Anthology Film Archives


November 20 – December 1


The second part of this calendar’s MIDDLE AGES ON FILM series showcases a selection of film adaptations of Shakespeare’s medieval-set or -inspired plays.

“Shakespeare’s world was closer to the Middle Ages than our own, not only in time and space but culturally and imaginatively. The plays draw extensively on medieval sources and themes. All of Shakespeare’s history plays, for example, are set in the Middle Ages except one: KING HENRY VIII (aka ALL IS TRUE) treats the Great Matter of Henry’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon, one of the events that marked the transition from medieval to modern. In these periods, time was perceived as a continuum; chroniclers traced history through their own day, and upon their deaths other writers revised or updated these chronicles to reflect current ideas and perspectives. Similarly, Shakespeare’s plays continue to be reshaped and replayed on film. Shakespeare may be clothed in modern dress or films may refer to, or take inspiration from, contemporary politics; others try to correct Shakespeare’s misrepresentations of historical detail. We recall characters like the much-maligned Richard III or Hamlet through the lens of Laurence Olivier, or Falstaff (a comic version of the historical figures Sir John Fastolf and Sir John Oldcastle) embodied as Orson Welles. Through film, Shakespeare’s Middle Ages are not lost but revived and revitalized in translation. And much of what we think we know about the medieval period has been shaped by Shakespeare, the plays and film adaptations living on in our memories more vividly perhaps than the history books’ accounts.” –Martha Driver

Curated in collaboration with Martha Driver, Distinguished Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at Pace University, and the co-editor (with Sid Ray) of THE MEDIEVAL HERO ON SCREEN and SHAKESPEARE AND THE MIDDLE AGES (McFarland & Co.).

Special thanks to Sara Driver, Brian Belovarac (Janus Films), Chris Chouinard (Park Circus), Eric Di Bernardo (Rialto Pictures), Mark Johnson (Harvard Film Archive), Christopher Lane & Michael Horne (Sony), Eric Liknaitzky (Contemporary Films), Haley Markbreiter (Doc Films), Kristie Nakamura & Nicki Woods (WB Classics), Judy Nicaud (Paramount), and Todd Wiener & Steven Hill (UCLA Film & Television Archive).

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