Do adaptations of Shakespeare on screen reflect contemporary, social and political concerns whilst retaining the core 500 year texts?

  • Consider how many adaptations there are and the differences between them and why.
  • Consider if any interpretation is ‘too far’.
  • Look at why these interpretations come up, who they appeal to, and their purpose.
  • Evaluate whether the play is still the same now as it always has been and whether these films are still made in the same spirit of the original—or indeed, if that even matters.

Where is my essay going?

1st Paragraph

–          Short but thorough introduction to my chosen investigation; highlighting the key points and outlining my essay.

2nd Paragraph

–          Compare both old and new adaptations of Shakespeare. Evaluate their different portrayals of Shakespeare’s plays and see how time affects each film and its classic characters. As time affects each film, how does this affect the audience – how is Shakespeare adapted to give the best experience to the audience and why? For example, was the 1965 adaptation of Othello politically incorrect? How has the adaptation of Othello changed for audiences today? Are the social issues in Shakespeare’s plays still relevant?

3rd Paragraph

–          Explore genre theory and ask whether Shakespeare should be adapted and changed. Is it right people differ from the original plays and don’t present the play in a traditional manner? Compare a traditional and a non-traditional portrayal… do they still deliver the same themes and messages as the original text? Does it matter if it isn’t exactly the same story line/narrative? Has the genre been greatly affected?

4th Paragraph

–          How has modern culture and social media affected Shakespeare? Talk and reference social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter both having pages dedicated to Shakespeare. Explain how these pages give people the ability to comment and share their opinions with people about his plays and how this may affect a future adaptation. Reference other sites such as IMBD/Rotten Tomatoes who also allow people to comment and broadcast their opinions to others about the film adaptations, rating them out of 10, allowing future directors/actors to see what people like and how an audience reacts to a specific play/film/TV adaptation. Reference ‘Shakespeare After Mass Media’ by Richard Burt.

5th Paragraph

–          Explain about the BBC adaptations of Shakespeare and their target audiences and how this has led to TV adaptations of Shakespeare as a character himself. How does this change people’s views and ideas about Shakespeare as a writer? For example, Doctor Who – Series 3, Ep.2 – Love Labour’s Won. Are TV adaptations any different to film, are they better at remaining true to the core text or are they just as different as some films can be?

6th Paragraph

–          History of Shakespeare on screen, adaptations of Shakespeare have been happening since 1899. British cinema has produced many Shakespeare adaptations and the UK and USA still do today, proving Shakespeare was just as popular as he was then. Explore the idea that this could mean adapting and changing Shakespeare to entertain a specific audience has been happening for so long, people do still appreciate his work whether it is true to the original text or not. Is the fact that these adaptations have been happening for so many years a sign that we as an audience are just as adaptable as the films and that Shakespeare is a writer that can be reinvented time after time and that keeps being introduced to a new generation in different ways? Is this necessarily a good thing – shouldn’t a young audience be introduced to the true essence of Shakespeare? Are his plays too heavy and inappropriate – is this why they are adapted?

7th paragraph

–          A conclusion that clearly states what I have discovered once exploring and answering the title question. Having explored different sides to the question, look at the true answer of the question. Is there more than one? Show both sides of the argument/question and express my own opinion reflecting on the information I have discovered.


3 thoughts on “Do adaptations of Shakespeare on screen reflect contemporary, social and political concerns whilst retaining the core 500 year texts?

  1. This seems to be a clear essay plan and I have a real sense of what you may talk about. However, I’m also keen that you keep topic focused and not evidence focused as you may find that there is so much in the way of textual evidence that it becomes what your essay is about rather then the topic or debate.

    Is any text sacred?

    I’ll be interested to see what academic texts there are on the subject. And I’ll also be interested to see the reasoning behind the making of, and the popular reaction to, certain extreme adaptations (or even just the recasting of Prospero as a woman).

    Make sure you stick really closely to this idea of contextual concerns and whether in this postmodern world, anything goes. I’m looking forward to reading it and seeing where it leads!

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