Malvolio's Revolve

The joy of Shakespeare is that even if you see the same play dozens of times, each production is its own, unique experience.

Having said that… there are certain bits of stage business that often crop up in numerous productions. One of my favorites is Malvolio’s revolve.

Just for fun, here are various examples of Malvolio’s revolve that have been captured on film:


Alec Guinness in the 1970 ITV Saturday Night Theatre production does the classic dubious, self-conscious revolve, although Sir Toby and his gang are safely behind a hedge and don’t have to hide.


Nicholas Pennell in this 1986 filmed production at the Stratford Festival of Canada executes a confident and rarely-seen double revolve, forcing his peanut gallery to duck out of sight.


In this filmed version of the Renaissance Theatre Company’s 1988 production, Richard Briers executes a very slow , dubious revolve that is notable for being counter-clockwise. In my experience, most Malvolios revolve in a clockwise direction.


Finally, this Stratford Festival production milks the revolve for all it’s worth, with Tom Rooney’s Malvolio turning at just the right speed to miss Sir Andrew’s desperate dash across the stage.

Some productions choose to have Malvolio turn the letter around, rather than himself. Others either blow past the line without acknowledging its comedic gag potential, or cut it in its entirety. All are valid choices, but honestly… why look a gift gag in the mouth?

Shakespeare GIFs, part 1

Animated GIFs have, for better or worse, become an integral part of how we communicate on social media. While they perhaps don’t elevate a conversation to the same degree that a well-constructed pithy rejoinder would, they are pretty darn entertaining. The only problem? There are never enough Shakespeare GIFs out there! Here are some ones I’ve made that might prove useful in online discourse.

Much Ado About Nothing, 1993

Much Ado About Nothing, 1993

Much Ado About Nothing, 1993

Much Ado About Nothing, 1993

Henry V, 1944

Henry V, 1944

Hamlet, 1996

Hamlet, 1996

Twelfth Night, 2012

Twelfth Night, 2012

As You Like It, 2006

As You Like It, 2006

Coriolanus, 2014

Coriolanus, 2014

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1968

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1968

If there any particular filmed Shakespeare moment you think would be a good GIF, drop me a comment below and I’ll get to work on it.

Cloudy with a Chance of Gloucester

I've talked before about my tragically inappropriate tendency to giggle when Gloucester hurls himself off the not-Cliffs of Dover. I thought it might be instructional to look at some of the many King Lear productions that have been preserved on film to see how each one's Gloucester manages it.

Did I say "instructional"? I meant "funny". Sorry. 


Michael Hornden's Lear (1982) - Norman Rodway as Gloucester

This is a very poor showing. I'm not going to blame Mr. Rodway, who is an excellent actor and whose forward lunge (accompanied by an appropriately anguished cry of "Eeeuuuuuuurgh!") is dynamic and committed, but the director completely messes it up by staying in close on Edgar, so we don't see the entire second half of the fall. This only gets a score of 3 from me. 


James Earl Jones's Lear (1974) - Paul Sorvino as Gloucester

Mr. Sorvino appears to be going for the dramatic fall/faint combination, which, to his credit, he executes very well. Unfortunately Gloucester is supposed to be throwing himself off a cliff, and I'm not getting the necessary forward momentum from this that I expect from my Gloucesters. He gets a 4.

Patrick Magee's Lear (1974) - Ronald Radd as Gloucester

Oh, now this is interesting. Most Gloucesters tend to do their falling from a static position, usually on their knees, but Mr. Radd decides to run off the edge of the cliff, which, if you ask me, seems to be the most practical way to throw one's self off a cliff. However, the problem with this, as Mr. Radd discovers, is that a running Gloucester has to eventually realize that he is not, in fact, plummeting to his death. Mr. Radd attempts to covers his tracks by turning his run into a faint, but, as I noted with Mr. Sorvino's effort above, this isn't a fainting contest. It's a falling contest. He scores a 5, with a point added for originality.

Ian McKellen's Lear (2008) - William Gaunt as Gloucester

The director's choice to stay in a close-up shot for the actual jump prevents us from getting a good look at Mr. Gaunt's overall style, but the diving-board move he does with his hands at the beginning of the jump is classy and original. He's definitely going over a cliff. I also like his little rolling maneuver at the end, so I'll give him a solid 7.

Paul Scofield's Lear (1971) - Alan Webb as Gloucester

Mr. Webb prefaces his fall with some very convincing wobbling, which I had to cut from the above GIF due to file size constraints, as he wobbles for a long time. His actual fall is very solid, and, while he twists around to avoid a face-first impact, he still hits the ground with considerable finality. I'll award him a 8.

Gloucester (Holms).gif

Ian Holm's Lear (1998) - Timothy West as Gloucester

Mr. West must be praised for his commitment. He just flat out plummets onto his face, with significant velocity. That's the kind of dedication I like to see in my Gloucesters. I'm giving this one a 9, with a one point deduction for the convenient smoke screen that blocks our view of the actual impact.

Laurence Olivier's Lear (1984) - Leo McKern as Gloucester

Now that's more like it. A full-blooded, no-holds-barred face-plant onto the ground. You can't hear it in the GIF, but Mr. McKern also goes "AAAAAAAAAAAH" as he falls, which is to be commended. While I dislike the camera cut, which lessens the impact, I'm going to give this a full 10 points. Well done, Mr. McKern. You win my "Best Filmed Gloucester Fall" award! 

REMEMBER, KIDS... The Gloucesters you have seen here are trained professionals. Don't try this at home.

Shakespeare GIFs (Twelfth Night Edition)


So, the Globe Theatre's recent all-male productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III are currently in previews on Broadway, and I am insanely jealous of anyone who might have tickets. Fortunately, for those of us unable to hop on over to New York at the drop of a hat, the Globe has released a DVD of its original Twelfth Night production. It's hardly a spoiler to say that Mark Rylance as Olivia walks away with the show, Stephen Fry is easily the most adorable Malvolio ever, and I have never seen a more hilarious Maria than Paul Chahidi.

To vicariously celebrate, here are some animated GIFs (the internet's current preferred method of sophisticated communication) from this theatrical masterpiece:

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