Bachelor's Thesis


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Bachelor's Thesis (English) at Wisconsin Lutheran College

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Bachelor's Thesis

  1. 1. Grassell “The realization of a Shakespeare text…involves a considerable departure from the text. It is not, that is, what [one] would call a faithful representation of the text, or of the author’s intentions as embodied in it.” -Michael D. Friedman The literary genius of William Shakespeare has labeled him as one of the best (if not the best) writers of all time. His themes, characters, and plots have survived the ages; in fact, many of them are timeless, and they will continue to affect the literary world. Shakespeare’s masterpieces greatly affected the world of his time, caused tremendous discussion in the immediate generations following his death, and continue to dominate today’s art. No other author has been able to affect so many different eras, cultures, and peoples. This is true, in part, because he is timeless. He understood humans in that they all experience the same problems, drives, and struggles regardless of the age in which they live; therefore, what Shakespeare wrote is always truly real. He dealt with real social problems, internal struggles, and familial disorders (Scott 125). Popular culture with a thread of intertwined postmodernism has posed, perhaps, the largest threat upon Shakespeare’s works until this point. Reinterpretation, modification, appropriation, and liberty of art have all played major roles in a growing existential movement that has swept primarily across America as well as other advanced societies. Not even art is safe within this movement; thus, Shakespeare is not exempt from being reconditioned to “fit” the times. Postmodernism has indeed negatively affected Shakespeare. Overall, this movement, while it has added some dimension to his writings, has murdered original Shakespearean forms; no one is able to create his plays in such a manner that consistently matches Shakespeare’s intellectual perception and vigor (Scott 136). 1
  2. 2. Grassell William Shakespeare lived a rather short life in terms of the number of plays and sonnets he wrote. After reviewing the sum total, one would estimate that such a man would have to live much longer than this author actually did. Born on April 23, 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, this playwright set to work until his death, which supposedly occurred on his birthday, April 23, 1616. During that time, William wrote 154 sonnets, his own works. The reason for mentioning this last fact is due, in part for two reasons – he was a literary genius, and his plays were not entirely his own ideas. Of his eighteen comedic plays, ten tragedies, and ten historic plays, along with the two thousand-plus words he invented, only one play, Love’s Labour’s Lost, was the result of Shakespeare’s original idea. Thirty-seven of his survived-texts are based on an existing work or history (“Shakespeare Still the One or, Why Shakespeare Really Matters” 2). Interestingly enough, Shakespeare actually “borrowed” his stories from historical chronicles, prose and poetic romances, and classical, medieval, and Tudor drama. He recreated these stories for public and private stages during a particular historic period (Scott 1). Upon discovering much to introduce to his target audience, which was composed of England theater-goers, professional theatre became his career and his goal, especially after he saw the money that was involved in such an occupation. In fact, his financial involvement in this business (actually his own business) probably affected his success. He pushed to write more plays, and he pushed for more of them to be performed. “With four-hundred year old drama, there is the problem of what Shakespeare actually wrote” (Scott 3). His plays were pirated, and he was likely guilty of pirating some of his own. Some claim that he even took over the writing of several plays; 2
  3. 3. Grassell supposedly, he reworked the original writing of Henry VI (Ioppolo 86). Other plays that he wrote were either changed or later developed. The improvisations to his own plays were not recorded because writing was much different in an era without the aid of computers and modern technology. Then, rival companies looking to make a profit any way they could cheated by stealing Shakespeare’s ideas, plotlines, and even entire plays (Scott 3). It was a time without copyright laws, rules, and regulations; more was permissible. This marked the beginning of adaptations of Shakespeare’s works. His titles were changed, characters were edited in and out of stories, and lines were increased or decreased (Scott 4). The first known reinterpretation followed shortly after Shakespeare’s death. Nahum Tate’s King Lear appeared in 1681 (Scott 4). It contained an alternate ending because Tate’s sensibility could not handle the violent ending of the original play (Scott 123). While Tate’s version was less revolutionary than most Shakespearean alterations, the trend had begun. Tate adapted King Lear to his own political agenda; he aimed his text at a bi-partisan audience despite royalist propaganda in the play (Marsden 6). This went contrary to William’s literary agenda, which focused topically on large audiences, was composed of conservative values, and enabled him be a spokesman for radical causes (Marsden 2). In addition, an eighteenth-century adaptation of Julius Caesar was scripted by rival political groups in order to portray Brutus as a Whig hero supporting British liberty (Marsden 6). Shakespeare used his plays as a pulpit, where he preached lessons on social issues, history, rebellion, and whether or not females could be trusted by the men who love them as seen in Othello and Much Ado About Nothing (Brode 13). 3
  4. 4. Grassell Appropriation, which means taking possession of for one’s own, to control by possession, and to usurp, was also about to begin (Marsden 1). The appropriation of William’s plays began with the reopening of the theaters after the restoration of Charles II. The following generations would follow suit by rewriting Shakespeare to please a particular audience for that generation’s own agenda. Soon, playwrights were revising Shakespeare’s female characters in order to adapt them to a changed social climate, which would continue to play a major role in appropriation until the twenty-first century (Marsden 6). Between 1660 and 1820, “all thirty-seven of Shakespeare’s plays would be revised, the total number of adaptations reaching at least 123...; the revised versions… totally supplanted the originals” (Wheeler 438). Beginning in the eighteenth century, a temporary shift occurred. Shakespeare’s influence flew full-circle (Marsden 3). He had become a cult figure as his literary influence spread from stage to other areas of literary production. Everyone knew his characters and their lines (Desmet, Sawyer 203). Novelists during that same century alluded to Shakespeare in their works because they assumed everybody was familiar with him. This shows how famous he had become. The Romantic poets of the 1700 and 1800s regarded him as the ideal poet. Finally, because he was highly esteemed, the study of his texts became more specialized than ever before as “battles over the methods of approaching the Shakespearean canon” were fought. Giving such critical attention to William’s works enshrined his texts as sacred, which resulted in the temporary cessation from rewriting his texts (Marsden 4). Regardless of how Shakespeare’s classics came into existence, his fame and success offered him the authorship of such works; no one would attest to a great story on 4
