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There is no question that Shakespeare was one of the greatest writers in human history. His works are filled with love, action, revenge - all the makings of a top-grossing movie. However, Shakespeare's use of language often makes it difficult to follow his plays. This series explains the origins of his style and breaks down the some of his best-known plays with simple synopses and character analyses. The Shakespeare Tragedies DVD 3-Pack contains all three Shakespeare Tragedies DVDs (Origins and Style, Othello/Macbeth/King Lear, Titus Andronicus/Romeo & Juliet/Hamlet) at a discounted price.
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Origins and Style
Why was Hamlet such a dork? Find out the backstory with The Standard Deviants' Shakespeare Tragedies: Origins and Style. This DVD makes it fun to learn the long pedigree of William Shakespeare's greatest plays, using dramatizations from the great tragedies, conceptual overviews by professors, and illustrative skits featuring the usual Standard Deviants gang of wisenheimers. Learn about the birth of tragedy in ancient Greece, how the Bard came to write (and act in) his plays in Elizabethan London, what makes a tragic figure tick, the nitty-gritty on blank verse, and more. It won't substitute for reading the plays--or, better still, seeing them performed in their entirety--but it'll definitely give you an insider's edge when you're studying for the big test. --Rob Lightner
Titus Andronicus, Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet
This video Cliffs Notes gives infotainment a good name as it breaks down the Bard's early tragedies for college (and some high school) students. In a breezy and often funny manner, the Standard Deviants cast gives historical context to the plays and thumbnail sketches of the characters and lays out the groundwork of the plots. Comic effects include tallying up the gore (Titus Andronicus: five stabbings, three chopped-off hands...) and clips of a haughty professor--the kind one would expect on such a tape--making pointlessly esoteric comments. In addition to looking at Shakespeare's influences as he wrote these plays (Seneca, Ovid, and such), the 90-minute lesson evaluates them, giving students a head start in class. Shakespearean actors in costume perform key scenes, and frequent use of charts helps students keep track of the various points made. This academic series is designed by a combination of educators and writers to present complicated material in a simple and engaging format--and it works. --Kimberly Heinrichs
Othello, Macbeth, King Lear
The Standard Deviants, a cast of energetic young performers whose stock in trade is to make serious academic subjects lighthearted and offbeat enough to be memorable, turn their attentions to three classic Shakespeare tragedies. The usual bad jokes, silly costumes, and mugging for the camera are somewhat more subdued when detailing Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear, though the treatment is nonetheless often imaginative. The lessons about each play begin with a brief historical discussion of the background of the play, and the plot is outlined with the aid of some distinctive animation. The young performers act out scenes from the plays, and computer graphics present particular sections of text on the screen. The motivations of characters are discussed, Shakespeare's use of language is given appropriate attention, symbolism is illuminated, and a synopsis of each play is provided in a review section. Students can take or skip a quiz given on each play, and a comprehensive exam dubbed the "Mac Daddy" also appears on the disc. The lessons about the plays have been approved by a serious academic panel and do contain considerable detail. And the lively approach of the Standard Deviants can certainly help a student increase an understanding of the great tragedies. -- Robert J. McNamara
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