Shakespeare on the Soviet Screen



Panelists: Ronan Paterson (Teesside University), Michelle Assay (Universities of the Sorbonne and Sheffield), Boris Gaydin, Moscow University of the Humanities


The plays of William Shakespeare formed a significant part of the output of the Soviet film industry in the years after the Second World War. While a number of  Shakespeare films were made in the West over the same period, the Soviet film industry followed a significantly different path from that of Western film makers. Although the films of Grigori Kozintsev are recognised all over the world, most of the other Soviet Shakespeare films are scarcely known today, even within Russia.


Free from the purely commercial constraints of the Western cinema, Soviet film makers chose in the main to explore very different plays from those in the West. Whereas the English or American film makers made Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Henry V and Richard III, in Russia they filmed Twelfth Night, Taming of the Shrew andMuch Ado About Nothing , the last of these several times. While there were exceptions to this rule on both sides of the Iron Curtain the pattern is visible. The possible explanations for this are many, rooted perhaps in Marx and Engels’ own enthusiasm for Shakespeare, perhaps compounded by political concerns, conceivably affected by the attitude of the authorities to individual plays. Yet this body of work has received little critical scrutiny.  The panel seeks to introduce a number of questions in framing the discourse around some of these films, which range  from those which have been seen widely in the West to those which are virtually unknown.


Boris Gaydin will offer a new appraisal of Sergey Yutkevitch’s 1955 Otello, in the light of Yutkevitch’s 1973 book Shakespeare and Cinema, looking back to his predecessors like Dmitri Buchowetski and also tracing Yutkevitch’s influence on subsequent films of Othello. Michelle Assay will offer a reappraisal of Kozintsev’s two Shakespeare films, using previously unpublished material from the archives and from Kozintsev’s son to correct certain distortions in the received wisdom circulating in western scholarship. Ronan Paterson will explore the 1961 film of Taming of the Shrew by Sergey Kosolov, an unjustly neglected film which captures many of the elements of Alexei Popov’s legendary stage production from the 1930s.



Boris Gaydin
is Deputy Director, Center for the Theory and History of Culture, Institute of Fundamental and Applied Studies, Moscow University for the Humanities.
Candidate of Philosophy (PhD) [2009].
He is a co-editor of a number of digital humanities projects, including the Information Research Databases “Russian Shakespeare” (, “Shakespeare’s Contemporaries” ( and an electronic dictionary “The World of Shakespeare: An Electronic Encyclopaedia” ( He is an executive editor of the academic journal “Knowledge. Understanding. Skill” ( He has published more than 150 works on various issues of the philosophy of culture (in particular, on constants of culture, eternal images / iconic characters, the Shakespearean epoch and the reception and appropriation of Shakespeare’s legacy in contemporary culture).

Редакция БД “Русский Шекспир”/ “Russian Shakespeare” Editorial Board

Ronan Paterson
After several decades as an actor, director and producer, appearing in or directing Shakespeare’s plays in nine European countries Ronan Paterson moved into the training of theatre and film practitioners. He has taught in universities and conservatoires all over the UK, and is currently Head of Performing Arts at the University of Teesside. A frequent speaker at international conferences, he organised the Shakespeare 400 conference at Elsinore in April 2016. He has published widely on Shakespeare in Film, Shakespeare in Performance, and lately also Shakespeare in Comics.

Michelle Assay
Was born in Tehran and studied in Kiev at the Tchaikovsky Academy, graduating with a master’s degree in performance, musicology, pedagogy and criticism. After a year in Canada, working mainly as actress and piano teacher, she returned to Europe to work with Carine Gutlerner at the Erik Satie Conservatoire in Paris, where she obtained her DE (Diplôme d’Etat) and was laureate in the Concours international musical de France. She is currently writing up a doctoral thesis on the topic of Hamlet in the music and visual arts of the Stalin era at the Universities of Sheffield and the Sorbonne, where she completed her MPhil with a dissertation on Polish-born composer Mieczysław Weinberg’s relationship with Shostakovich. An active pianist, she is also collaborating with Prof. David Fanning on a biography of Weinberg and on a major survey of the Symphony in the Soviet Union.