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35 minutes
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CliffsNotes Films - Hamlet

CliffsNotes Films

Released
Duration
07:14
Rental period
1 year

CliffsNotes Films - Hamlet

Hamlet is the son of the late King Hamlet (of Denmark), who died two months before the start of the play. After King Hamlet's death, his brother, Claudius, becomes king, and marries King Hamlet's widow, Gertrude (Queen of Denmark). Young Hamlet fears that Claudius killed his own brother (Hamlet's father) to become king of Denmark, greatly angering Hamlet. Two officers, Marcellus and Barnardo, summon Hamlet's friend Horatio, and later Hamlet himself to see the late King Hamlet's ghost appear at midnight. The ghost tells Hamlet privately that Claudius had indeed murdered King Hamlet by pouring poison in his ear. Hamlet is further enraged and plots of how to revenge his father's death.

In his anger, Hamlet seems to act like a madman, prompting King Claudius, his wife Gertrude, and his advisor Polonius to send Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet and figure out why he is acting mad. Hamlet even treats Polonius' daughter Ophelia rudely, prompting Polonius to believe Hamlet is madly in love with her, though Claudius expects otherwise. Polonius, a man who talks too long- windedly, had allowed his son Laertes to go to France (then sent Reynaldo to spy on Laertes) and had ordered Ophelia not to associate with Hamlet. Claudius, fearing Hamlet may try to kill him, sends Hamlet to England. Before leaving, however, Hamlet convinces an acting company to reenact King Hamlet's death before Claudius, in the hopes of causing Claudius to break down and admit to murdering King Hamlet.

Though Claudius is enraged, he does not admit to murder. Hamlet's mother tries to reason with Hamlet after the play, while Polonius spied on them from behind a curtain. Hamlet hears Polonius, and kills him through the curtain, thinking the person is Claudius. When finding out the truth, Hamlet regrets the death, yet Claudius still sends him to England, accompanied by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with orders from Claudius that the English kill Hamlet as soon as her arrives.

After Hamlet leaves, Laertes returns from France, enraged over Polonius' death. Ophelia reacts to her father's death with utter madness and eventually falls in a stream and drowns, further angering Laertes. En route to England, Hamlet finds the orders and changes them to order Rosencrantz and Guildenstern killed, as does occur, though Hamlet is kidnapped by pirates one day later. The pirates return Hamlet to Claudius (for a ransom), and Claudius tries one last attempt to eliminate Hamlet: he arranges a sword duel between Laertes and Hamlet. The trick, however, is that the tip of Laertes' sword is poisoned. As a backup precaution, Claudius poisons the victory cup in case Hamlet wins. During the fight, the poisoned drink is offered to Hamlet, he declines, and instead his mother, Gertrude, drinks it (to the objection of Claudius).

Laertes, losing to Hamlet, illegally scratches him with the poisoned sword to ensure Hamlet's death. Hamlet (unknowingly), then switches swords with Laertes, and cuts and poisons him. The queen dies, screaming that she has been poisoned and Laertes, dying, admits of Claudius' treachery. Weakening, Hamlet fatally stabs Claudius, Laertes dies, and Hamlet begins his final speech. Though Horatio wants to commit suicide out of sorrow, Hamlet entreats him to tell the story of King Hamlet's death and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's deaths to all. Fortinbras, the prince of Norway, arrives from conquest of England, and Hamlet's last dying wish is that Fortinbras become the new King of Denmark, as happens.

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CliffsNotes Films - Romeo and Juliet

CliffsNotes Films

Released
Duration
05:35
Rental period
1 year

CliffsNotes Films - Romeo and Juliet

In William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, a long feud between the Montague and Capulet families disrupts the city of Verona and causes tragic results for Romeo and Juliet. Revenge, love, and a secret marriage force the young star-crossed lovers to grow up quickly — and fate causes them to commit suicide in despair. Contrast and conflict are running themes throughout Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet — one of the Bard's most popular romantic tragedies.

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CliffsNotes Films - A Midsummer Night's Dream

CliffsNotes Films

Released
Duration
07:40
Rental period
1 year

CliffsNotes Films - A Midsummer Night's Dream

This scene opens in Theseus' palace in Athens. It is four days before his wedding to Hippolyta, the former queen of the Amazons, and Theseus is impatient with how slowly time is moving. Hippolyta assures him that the wedding day will soon arrive.

