The goal of this piece of writing is to make a comparative study of the various works of Shakespeare, but not as they are presented in their written form. Rather, I am choosing to explore and compare his works as they have been presented and adapted for contemporary audiences through the medium of film. What is lost in adaptation? What is gained? Do contemporary accoutrements lend themselves to a deeper understanding of the original works; does the "magic" of editing and special effects lend itself to a similar deeper understanding, or does it instead make the work seem too "real?"
Rather than seek out various adaptations based upon their critical merits or demerits, I chose to instead focus only on the most recent adaptations of any given work. I feel that regardless of the quality, or lack thereof, of the films chosen in this manner, choosing them by this method best serves to illuminate how the perception and adaptation of Shakespeare's work has progressed for a contemporary audience. To serve this end, the focus of my work will be directed towards Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, O (the most recent adaptation of Othello) and Ten Things I Hate About You (the most recent adaptation of Taming of the Shrew).
While all of the films have been adapted so that their settings are in today's United States, what remains unchanged in adaptation from film-to-film is often quite varied, if not interesting and, perhaps overly, ambitious.
Two of the films, Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet, retain Shakespeare's original dialogue. While portrayed as 21st century college students, businessmen and gang-bangers, the characters spend the entirety of the films performing their lines as Shakespeare had originally written them (save for ...
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Hamlet. Dir. Michael Almereyda. Perf. Ethan Hawke, Julia
Styles, and Bill Murray. Miramax, 2000.
O. Dir. Tim Blake Nelson. Perf. Mekhi Phifer, Julia Stiles,
Josh Hartnett, and Rain Phoenix. Lions Gate, 2001.
Romeo & Juliet. Dir. Baz Luhrmann. Perf. Leonardo DiCaprio,
Claire Danes, John Leguizamo. 20th Century Fox, 1996.
Shakespeare, William. "The Most Excellent and Lamentable
Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet." Norton Shakespeare. New
York: 1997. pp. 865-942.
--. "The Taming of the Shrew." The Norton Shakespeare. New
York: 1997. pp. 133-202.
--. "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of
Denmark." The Norton Shakespeare. New York: 1997. pp.
--. "The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of
Venice." The Norton Shakespeare. New York: 1997. pp.