Monday, February 11, 2008

Lindafay wants to know...(Pretty Please?)

This week, I have a few questions for you. If you can help me out will you please leave a comment? Here is my first question:

What Shakespeare movies do you recommend for family viewing? You can even share any Shakespeare movies you do NOT recommend due to unsuitable content for children. Maybe you could rate them G, PG and R and what parts were for more mature children or high school-aged students. I'd like the list to be very specific.

Once the list is compiled, I'll make a post sharing the results so all of us can benefit. Please do not recommend a movie that you have not watched yourself but have only heard was good from hearsay.

Thanks in advance. I'm looking forward to your answers.


  1. I haven't seen a lot of different productions, but I've enjoyed all the Kenneth Branaugh (sp?) ones... and the Mel Gibson Hamlet was cool...

  2. Anonymous11.2.08

    We've watched Mel Gibson's Hamlet a few times... finally, I figured out a certain scene between him and his mother is a Freudian interpretation of the play and *not* appropriate for children (although it went over all our heads a few times!). I'd rate it PG overall, except for that scene which we'll have to fast-forward from now on... it was quite embarrassing once my eyes were opened.

    We watched Branagh's Henry V and that would be G. Sweet courting scene at the end between him and Emma Thompson.

    Last month we watched Royal Shakespeare Co's A Winter's Tale w/Sir Antony Sher. Excellent, I'd rate it G. (again, sometimes things go over my head.)

    The last one I have is Merchant of Venice w/Warren Mitchell & Gemma Jones. It's by BBC. It was very tasteful in Elizabethan costume. I give it a G.

    I plan to try more BBC productions. This is the only series I've found that's produced every play. I also like the fact that they're set on a stage.


  3. I don't know if these are available anywhere, but we had a few I'd taped years and years ago. HBO did an animated Othello and other Shakespeare tales in the mid 80--early 90s. They were awesome! I never dreamed I'd taped something that cool when I did that!!! My kids watched Othello and the other one or two many times. They were the perfect intro to Shakespeare. My son made it thru a recent Mel Gibson one [I think that was him!] but I fell asleep! I'm not as conservative as some readers though and my son was 12 at the time so there may be content unsuited to younger kids.

  4. Anonymous11.2.08

    Editing the Winter's Tale comment: There was a very rude, obscene scene during the sheepshearing party that we fast-forwarded. It lasted a couple minutes too.

    Again, I'm sticking to BBC from now on. :-)

  5. Though I really enjoyed Branaugh's Henry V, I must respectfully disagree on the rating. I would rate this PG 13 at the least, R for sensitive viewers. The battle scenes are quite realistic, and in slow motion. Plus, it is the young boys, not the men, that get slaughtered by the French. A wonderful movie, but I plan to save it for the high school years.

    One that I have seen scenes of and plan to watch in its entirety is "As You Like It", starring Helen Mirren. I believe it is a BBC/PBS production. We did enjoy the Lawrence Olivier version, though. I'd rate that G.

  6. Shakespeare is a subject of prayer and concern for our family right now. His work is superb, but by whose standards? God's or man's?

    When I think of Shakespeare, I think not only of intrigue and beauty, but also of fornication, adultery, witches and--in the case of Romeo and Juliet--teen suicide. I just can't, in good conscience, put my children "through the fire" that way--not even for Shakespeare.

    Never say never, but for now...

  7. I haven't seen too many. My dd11 loved Romeo and Juliet. There was one instance of nudity.

    A Midsummer Night's Dream was great and totally family friendly.

    Richard III was also great but did have one really explicit part. I knew before hand and stopped the movie, fast forwarded and then we continued watching.

  8. What a great idea! I can't wait to read your post on this.

    We haven't seen too many Shakespeare movies, but I will comment on the ones we have. (I actually just posted on two we watched recently-- one was a recommendation from your blog, I believe. Thanks!)

    I don't know where we fall on the "conservative" spectrum regarding movies-- we tend to talk with our kids about things as they come up rather than completely shield them, but we also do not want unsavory images imprinted on their impressionable minds and thus try to be careful what we let them watch. Age also plays into it. I really think parents ought to preview movies like this even if they are recommended by someone they trust, because we all draw the line in different places.

    With that caveat--

    As You Like It with Laurence Olivier (1936) is a cute, sweet, funny version.