  5. 5. Grassell stage so long as one was entertained. Who really knew where his ideas came from at the time, and did anyone really care? He was now a leader in the realm of playwrights and poets. While Shakespeare directly affected the theatre industry of his age, most of his popularity and recognition would come posthumously, as mentioned earlier. In following eras, his works lived on and continue to do so. Despite the temporary cessation to rewrite Shakespearean texts, other generations would fail to recognize the sacredness of such works (this paper will focus solely on his plays). Thus, due to such ill-recognition, other plays would be written based on William’s plays, books and modern novels would “spin- off” his ideas, and films and movies would entertain audiences nearly four hundred years later. The question remains: should his works be performed and read in their original forms, and if so, what happened to the originals? With no originals, “every reading of a Shakespearean play is already an appropriation limited by constraints… (Desment, Sawyer 23). Regarding the aforesaid mentioned question, the Bard was introduced. Webster’s Dictionary defines the Bard as such – 4.) the Bard, William Shakespeare. His collected plays are the standard and make up the canon for what is real and original. He has been credited with such an overwhelming amount of authorship that no one dares to claim Shakespeare’s works as his own without first recognizing that the new version is borrowing from Shakespeare’s work. Shakespeare’s timeless works are the standard to which all other works are compared, especially if they seem to stem from William’s central message(s) from any of his plays. Since his death, however, much speculation resulting in volumes of research and criticism has been documented concerning the true nature of some of his plays. What makes this study difficult is that none of his 5
  6. 6. Grassell manuscripts survived, except a few pages “which have been ascribed to him in The Book of Sir Thomas More” (Ioppolo 5). Because of this, scholars have no evidence in his own handwriting that he revised certain passages or scenes in the plays of the canon. Shakespeare “did [not] know he was striking a chord with eternity because he never actually published his plays during his lifetime. He wrote manuscripts and gave them to actors, many of whom lost, destroyed, or otherwise ruined them” (“Shakespeare Still the One or, Why Shakespeare Matters” 1). In addition, since Shakespeare’s plays were intended to be performed, “very few contemporary records document the theatrical and printing practices which may have introduced revisions into his plays” (Ioppolo 5). As a result, “the editorial and critical methodologies developed to deal with Shakespeare’s printed texts have often been based on scholarly speculation. Succeeding scholars can only [do two things:] accept [the printed texts] or challenge [them]” (Ioppolo 6). Several other problems and mysteries surrounding the originality of Shakespeare’s own writings are recorded below. As William’s popularity increased, his words and works began to be preserved by his contemporaries. Some of his later plays were published individually in quarto form. This proved not sufficient enough. Following his death, his own acting company gathered the only surviving copies of the actors’ scripts and published them in an unofficial First Folio (“Shakespeare Still the One or, Why Shakespeare Matters” 1). Only eighteen of the plays collected in the Folios appeared in some previous printed form before being collected in the 1623 First Folio, the first publication of a collection of thirty-six plays. Of the thirty-six plays, only thirty- five of them are recorded in the Catalogue; Troilus and Cressida is omitted (Ioppolo 7). These Folios do not provide any consistent information concerning William’s 6
  7. 7. Grassell composition practices. In fact, the acting company had to fill in a lot of blanks in order to attain a complete copy of a play’s script – they called in actors to see if they remembered lines, contacted rival companies who had stolen script copies, and consulted audience members to check their recollections (“Shakespeare Still the One or, Why Shakespeare Matters” 2). Upon the completion of this Folio, many mistakes were noticed. Such mistakes conflicted with the original Quarto forms. In addition, William did not always subscribe his name on the title pages of the gathered Quarto documents. In fact, his name first appeared in 1598 on the first Quarto of Love’s Labour’s Lost and on the second Quarto of both Richard II and Richard III (Ioppolo 6). What makes this study even more interesting is that some of the later Quartos show differences when compared to the earlier Quartos. “Three credible Quartos with variants not found in preceding bad Quartos advertise on their title pages that they have been altered” (Ioppolo 6). Most Quartos show substantial variants when compared to Folio texts; eighteen plays were printed for the first time in the Folio texts. “Variants” are described as “discrepancies between an earlier text and later text of the same play” (Ioppolo 9). This should not be confused with “revisions.” Some scholars have argued that multiple texts are the result of authorial revision, but their claims have been discredited. There are several reasons for this. Printers may have used reports by members of the acting company or audience in printing a play’s script. Also, editors were usually unwilling to consider revisions and noticeable variants when he was responsible for collating different versions of a play. Thirdly, revisions of plays by company dramatists as well as the original author, Shakespeare, were commonplace. “Plays… [underwent] alterations or revisions to serve the company’s 7