As Theseus and Hippolyta plan their wedding festivities, Egeus and his daughter, Hermia, arrive on the scene with Lysander and Demetrius. Egeus is angry because his daughter refuses to marry Demetrius, the man of his choice, but is instead in love with Lysander. Egeus accuses Lysander of bewitching his daughter and stealing her love by underhanded means. Agreeing with Egeus, Theseus declares that it is a daughter's duty to obey her father. Hermia demands to know the worst punishment she will receive for disobedience. Death or spending her life in a nunnery comprise Hermia's choices. Lysander joins the argument, arguing that he is Demetrius' equal in everything and is, indeed, more constant in his affection than Demetrius, who was recently in love with Helena. These proceedings upset Hippolyta, because the prospect of Hermia's death upsets her plans for a happy, festive wedding day.

Finally, everyone except Lysander and Hermia leave the stage. Lysander reminds Hermia that the course of true love has never run smoothly, so they must view their difficulties as typical for lovers. He has a plan for eluding Athenian law: The two lovers will run away from Athens and live with his childless widow aunt to whom he has always been a surrogate son. Living with her, they will be outside of Athenian jurisdiction so that Hermia can avoid Theseus' death sentence and can marry. Having few other options, Hermia is enthusiastic about Lysander's idea and declares her undying love for him.

Just as the lovers have completed their plan for escape, Helena enters the scene. What charms does Hermia possess, Helena wonders, that have so completely captivated Demetrius? Hermia swears that she has no interest in Demetrius, that he actually seems to thrive on her hatred of him. Hermia and Lysander confess their intention of fleeing Athens, and Helena decides to tell Demetrius about it in a final attempt to win his love.

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Julius Caesar

CliffsNotes Films

Released
Duration
07:53
Rental period
1 year

Julius Caesar

The action begins in February 44 BC. Julius Caesar has just reentered Rome in triumph after a victory in Spain over the sons of his old enemy, Pompey the Great. A spontaneous celebration has interrupted and been broken up by Flavius and Marullus, two political enemies of Caesar. It soon becomes apparent from their words that powerful and secret forces are working against Caesar.

Caesar appears, attended by a train of friends and supporters, and is warned by a soothsayer to "beware the ides of March," but he ignores the warning and leaves for the games and races marking the celebration of the feast of Lupercal.

After Caesar's departure, only two men remain behind — Marcus Brutus, a close personal friend of Caesar, and Cassius, a long time political foe of Caesar's. Both men are of aristocratic origin and see the end of their ancient privilege in Caesar's political reforms and conquests. Envious of Caesar's power and prestige, Cassius cleverly probes to discover where Brutus' deepest sympathies lie. As a man of highest personal integrity, Brutus opposes Caesar on principle, despite his friendship with him. Cassius cautiously inquires about Brutus' feelings if a conspiracy were to unseat Caesar; he finds Brutus not altogether against the notion; that is, Brutus shares "some aim" with Cassius but does not wish "to be any further moved." The two men part, promising to meet again for further discussions.

In the next scene, it is revealed that the conspiracy Cassius spoke of in veiled terms is already a reality. He has gathered together a group of disgruntled and discredited aristocrats who are only too willing to assassinate Caesar. Partly to gain the support of the respectable element of Roman society, Cassius persuades Brutus to head the conspiracy, and Brutus agrees to do so. Shortly afterward, plans are made at a secret meeting in Brutus' orchard. The date is set: It will be on the day known as the ides of March, the fifteenth day of the month. Caesar is to be murdered in the Senate chambers by the concealed daggers and swords of the assembled conspirators.

After the meeting is ended, Brutus' wife, Portia, suspecting something and fearing for her husband's safety, questions him. Touched by her love and devotion, Brutus promises to reveal his secret to her later.

The next scene takes place in Caesar's house. The time is the early morning; the date, the fateful ides of March. The preceding night has been a strange one — wild, stormy, and full of strange and unexplainable sights and happenings throughout the city of Rome. Caesar's wife, Calphurnia, terrified by horrible nightmares, persuades Caesar not to go to the Capitol, convinced that her dreams are portents of disaster. By prearrangement, Brutus and the other conspirators arrive to accompany Caesar, hoping to fend off any possible warnings until they have him totally in their power at the Senate. Unaware that he is surrounded by assassins and shrugging off Calphurnia's exhortations, Caesar goes with them.