    A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) with Mickey Rooney and James Cagney is funny and whimsical. The king of the fairies is a little scary-- we weren't sure why he was dressed so like the devil. His henchman are dressed like bats. But they don't come into it much. Titania's fairies were lovely. Cagney and Rooney are hilarious in this film.

    We watched the 1968 Royal Shakespeare Company version of A Midsummer Night's Dream awhile back, and were shocked. Titania was dressed in a body stocking-- very revealing. I don't recommend this one.

    Richard III with Laurence Olivier (1955) was very good, but had some rough scenes for sensitive souls.

    We saw the quintessential Hamlet with Laurence Olivier (1948) and thought it was excellent. Ophelia's death scene and funeral were very tragic, and, again, rough for sensitive souls.

    The first Shakespeare movie we ever watched was Much Ado About Nothing (1993) with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, and we greatly enjoyed it. We fast-forwarded through two scenes (one with gratuitous nudity, the other with strongly implied fornication which is merely hinted at in the play).

  9. Anonymous11.2.08

    Hi Lindafay,

    Here's my 2 cents regarding Shakespeare films. The first Shakespeare play our family studied was A Midsummer Nights Dream. After reading the abridged version in Lamb's and listening to an abridged version from Jim Weiss, we watched a filmed adaptation of the play that we located at the library produced by Joseph Papp. It is an actual play that was recorded. I'm having trouble locating it online, but from the library it is "A Midsummer Nights Dream"- Films for the Humanities, produced by Joseph Papp. This was completely appropriate for my then 6yo, as well as my then 13yo. We also viewed the 1935 version starring Mickey Rooney & James Cagney, again family friendly. I allowed my older daughter to watch the 1999 film starring Kevin Klein & Michelle Pfieffer, though I would give this a PG-13 rating.

    This year we are currently viewing Romeo & Juliet, a CBC production starring Meagan Follows (you know, Anne of Green Gables). Again, this is a filmed version of the actual play. We are about half way through and thus far there has been only one scene that I would deem "uncomfortable". This was the scene when Juliet's nurse comes looking for Romeo and finds Benvolio instead. His character is rather crude, but it is somewhat subtle. Only my high school student is watching this because I didn't feel my 7yo was ready for a filmed version due to the subject matter (we have read & listened to the abridged version however).

    In the high schooler & I plan on watching the 1936 version of Romeo & Juliet, starring Norman Shearer & Leslie Howard. I'll let you know how that one is. We also have the 1967 Taming of the Shrew, starring Elizabeth Taylor on our list. We should be watching both of these this month, so I'll get back to you with a review.

    Blessings & welcome back to the states! Kristie H.

  10. DS who is only 6, and I, are planning to watch Shakespeare, the Animated Tales

  11. Merchant of Venice-Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons. Rated R. Excellent version for adults....female frontal above the waist nudity and sexual situations (brief) I love this version and fast forward through the few seconds of nudity to enjoy the richness of this movie and story.

    I wish we could get a "clean" version of this movie for my family to watch for the story and music and colors of Venice.

    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  12. I love Much Ado About Nothing. But I would hold off until 8th grade or so. The whole dilemma has to do with a scene that I would not show or try to explain to younger kids.

  13. Caroline12.2.08

    We watched the Thames Shakespeare project of 12th Night and it was good- G It is a filming of the actual play. On the other hand, we went to see it live and boy did they take some liberties with sexual innuendos. Be very careful about live performances- I would call ahead and just flat out ask if it is appropriate for kids (of course everyone's standards are different so who knows if even that would be accurate) We are going to try a school matinee at the same theater to see if they have toned it down a bit. Who knew that so much could be said with non-verbals!!!

  14. Great comments, folks. Naturally, we will not all see eye to eye concerning ratings. Please don't let that deter you from voicing your opinions. Keep them coming.

  15. Looking forward to the results! ;) Hoping you are enjoying your acclimation back in to 'American' society (for what it's worth). We need missionaries over here, too! LOL

  16. In Peter Leithart's book "Brightest Heaven of Invention" he mentions and reviews the movie versions of the plays he is teaching about. Knowing him and his family, I could say that his reviews would be pretty conservative and right on the mark. You have to remember with Shakespeare there is going to be SOME drama and possible killing and gore. But as my children say there will also be some woman dressing up as a man, a ring or bracelet token, and somebody trying to get somebody else to break up. :)

  17. We have watched 'Shakespeare: The Animated Tales', because I can't find a clean version.
    They are actually very enjoyable.