  8. 8. Grassell needs, the censor’s needs, the Master of the Revels, or the author” (Ioppolo 12). In terms of the author making necessary revisions, Philip Henslowe’s Diary is a prime example. His multiple revisions prove that it was the common practice of London theaters from 1590 to 1642, the time during which Shakespeare lived. This playwright even paid free- lance writers to alter or add to the plays, which became a trade in itself (Ioppolo 12). Also, it has been said that neither Shakespeare nor his lead actor in most plays, Richard Burbage, performed the same play each night; the plays had to be lengthened, shortened, or cut according to circumstances (Brode 5). Did actors have the freedom to make changes to a text? Well, it has been noted that they did indeed add, interfere, or borrow texts despite the author’s negative view toward such actions. Revisions were also made in the texts of a few plays to reduce the number of actors needed or to allow some to double minor parts. Even songs were cut or changed when pre-adolescent boys were unavailable. For example, the song “Willow” was cut from Quarto 1 of Othello, which resulted in the absence of Desdemona in the live showing of the play. Also, the song before the Duke in Twelfth Night was transferred to another actor because there were no available of boys able to reach high-range notes (Ioppolo 82). “Suspicions that certain of the Folio texts contained matter from non- Shakespearean writers arose as early as 1678, and the next century saw the creation of a general climate…concerning the accuracy of the Folio….” (Marsden 111). Nicholas Rowe began a movement in 1709 that was followed by other editors of original texts. Rowe and other editors “collected variant editions of plays in an attempt to reproduce the text that Shakespeare originally wrote” (Ioppolo 13). The task, however, was deemed 8
  9. 9. Grassell impossible because his plays were never published during his lifetime (Brode 3). In 1873, the Shakespeare Society was formed in London by F.J. Furnivall. Furnivall had suspicions toward the Folio texts. He then led his society to use a scientific approach such as closely analyzing spelling to answer questions regarding the chronology and authorship in the Shakespearean canon (Marsden 112). In connection with this society, Frederick Gard Fleay spent much of his time devoted to scanning William’s woks and reporting the results back to Furnivall’s men. His approach involved disintegrating the received Shakespearean texts through metrical texts in a systematic fashion. Through his research, he found three plays to be non-canonical, three others held to be William’s revisions of other works, three more plays were drafted by Shakespeare but revised by others, three others were abridged, two plays were jointly written with a man named Fletcher, and two others included interpolations from other playwrights (Marsden 113). From the 1700s until today, no one could (or can) agree about the debate over Shakespeare’s original texts versus their revisions. This is supported in that the Oxford version of Shakespeare’s texts does disagree to an extent with the findings of Fleay; nothing is certain. The Oxford version seeks “to present a version of the play as it was sometimes enacted by Shakespeare’s troupe with the understanding that even then revision must [have] been freely practiced” (Marsden 114). No one can even be sure if the previous information is accurate; the presented data is merely a result from analyses performed almost three hundred years ago. And while many critics tend to blame the 1990s for solely destroying the Bard, the deconstruction had begun much earlier as is evident in Greenway’s Prospero’s Books, Jarman’s Tempest, and Godard’s Lear (Boose 11). 9
  10. 10. Grassell Compared to Shakespeare’s “originals,” all textual variations do betray the collections of his works. There are, however, degrees by which these transformed texts portray Shakespeare. No one can ever recreate Shakespeare’s plays with certainty because his manuscripts simply do not exist, which means that there is really no basis for an authentic production (Friedman 4). While Shakespeare is certainly subject to performance, those involved must be careful not to detract from Shakespeare’s original message (Friedman 33-34). Since the edited Quarto and Folio forms are all that exist today, they still serve as the “originals,” or basis, by which all others are judged (Friedman 36). To abuse Shakespeare would be to misuse the liberty that is available in not having a certain documented compilation of plays. As previously stated, Shakespeare can never be recreated authentically, but that “is not to say that in order to be authentic, modern editions must reproduce, like facsimiles, every aspect of the [Q]uarto and/or Folio texts; rather, it means that authentic modern editions should endeavor to bring as much coherence to the text as possible without altering its meaning” (Friedman 36). To recapture the play’s original meaning would necessarily involve, then, “the reproduction of an ideology that may seem repugnant to contemporary audiences” (Friedman 35). Thusly speaking, most adaptations reveal more about a particular audience’s culture and era than about Shakespeare’s works (Friedman 34). This has been the problem since appropriation began, and it still serves as the main problem today. “Shakespeare can no longer be read or watched or studied outside of the context of revision when even commercial newspapers and theater programs are spreading new doctrines of revision to mass audiences” (Ioppolo 16). Theatrical audiences were once forewarned that the plays they were watching may be “revised Shakespeare.” “Today, 10
  11. 11. Grassell editors of Shakespeare’s plays sometimes use the Folio edition, sometimes the Quarto, and sometimes later editions. That is why different editions of Shakespeare’s plays will vary” (“Shakespeare Still the One or, Why Shakespeare Matters” 2). Shakespeare definitely caused the Bard some disagreement and separation by not recording everything he intended, edited, or wrote; today’s Bard has loosened its criteria for an authentic Shakespearean production, which is obvious in the vast amounts of appropriated works available to the public. In light of this, the Bard has and continues to influence Shakespeare’s writings by adapting to culture rather than “sticking to” the norms. Shakespeare has certainly been the subject of much criticism and speculation since his unfortunate death. A period existed that hoped to preserve his writings, but it quickly faded. Hence forward, his works have been reproduced, edited with extreme liberty, appropriated, revised, and reinterpreted. The people guilty of such acts have discredited the Bard as the standard by which all Shakespeare should be measured. In fact, postmodernism has been a key player in this ongoing abuse of William’s writings. Postmodernism gives today’s writer the freedom to do whatever he wants in terms of interpretation, even if it means using Shakespeare’s writings completely contrary to what William intended. Because his plays were originally meant to be seen or performed rather than be read, writers and directors in a postmodern entertainment industry are granted more freedom to reinterpret Shakespeare’s original works and effectively present them in a way to attract an audience (Brode 3). From the previous point evolves another major problem. When modern appropriators of Shakespeare’s texts come into contact with his writings, they are guilty of what appropriators are known for – misusing the intent of the original work and 11
