous author of all time, Shakespeare’s works are perennial favorites, having been performed for centuries. Our virtual cup runneth over with Shakespeare e-books and film adaptations so this month we’re offering not one, but two, Read it First; At Home Editions focused solely on the Bard. First up, we have Shakespeare with Familiar Faces; film adaptations featuring the celebrities we know and love.

Watch and Read at Home

Book cover for Macbeth
Patrick Stewart

The play that dare not speak its name. After hearing a prophecy that he will become the King of Scotland, general Macbeth and his wife are consumed with the need to do whatever it takes to fulfill that destiny. Starring Sir Patrick Stewart, this production was based on a highly popular stage version which garnered Stewart both a Tony and Standard Theater Award nomination.

Book cover for Hamlet

We have two versions of Hamlet for your viewing pleasure.

First, we have the dynamic pairing of Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Derek Jacobi in a BBC production. With two knighted actors at the helm, this one is bound to be impressive. After the untimely death of his father and the suspiciously quick remarriage of his mother to his uncle, Prince Hamlet of Denmark returns home to ponder the moral implications of filial duty and the pitfalls of revenge.

Our second version stars Richard Burton and is staged as a dress rehearsal of the play with the actors in everyday clothing. Directed by acclaimed actor and director John Gielgud, this production was originally a hit stage play before being put to film in 1964.

Book cover for Much Ado about Nothing
Much Ado about Nothing

Benedict, an staunch bachelor, and Beatrice, who has sworn off men, are sarcastic, witty, avowed nemeses forced together by the impending marriage of their friends Claudio and Hero. But is there something more behind their vitriolic banter? This 1993 version, directed by Kenneth Branagh, has more stars than you can shake a stick at. Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Keanu Reeves, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton and the list goes on and on.

Book cover for Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

Emperor Julius Caesar has returned home from war victorious but his mounting popularity concerns Roman senators who fear his consolidation of power. As the conspirators plot his downfall, Caesar’s friend Brutus struggles to choose between his duty and his conscience. Charlton Heston, Jason Robards and John Gielgud star in this 1970 version.  

Book cover for Taming of the Shrew
Taming of the Shrew

When Lucentio moves to Padua for his studies, he falls for the beautiful Bianca. But Bianca is forbidden to wed until her foul tempered older sister, Katherina, is married off. Can Lucentio, and Bianca’s other suitors, find a man mad enough to take on cantankerous Katherina? John Cleese plays Petruchio, Katherina’s brave suitor, in this BBC version of one of Shakespeare’s beloved comedies. 

Book cover for A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream

Love triangles, meddling fairies, love potions gone wrong and a set of actors in the wrong place at the wrong time all combine to create Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy. When Hermia and Lysander run away to marry against the wishes of Hermia’s father, they set off a madcap series of events that changes the worlds of man and fairy alike. Watch a young Dame Helen Mirren play the love crossed Hermia in this BBC production.