Writing a Video Critique


Assignment: These instructions apply to several assignments to write a critique of a video version of a Shakespearean play.  Check your syllabus or assignment sheet for details that pertain to your specific assignment.


Selection of video: Please choose a video that

·        retains the title, language (though many lines may be cut and scenes may be rearranged), characters, and plot (but not necessarily the setting) of  Shakespeare’s play.  Do not choose an adaptation only loosely based on Shakespeare’s play, such as West Side Story, which is loosely based on Romeo and Juliet.  Loose adaptations are fine for extra-credit points but not for required video critiques. 

·        you have not previously watched—or haven’t seen in a long time and don’t remember well.


Identification of video: At the beginning of your critique, identify exactly which film or video version of the play you are critiquing.  Identification could include some of the following: date of production, production company, director, leading actor(s), and/or any identifying information.  Although you probably viewed the production on videotape or DVD, identify which of the following genres applies to the production: 


·        Videotape of a live stage production: All action takes place on one stage in front of a live audience.  Background scenery, if present at all, is limited.  The audience can be heard—and in same cases seen as well.  


Source of video: Please mention where you got the video, whether from the NSU-BA library, Tulsa Central Library, Blockbusters, or some other source.


Purpose and thesis of critique: The purpose of the critique is to give your subjective judgment of the overall effectiveness of this production as a film or video adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, faithful to the spirit if not always the letter of the play itself.  Your judgment constitutes the thesis of the critique. 


Elements to discuss: Support your judgment with a discussion of elements of the production that you see as effective and/or ineffective in recreating and adapting Shakespeare’s play.  Cover some of the following elements (and/or any others you think of):


·        Screenplay: the cutting and arrangement of lines and scenes, faithfulness to Shakespeare’s script and intention.  (Be aware of the difference between film productions, which tend to cut a large percentage of the lines and rearrange the order of the scenes, and videotaped or studio versions, which usually retain more of Shakespeare’s lines and are less likely to rearrange scenes.)

·        Setting: the time and place in which the action occurs, as indicated by costume and set design.  (Frequently Shakespearean productions on stage and film are set in a different time and/or place from what Shakespeare would have imagined.  When used effectively, this technique can reveal new insights into the play and emphasize the play’s universal themes.  When used ineffectively, this technique can be awkward and even ludicrous, detracting from the production.)

·        Visuals: camera shots (whether close-ups, long shots, cut-aways, etc.) involving costumes, sets, outdoor scenes, lighting, and movement. (Films usually are more visually appealing than video productions, opening up the action to wider and more realistic-looking settings, outdoor scenes, etc.  In your critique, don’t fault a made-for-television video production for not being a film; it’s not supposed to be!)

·        Sound: sound effects, background noise, voiceovers, music, soundtrack.  (Films usually have a musical soundtrack that runs throughout the production.  Videotaped stage productions tend to have less music.)

·        Portrayal of individual characters and scenes: casting, acting, believability, delivery of lines (so that viewer understands words and their meaning), gestures, actions, emotional intensity. 

·        Overall effect: mood, tone, atmosphere, emotions evoked; themes and ideas emphasized.


Use the above list to give you ideas about what to discuss in your critique, but don’t feel constrained by its organization and terminology.


Support with specific details: Support your assertions about the effectiveness of the above elements with specific references to the production you watched, not just to the play itself.  Your use of specific details should demonstrate your knowledge of the production.


Organization: The critique should have a clear thesis and be organized into more than one paragraph.  Otherwise, its organization is up to you.


Length: Your critique should be at least one (1) full typed, double-spaced page, and no longer than two (2) pages.


Correctness: Your critique should be well written and mechanically correct.  Write a draft and revise it.  Use spell-check before you print the final document, and proofread carefully.  If you don’t have an opportunity to reprint, make last-minute corrections in blue or black ink. The titles of plays, films, and videos should be underlined.  The names of characters are not underlined.