  12. 12. Grassell reinterpreting it according their perception. Today’s society is one that accepts “whatever kind of interpretation [one] can think of” (Desmet, Sawyer 24). This is especially true in today’s entertainment industry composed of television and movies. Mark Van Doren, a modern critic, said that the key question “is not whether the text is sacred. For movie purposes it certainly is not. The question is whether the whole of Shakespeare’s effect in a given play can somehow be preserved on screen” (Brode 9). The next question that arises is “how then should an artist proceed?” Ultimately, Shakespearean texts will be presented by a filmmaking approach as an original art form, or a hybrid of two arts – immortal poetry and immortal imagery (Brode 8). But to whom should the credit be given? There is debate over this issue. Certainly, the adapter is responsible for recreating Shakespeare’s work in a new art form, but William, too, should receive due praise for his original work that inspired the modern interpretation (Brode 9). Regardless of the outcome, the Bard has been changed, and in some cases completely rejected. Artists are free to express themselves at the expense of a literary genius who lived hundred of years ago. Due to the freedom these artists have been given by the entertainment industry, a real Shakespearean “corporation” has emerged, which has absolutely no regard for the authenticity of William’s works. In fact, there are two main types of this corporation – Big Time Shakespeare and Small Time Shakespeare (Desmet, Sawyer 23). The former serves corporate goals, entrenches power structures, and conserves cultural ideologies. The latter emerges from local, more pointed responses to the Bard (Desment, Sawyer 23). These two types cannot easily be separated. Why? Shakespearean appropriation has become a world phenomenon, and it cannot be stopped. “The author, no longer regarded 12
  13. 13. Grassell as the origin of writing, becomes simply a proper name by which [society] describe[s] a piece of discourse…. Shakespeare’s name is merely a forum on which literary criticism is based….” (Desment, Sawyer 5, 24). No more is the emphasis on an appreciation for literature and sacred texts; rather, it is on money-making in a market economy. “Whatever the protests, [William] was bound to be swept up in the ‘mass distribution and mass consumption of television programs for huge profits’” (Rothwell 96). The entertainment industry has taken Shakespeare and led him to the slaughter. Appropriation began much earlier than the twenty-first century, as stated earlier, but it was not until recently that appropriation was used for abusive purposes bordering on extremity. While Britain’s BBC radio broadcasted several versions of William’s plays for years, it was not really until the introduction of the television that the world was subjected to Shakespearean appropriations in a true abusive fashion. For example, the radio only provides for Shakespeare’s texts to be “murdered” on one level – the words and the manner in which they are spoken. Television, however, allows directors more freedom to take control of William’s texts by capitalizing on visual imagery. The first phase of televised Shakespeare began long before the recent version of David Thacker’s Measure for Measure. Thacker moved William’s script into a modern political environment that entailed a contemporary police state. In doing so, Thacker diminished the religious conventions that are so strong in the play (Esche 27). Actually, the televised history leaps much further back. It began winding down with Dallas Bower’s one hundred minute version of The Tempest in 1939. This version included incidental music and several dance numbers by Sibelius and the London Ballet (Rothwell 198). Between 1953 and 1970, the Hallmark Greeting Card Company underwrote eight 13
  14. 14. Grassell televised Shakespeare plays – Hamlet (2), Macbeth (2), Richard II (1), Taming of the Shrew (1), The Tempest (1), and Twelfth Night (1). Between 1949 and 1979, nearly fifty major televised programs in the United States were versions of William’s plays (Rothwell 202). James Earl Jones’ performance as King Lear was televised in 1977; thousands were finally able to see a famous African-American actor cross a color line by impersonating a white English king (not authentic Shakespeare) (Rothwell 106). Using the most modern form of technology, electronovision allowed for a closed-circuit transmission of Hamlet to be broadcast from Broadway to 976 American movie theaters (Rothwell 106). Hamlet was not the first play to be produced on Broadway. Musicals had been performed as far back as the 1940s when The Boys from Syracuse was performed. Kiss Me Kate (1953), West Side Story (1961), and Catch My Soul: Santa Fe Satan (1973) also followed (Rothwell 225). American movie theaters could not wait to get a hold of Shakespeare’s plays because much profit could be found in their showings. After all, as Orson Welles said, “Shakespeare would have made a great movie writer…. [He] is a visual dramatist, relying on the associative and metaphorical power of words. Action is secondary. What is meant is said” (Brode 3). This type of thinking brought many to believe that William’s plays would raise dollars for American theaters. After all, theater owners claimed that Shakespeare’s plays have much in common with the American motion picture industry – murder, sex, ghosts, and witches. The audiences of yesterday and today want a “bloody good time” (Brode 5). Peter Hall, a Shakespearean critic, disagreed – “Shakespeare is no screen writer” (Brode 3). While Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be performed, they were not meant to be performed in light of Hollywood’s capitalistic tendencies. There is 14
  15. 15. Grassell a large difference between live theatre and motion pictures as storytelling forms – the word is primary in plays, but image dominates film (Brode 4). These two prominent figures differed in their opinions; however, Welles’ opinion was favored in the business. Still today, Shakespearean cinema is the only subgenre of narrative film that remains the center of ongoing debate – should it exist (Brode 3)? Shakespearean film adaptation began in the early twentieth century. It is then that the first movie moviemakers would direct short “flicks” adapted from William’s plays for immigrants in the United States. One of the major threats to the success of filming his plays was the use of iambic pentameter in its original form; many believed that this would be impossible to portray in movies (Brode 7). This, of course, sparked critics to boast faithfulness to Shakespeare’s essence, which meant that moviemakers should not reinterpret his plays to fit the theatre’s cause. A critic, Richard Mallet, who agreed with this claim, also stated that “the basic trouble with any Shakespearean film is that the more circumstances and scenery are made life-like and convincing, the less easy it is to accept the convention of heightened dialogue” (Brode 7). From the “flicks” came an era of silent films. Many silent films were based on William’s plays. In fact, Hamlet is the recipient of the most silent film versions with twenty-six. A ten-minute version of this play was filmed by George Mélix in 1907 (McClellan 185). Close behind in numbers were Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Richard III (McClellan 185). These films paved the way for a large outbreak of Shakespearean feature films beginning in 1936, although a lone production appeared in 1912 in The Life and Death of King Richard III, the oldest surviving US feature film (Corliss, Gibson 86). 15