Despite the conspirators' best efforts, a warning is pressed into Caesar's hand on the very steps of the Capitol, but he refuses to read it. Wasting no further time, the conspirators move into action. Purposely asking Caesar for a favor they know he will refuse, they move closer, as if begging a favor, and then, reaching for their hidden weapons, they kill him before the shocked eyes of the senators and spectators.

Hearing of Caesar's murder, Mark Antony, Caesar's closest friend, begs permission to speak at Caesar's funeral. Brutus grants this permission over the objections of Cassius and delivers his own speech first, confident that his words will convince the populace of the necessity for Caesar's death. After Brutus leaves, Antony begins to speak. The crowd has been swayed by Brutus' words, and it is an unsympathetic crowd that Antony addresses. Using every oratorical device known, however, Antony turns the audience into a howling mob, screaming for the blood of Caesar's murderers. Alarmed by the furor caused by Antony's speech, the conspirators and their supporters are forced to flee from Rome and finally, from Italy. At this point, Antony, together with Caesar's young grandnephew and adopted son, Octavius, and a wealthy banker, Lepidus, gathers an army to pursue and destroy Caesar's killers. These three men, known as triumvirs, have formed a group called the Second Triumvirate to pursue the common goal of gaining control of the Roman Empire.

Months pass, during which the conspirators and their armies are pursued relentlessly into the far reaches of Asia Minor. When finally they decide to stop at the town of Sardis, Cassius and Brutus quarrel bitterly over finances. Their differences are resolved, however, and plans are made to meet the forces of Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus in one final battle.

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CliffsNotes Films - Othello

CliffsNotes Films

Released
Duration
07:29
Rental period
1 year

CliffsNotes Films - Othello

Othello opens in the stately city of Venice, a worldwide hub for trade and commerce. The first characters introduced are Iago, an ensign denied promotion by Othello, and Roderigo, a jealous ex-suitor of Desdemona. The two are in route to describing to Senator Brabantio the elopement of Othello and Desdemona, Brabantio's daughter.

Quickly revealing Iago's deceitful nature, the matter is breached to Brabantio and soon afterward brought before the Duke of Venice to be discussed. Othello and Desdemona plead their love to the Duke, refuting the Senator's claims that Othello bewitched his daughter, and that their marriage was true. After Othello claims that he wooed her with his adventurous stories, Desdemona herself testifies that she fell honestly in love with the Moor and freely married him.

Following their clearance of wrongdoing, Othello is immediately sent to defend against the Turks in Cyrpus. Taking Desdemona with him, Othello sets out for the island with Iago and his wife Emilia in tow. Again displaying his deceitful nature, Iago manages to convince Roderigo to follow along for when Desdemona tires of her new husband.

When the Venetians arrive in Cyprus, Iago immediately goes about planting doubt in Othello's mind as to how loyal his wife is. A carefully planned fight between Roderigo and Cassio, the man who was promoted above Iago, results in Cassio's demotion. Taking advantage of his saddened state, Iago advises Cassio to seek out Desdemona's favor to speak on his behalf.

Iago carefully maneuvers Othello and himself to arrive as Cassio is leaving Desdemona's audience. Iago points out how Cassio seems to be avoiding Othello. Desdemona for her part immediately begs for Cassio's pardon, as she has promised him from their meeting. This is all Iago needs to immediately begin planting seeds of doubt in Othello's mind as to his wife's fidelity.

The ensuing scenes are all a carefully staged dance by Iago in which he finds a dropped handkerchief of Desdemona's and convinces Othello of her improper actions. He stages yet another carefully monitored conversation with Cassio and finishes the job of hardening Othello's heart, leading to the climax, and tragedy of the play.

Othello arranges with Iago the deaths of both Desdemona and Cassio, his wife at his own hands, in the midst of his jealous anger. Because of her pledge to plea for Cassio, Desdemona only further worsens her case to her husband, solidifying his suspicions of their affair.

Iago utilizes Roderigo one last time to help him in the murder of Cassio. The two however fail to kill Cassio, instead only wounding him. However, waiting for the cry of his death, Othello hears the attack and immediately takes to his part of the plan, going to Desdemona in her bed and smothering her with a pillow.

In the final scenes, Iago's wife Emilia reveals the ruse to Lodovico and Gratiano, their fellow Venetians, and incurs Iago's anger, dying at his hands. Cassio however, having not been murdered in the street, confirms the tale and exonerates Desdemona and himself in the process. Othello however, has already killed his wife and in a final moment of despair, takes his own life for what he has done.

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