An Introduction to Shakespeare Film Adaptations (and why they’re awesome)

Since a few participants of the 2016 Bardathon Challenge are interested in a list of recommendations for Shakespearean film adaptations, I’m putting together a blog post…or twenty. It seems my academic and fangirl personas have been conspiring behind my (sore and bad) back, and now I’ve no choice but to talk at little length and with great gusto about these film adaptations.

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Before getting started, I want to put forth my definition of adaptation, which has been shaped by my academic work on Shakespearean films. Over three years ago, I had a rather limiting view of what an ‘adaptation’ constituted, and would always be comparing those adaptations to Shakespeare’s ‘originals’ in terms of what the new versions lacked. Now, I think of adaptations as entities in and of themselves, and not ‘copies’ or imitations’ of Shakespeare’s plays.

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Introducing: The Tragedy of Macbeth

For this inaugural post about an actual Shakespeare play, I decided to go light and easy, and provide a summary of sorts. There’ll be plenty of time to cover more ground in the future, but for now, here’s a brief overview of the play (contains a couple of spoilers!).

The Tragedy of Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, and is most commonly dated 1606, making it a Jacobean play. As with all his plays, Macbeth was drawn from other sources, namely Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1587), which detailed a lot of British history. Basically, Shakespeare read the Chronicles and decided to yoink some aspects about Macbeth, the King of Scotland (who reigned between 1040–1057), and make up lots of things along the way to make it a more interesting story. Sounds like (inaccurate) historical (fan)fiction that’s nonetheless entertaining? Yup, Macbeth is exactly that—a Renaissance version of The Tudors or Vikings, if you will.

King James IV of Scotland and I of England. Look at all that gingery goodness!

King James IV of Scotland and I of England. Look at all that gingery goodness!

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Shakespearean authorship, originality, and theatre practices

I hope you’ve had a good week, and have been throwing around some Shakespeare-related terms like “Renaissance” and “Elizabethan” like celebratory confetti! Today’s post—which is a little on the long side, so feel free to read it with two biscuits instead of one—is about breaking the “Bardolatry Barrier” (formed by idolising the “Bard”, one of Shakespeare’s nicknames) by considering some of the vastly different writing and performance practices during the Renaissance, and lowering him a little on that literary pedestal (not by too much, though—I wouldn’t want to be branded as a dissident and lose my Shakespeare PhD funding!).

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Elizabethan, Jacobean, Renaissance, early modern—what huh when who?

I hope you all had a chance to indulge in some celebratory birthday cake for dear Shakespeare last Thursday—I certainly went for it, and had three servings of cake (I figured it was my duty as a professional Shakespeare fangirl to om nom nom on his behalf). While we’re at it, here’s one of the cakes I had, with some theme-appropriate roses:

Happy birthday, Shakespeare--I'll eat all the cake on your behalf!

Happy birthday, Shakespeare–I’ll eat all the cake on your behalf!

Okay, so those of you non-Shakespeareans who haven’t seen Shakespeare in Love might be thinking, “What’s so special about roses?” Well, first and foremost, I highly recommend you go see the film—the music is sublime, as is Joseph Fiennes in a perpetually half-open shirt.

Will and his quill.

Will and his quill.

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Introducing: A Spot of Shakespeare

451 years ago, in the sleepy English town of Stratford-upon-Avon, one William Shakespeare was born…supposedly. Although no one actually knows his date of birth, records indicate he was baptised on 26 April, and there is general consensus that one was baptised back then three days after birth. So, although today is not officially Shakespeare’s birthday, it’s certainly the most widely accepted account—which, by the way, is just one of the many common myths and beliefs attached to Shakespeare.

happy-birthday-willOn this (unofficially) auspicious day, I’m pleased to announce my new series of blog posts, entitled A Spot of Shakespeare. Every week, I’ll be making at least one post about an aspect of Shakespeare or Shakespeare-ness, such as his England, his language, his works, his contemporaries, and any recent productions I might have attended. Some of these will be brief overviews, while others will contain a detailed explanation of a Shakespearean snippet, but all in all, I’ll be keeping the posts relatively short so you can nibble on them along with tea and biscuits during an afternoon break.

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