  16. 16. Grassell Laurence Olivier is credited with paving the way for the filming industry of Shakespearean plays as it is known today. In order to further the dramatic effect of Shakespeare’s intent, he used tracking and close-ups on film. He attempted to avoid “stock Hollywood conventions” (McClellan 189). To prove that Shakespeare is not meant for reinterpretation, especially on the “big screen,” it must be noted that Shakespeare cannot be truly grasped or comprehended in his original intended form. Olivier immediately encountered this problem. His 1948 version of Hamlet was a disaster. What is more is that his revisions to Richard III in 1955 were not looked upon favorably. He also struggled with the use of too much music. Olivier, while not entirely unsuccessful at directing, showed signs of wrestling with maintaining an authentic Shakespearean experience. He often fluctuated between film and theatre; these two mediums do not go well together for they require completely different tactics for a successful showing. As a result, Olivier came across as too static to his viewers (Boone 85). At the same time, George Schaefer attempted to produce a Shakespearean play worthy of watching on film. He wanted to capture the essence of Shakespeare’s intent. Rather, he produced a poor cinematic film with “goodish” Shakespeare (McClellan 192). “Shakespeare’s adaptations [were] turning from classical to populist appropriation” (Burt 9). After years of poor black-and-white films, director Franco Zeffirelli arose to the occasion. He sought to give the audience something with which to identify. In addition, he aimed at helping the audience understand that the classics are living flesh. Zeffirelli wanted to be faithful to Shakespeare’s works and hold true to what is at the core of William’s plays (Boose 81). He tried to revitalize the qualities that originally made the plays popular (Boone 92). Thus far, it sounds as though this director 16
  17. 17. Grassell finally had in mind to accomplish what no one else had done – be true to Shakespeare. In fact, he openly labeled his scripts as “adaptations” (Boone 92). This actor, however, thought of himself as a “popularizer” with a responsibility to bridge the gap to the classics and the present day (Boose 81). Here, it is evident that Franco was not going to retain everything that the original playwright had intended; he was going to incorporate modern vices into his films. For example, Zeffirelli believed that Shakespearean words have parallels in cinematic versions, which resulted in using modern language (Boose 85). In addition, he used mood music to capture the audience’s attention (Boone 92). He also saw the money-making qualities in producing the right type of film; thus, he targeted films about younger people because such films hold more appeal to an audience. Following his 1966 version of Taming of the Shrew, he took upon himself the daunting task of directing Romeo and Juliet (1968). The only reason his version of this timeless classic was made possible was because he promised the financial contributors two things – the film would appeal to young audiences, and it would sell. They believed him (Boose 83). Well, his version appeared more mature than any previous version of Romeo and Juliet. His key to “success” was focusing on the relationship between the lovers, showing distinct personalities between them, and empowering the portrayal of human relationships (Boone 91). All of this provided for richer characterization, which was absent in his version of Taming of the Shrew, because the focus was solely on the relationship between Kate and Petruchio. Franco decided to direct yet another version of the already popular Hamlet (1990). In this version, Mel Gibson played the main role of Hamlet. No one believed him to be Shakespearean until he took the chance; now, he is labeled as the “Hamlet of the ‘90s.” Zeffirelli saw a similarity between Gibson’s 17
  18. 18. Grassell “abortive meditation on suicide in Hamlet” and in his suicidal scene as Martin in the movie Lethal Weapon. Because of his risk in casting Gibson, the film was a moderate success; however, he capitalized on the entertainment industry’s success in using a popular actor. “America tends to cast Royal Shakespeare Company actors around an American star while other countries tend to portray Shakespeare purely in their own culture” (Boose 13). In addition, the film seemed to flow for those unfamiliar with the play because it was adapted into shorter segments. Franco used quick shots that took the place of dialogue (Boose 88). Finally, Franco’s key to success was allowing the audience to identify with the protagonist (Boone 89). While were are undoubtedly other film directors that directly followed Franco Zeffirelli’s earlier films, no other is as popular as Kenneth Branaugh. In fact, Branaugh’s version of Hamlet (1996) quickly replaced Zeffirelli’s 1990 version. One should sense the rapidity of Shakespearean plays being reproduced for popular appeal. Branaugh is “distinctive for having made the manners that have revitalized ‘Shakespeare’ for a postmodern clientele” (Burt 83). He is noted as such because of his major advantage over the other directors of Shakespearean cinema – “he is able to continually revise Shakespeare to match the demands of modern taste because of his investment in the film industry” (Burt 96). By participating in non-Shakespearean films, he has been exposed to filming and acting tactics that cater to a modern audience; he knows what sells. This director was, at one time, the master of popularizing Shakespearean film and presenting it before a pop-culture audience in an entertainment-run society. With an eye for marketing, he is known for infusing Shakespeare with popular culture (Boose 14). Now, he finds himself competing with others “to appeal to the masses using the same means” 18
  19. 19. Grassell (Burt 83). Despite the fact that most revenue from Shakespearean films is acquired through video rental sales, Branaugh has not ceased his work (Desment, Sawyer 201). Branaugh’s Shakespearean filmic career debuted with a version of Henry V (1989). In this version, Branaugh incorporated narrative “re-jiggings,” cameo-like biographical interventions, a fast-paced approach, a sentimental cast, and Anglicized accents. He also worked to “play down” the social and political altercations present throughout the play (Burt 83). His next Shakespearean feature film, Much Ado About Nothing, was released in 1993. In this film, Branaugh is guilty of using his own art and pushing it to modernity. This should not be surprising to any Branaugh followers because his films have progressively developed “in scope and crept steadily into the present” (Burt 86). He has become more accepted by the American people as a great entertainer (rather than a true representative of Shakespeare) by showing how much “fun” Shakespeare can be; Much Ado About Nothing earned $23 million dollars at the US Box Office on an $8 million dollar budget (Corliss, Gibson 86). Branaugh struck yet again in 1995 with his version of Othello. As mentioned earlier, Branaugh released Hamlet in 1996. His interpretation of this classic is perhaps more his own work than any of his previous films. First, he had been sliding toward Americanism prior to this work (he cast Lawrence Fishburne in Othello), but it reached full-scaled in Hamlet. He cast Billy Crystal (Grave Digger), Robin Williams (Osric), Charlton Heston (Player King), and Jack Lemmon (Marcellus) (Boose 14). In Hamlet, he “exploit[s] images familiar to newer audiences and his willingness to locate Shakespeare in [modern] times” (Burt 90). Branaugh purposefully used the previously mentioned tactics and a story such as Hamlet as a mere vehicle to 19
  20. 20. Grassell appeal to a mass audience. And he was able to accomplish such a task because of his positive reputation accumulated among the people in his other transformations of Shakespeare. His previous cinematic successes granted him recognition, which helped catapult this piece to acclamation. Of course, his offer to selected theaters that Hamlet would only be shown on their screens certainly did not cause his film any harm (Desmet, Sawyer 201). Indeed, Branaugh is not concerned with preserving Shakespeare in the original form or even about the freedoms of interpretation and abuses to which William’s texts have been subject. Kenneth is guilty of this, too. His reported comment fully supports this accusation – “We have broken away from the various earlier periods of Shakespeare movie-making that were linked more closely to theatre…. Now these stories are free for exploration in a way they were [not] before. The canvass is blank again” (Burt 97). If the aforesaid mentioned examples were not enough to label Branaugh as an initiator of artistic freedom, then his version of Love’s Labour’s Lost will. This is indeed his boldest attempt to make Shakespeare speak to the present generation; it is filled with appropriation that touches upon modernity. He completely disregarded Shakespeare in filming this adaptation. Branaugh dispensed lines and scenes, exploited cinematic ploys, and used energetic feminist scores to show the power of females as the various courtships throughout the play fail to materialize in marital outcomes (Burt 97). This film is directed at a teen audience, which is a major target audience of today’s films. Teens are the ones who will go to the theaters to see movies, especially if the films contain youth appeal. In addition, Branaugh incorporates modern music into the film, which is quickly becoming a popular medium through which to advance the play’s plot (Burt 101). 20
  21. 21. Grassell Yes, Kenneth Branaugh has loomed like a parasitic worm over Shakespeare’s plays and texts. He has abused them and used them for his own good. In support of this, Branaugh included on the reverse side of the Hamlet movie box a line that reads as follows – “Shakespeare’s greatest creation in its entirety” (Desmet, Sawyer 22). This claim by Branaugh is obviously false because his version is contrary to the Quarto and Folio texts. Branaugh’s creation is not Shakespeare’s creation. Branaugh simply needed Shakespeare’s name on the box because the name sells and grants power to the film. “Those who represent a production to the public ought to recognize that a theater event advertised as a performance of Shakespeare’s may reasonably be expected to demonstrate an authentic relationship to the text commonly known by that name” (Friedman 9). His purpose was to turn filmic Shakespeare into an industry; this he did successfully and profitably. “The ‘Branaugh phenomenon’ suggests ultimately that Shakespeare can, in the space of one filmic incarnation, shed the vestige of his visual history and embrace a postmodern Bard” (Burt 102). This has negatively affected Shakespearean interpretation; it has merely provided Branaugh with a medium through which to give a version of his narrative. Branaugh has indicated a desire to transform Macbeth into the postmodern, but fortunately he has yet to do so (Burt 101). Just when one thought Kenneth Branaugh would be the worst threat to Shakespeare, Baz Luhrmann entered the Shakespearean filmic industry during what appeared to be a “mild movie renaissance for the Bard” (Lyons 1). Fortunately, he was only responsible for one reinterpretation, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996), which, like his counterpart Branaugh, ascribed William’s name to a work that is not Shakespeare’s; it is Luhrmann’s own work based on a known story. Baz Luhrmann’s 21
  22. 22. Grassell version of this romantic tragedy is certainly not Shakespeare’s work. It does not deliver an authentic reenactment of the original text; he cut more than one-third of Shakespeare’s original text from his film (Lehmann 201). Due to this, the film should be properly titled, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (Friedman 10). This interpretation is merely a modified version geared for an age of media-savvy youngsters; in fact, the film uses media within the plot to advance it (Burt 9). His Romeo + Juliet is the most media-saturated of all Shakespeare films. Luhrmann “depicts a world saturated by image where mass media and corporate power have won” (Burt 61). For example, a surreal Verona is created where televisions are found on the beach and in pool halls. A kaleidoscope succession of video, newspapers, and news magazine coverage replicates the details of the Capulet- Montague feud (Burt 61). Some have praised this interpretation for its blend of pop-culture, mass media, and sophistication, but it uses Shakespearean text apart from the plays overall authenticity – swimming pools, televisions, floodlights, and mansions are portrayed; 9 mm pistols are used rather than swords; Los Angeles is featured rather than Verona; the actors speak in their original accents rather than Shakespearean-English all the while maintaining proper iambic pentameter form (Burt 61, Boone 14). Furthermore, the iambic pentameter is softly spoken and difficult to understand; most of the words are drowned out by editing cuts or static imagery. Even the soliloquies are rendered as voice-overs. Putting the emphasis back on the actors, it is noteworthy that most of the actors are Latino or African-American except for the lead characters played by Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio. The feuding families resemble drug kingpins (Lyons 57- 58). Luhrmann had done nothing positive to Shakespeare; in fact, he defined 22
  23. 23. Grassell “Shakespeare down to the taste of today’s youth culture, a culture so corrosive that it dissolves anything it comes into contact with” (Lyons 58). At least Olivier’s version filmed the “Prologue” at the Globe Theater, but Luhrmann used modern-day anchor coverage (Burt 63). How did such a media-saturated, Shakespearean-abused film fare at the Box Office? It came in first place the first week of its release. How? Luhrmann, famous for his music videos and popular on MTV, capitalized on the same technique he used in his film – media. He produced a tremendous amount of advertising, cast popular teenagers (who were already stars) such as Danes and DiCaprio, and created a soundtrack featuring hit teen bands – Everclear, Radiohead, and Garbage (Boose 18). Luhrmann also used one other clever technique – he researched what teenagers would be familiar with and realized that most of them were required to read Romeo and Juliet in high school (Desmet, Sawyer 201). Finally, this director, aimed largely at postmodernism, negatively used religion as a metaphor throughout the film. He wanted to portray its ongoing irrelevance to teens of the modern day (Esche 24-25). In an era when religion has taken a “backseat” to other codes of conduct, teens want to hear Luhrmann’s message. While Luhrmann is the last noteworthy director to mistake Shakespeare’s original intent, enough “trendy” versions have been produced that deserve notice without regards to the director. Romeo and Juliet has undoubtedly been the subject of much change throughout the ages. This should not come as a shock to anyone since it is Shakespeare’s most commonly known work. It has also been the most commonly adapted text. While this timeless piece has always existed, been performed numerous times, and been subject to a number of films, it did not get momentum, at least in America, until it was adapted in 23
  24. 24. Grassell 1957 from a book by Arthur Laurent into a 1961 musical, West Side Story (Burt 251). This adaptation of William’s classic masterpiece depicted situations in Shakespeare’s play with circumstances faced by contemporary United States’ youth (Burt 251). Aimed at the youth, the adult audience falls into the background in this version, which shows the beginning of a generation gap, which is still experienced today. Here, Romeo and Juliet are once again subject to a mass-marketing ploy for the sake of a well-earned dollar. The ploy worked as the impact of the musical gained momentum after claiming ten Academy Awards. Romeo and Juliet was not always commonplace in high schools across the country; adults viewed it as defying parental wishes and societal norms while containing a certain embarrassment in its teaching. Then, (after the debut of West Side Story) in 1973, the play became part of the Schools Project at Folger School Library because Shakespeare was seen as being able to speak to disaffected youth at the end of the Vietnam era. During this period of post-war adolescents, the teenager was becoming a widely accepted norm, and the perception of adolescence was changing. As a result, West Side Story aimed at this growing market by portraying flaming youths, juvenile delinquents, and gang situations. As a result, teachers needed to adapt their curriculum to accept new categories (Burt 252, 247). Romeo and Juliet became identifiable with the youth beginning with the second- half of the 1900s (Burt 245). Before then, this classic story was considered rather “grown up” for any teen to understand despite the youthfulness of the characters. Romeo was viewed as a romantic admirer and erotic aggressor, and popular criticism showed Juliet as being Romeo’s match in assertiveness (Burt 246). Since then, younger audiences have 24
  25. 25. Grassell come to “understand” the conflicts of the cast lovers. Through the differences of each person’s independent understanding, the perception of Romeo and Juliet changed resulting in a new marketable industry in pop-music and theatre (Burt 245). References to Romeo and Juliet have changed as the play has become more strongly identifiable among youth and shifting societal attitudes (Burt 243). Also, the essences of Romeo and Juliet’s character have changed with the times. They have been transformed to fit into a mass-marketed pop-music industry. They are geared toward the youth as the adolescents are more independent in choosing their representatives (Burt 245). Economic factors have certainly contributed to the success of Romeo and Juliet, but have also abused Shakespeare. These factors have now portrayed Romeo as a subject to passionate commitment while Juliet now resembles independence. Their characters have been revived for an adolescent market that can identify with the changing characters (Burt 244). In summary, today’s teens are not necessarily more educated about William, they are merely a market audience that continues to line up to see “hip-hop renditions” of this age old playwright, which one director after another is willing to rush to the movie theaters (Brode 11). Another popular story that has evolved with the trends of society and entertainment is Hamlet. In fact, it has become so popular that Hamlet as a character has become a “type.” Oliver Stone used the plot in his 1991 film, JFK. He actually cast the assassination of President John F. Kennedy through the lens of Hamlet’s character (Boose 9). In 1992, Arnold Schwarzenegger played a hero in John McTiernan’s Last Action Hero. Arnold transformed Hamlet “from a melancholy man into an image that could be valued by male consumers to whom the newly 'technologized' violence of the 25
  26. 26. Grassell 1990s was being played…. [He] was the insurance that consumers would stay interested” (He was the highest paid actor in the early ‘90s) (Boose 9). Danny DeVito also used Hamlet as a transforming force for misfit soldiers in Penny Marshall’s Renaissance Man (1994). It is a story “of Bill Rago’s journey from downwardly mobile adman to teacher of Hamlet for disadvantaged army recruits” (Lehmann 167). In addition to Kenneth Branaugh’s versions of Hamlet, he also filmed another movie about a production of Hamlet entitled A Midwinter’s Tale (1995). No other Hamlet has defied Shakespeare as much as Michael Almereyda’s version (2000). This film takes the classic story of Hamlet, which has been reproduced, reinterpreted, and reworked by directors of all sorts, and places it in a modern setting. For example, Shakespeare’s setting, seemingly not effective enough for today’s movie- goer, was transferred to Manhattan, New York. Surrounding the plot is the business world with tall skyscrapers, executive offices, cellular telephones, suits and ties, and advertisements. Like Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, this film allows the actors to maintain their original accents all the while speaking in soft iambic pentameter hardly recognizable due to the constant flow of traffic and background movement and noise. Also in comparison, popular actors were cast to make the movie appeal to those out-of-touch with Shakespeare’s story (i.e., Ethan Hawke, Bill Murray, and Julia Stiles). He turns Hamlet into an “amateur videographer and his Ophelia a photographer, both artists immersed in a visual-media culture yet struggling to find ways of resisting the corporate system the older generation exemplifies” (Lehmann 172). In general, Almereyda’s Hamlet makes “liberal use of ‘Generation X’ iconography” (Burt 101). Another murderer in the eyes of Shakespearean tradition has marketed a movie toward a media- 26
  27. 27. Grassell saturated, modern society that feeds on advertising and entertainment. Once again, the American media has proved its readiness to embrace the ever-changing Bard. The media, with support from American capitalism, New York-styles, and Hollywood’s influence, has negatively popularized original Shakespeare as seen by this example (Boose 10). Hamlet has been the subject of much reinterpretation on stage, as well. Robert Wilson’s Hamlet: A Monologue was written as a fifteen-scene monologue in five acts, which makes use of different characters. It is considered to be a “response to a culturally activated shift in textual authority in Shakespeare’s plays” (Burt 270). Wilson actually attempts to demonstrate textual authority over Shakespeare’s Hamlet. For example, he includes subjective sides of the characters from the play in a way that reflects influences on his own life (Burt 271). Al Pacino attempted something quite clever on film, yet at the expense of Shakespeare. His Looking for Richard (1996) attempted to portray the split that the character, Richard Duke of Gloucester, perceives within himself by showing the debate between body and soul. Pacino’s documentary unifies different interviews with actors, scholars, and various others. He even interviewed random New Yorkers taken to the streets; this attempt shows the relevance of Shakespeare to a postmodern culture (Rothwell 226-227). While Pacino played the character of Richard III, other famous actors such as Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin, and Kevin Spacey added appeal to the film. As Richard III, Pacino actually alternated reading lines with himself. First, he is a modern-day actor in rehearsal on the floor of the Cloisters. The film suddenly cuts to another version of Pacino as Richard III “sweating in the dawn before death of life and soul” (Esche 31). By doing this, he turned a powerful soliloquy into a dramatic film. It 27
  28. 28. Grassell is “a low-budget, small-market street authenticity tied specifically to the stage, paradoxically using film to praise the rehearsal process and the camaraderie of theatrical ensemble in an age in which live performance…has become a dead art form” (Lehmann 166). In the past decade, a number of films have been released that seemingly “borrow” from Shakespeare’s texts. In fact, it has become a trend, or the “’Bardification of culture,’ where markets grab any pre-tested public domain property with instant name recognition” (Esche 16). “Appropriation can take many forms as each generation seeks to possess and usurp the literary holdings of the previous generation” (Marsden 9). These next film examples are proof enough that a pop-culture era complete with its entertainment industry has culturally conditioned the interpretations of Shakespeare (Marsden 5). His plays have inspired fictional appropriations and “off-shoots” that exploit the Bard’s words and characters and cause new questions to arise about the plays’ texts (Rozett 143). These films have allowed Shakespeare to create new territory as vast markets are honed, but his reputation will never be the same as it was during the reign of Queen Elizabeth (Desmet, Sawyer 197). While the aftermath of mass media has changed the modes of production in the film industry, Shakespeare is still produced, which means that he has become subjected to modern ways of telling his stories. This so-called “teenager trend” actually began when Amy Heckerling turned Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, into a modern film called Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone (1995). A hit among the youth, directors saw an opportunity to turn boring texts into modern screenplays, which equals dollars. Some claim that Hollywood has helped turn Shakespeare into the most beloved author of all-time by returning him to the masses “in 28
  29. 29. Grassell style.” Today’s generation does not know Shakespeare. If they claim to know him via modern film versions, they merely know the director and not the playwright. Michael Hoffman directed a clever version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999) starring celebrities such as Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), starring teen idols Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger, is a modern “spoof” on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Never Been Kissed (1999) directed by Kaja Gosnell, Let the Devil Wear Black (1999) directed by Stacy Title, and Midsummer (1999) directed by James Kerwin are other recent adaptations (Lehmann 162). Director Tim Blake Nelson together with first-time screenwriter Brad Kaaya collaborated on a modern version of Othello simply called O (2000). In this adaptation, Othello is a modern young black man who is accepted into an all-white preparatory school for his basketball skills. Other releases in 2001 were Get Over It directed by Tommy O’Haver, Rave Macbeth directed by Klaus Knoesel, The Glass House directed by Daniel Sackheim, and Scotland P.A. directed by Billy Morrissette. 2002 saw the release of King Rikki directed by James Gavin Bedford (Lehmann 163). This trend would never have been made possible had it not been for a popular movie that was not adapted from Shakespeare’s texts at all. It is a poor attempt to emulate his life and times while playing on several “funny” scenarios through allusions to Shakespeare’s more popular plays and lines. Shakespeare in Love (1997) starred Gwyneth Paltrow, a rising star. This film actually set in motion the emerging trend. It received even more steam when it received seven of thirteen Academy Awards. That same year at the Academy Awards, the Motion Picture Academy also presented a ten- minute salute to movies based on the Bard’s work (Brode 241). Since its popularity, this 29
  30. 30. Grassell film has actually become a staple in schools across the US (Desmet, Sawyer 12). The characters of Viola and Shakespeare actually parody the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, which teachers have opted to use rather than other filmic versions of Romeo and Juliet. In this case, it is once again evident that the name sells, and the name is William Shakespeare. To use a cliché – to add insult to injury – Scary Movie (2000), a crass movie aimed at immoral teens of a corrupt society, referenced Shakespeare in Love during one of its sequences (Burt 23). Yes, even Walt Disney’s has affected William Shakespeare. Through its “innocent” films geared toward children, one would guess that nothing Shakespearean could exist within an animated film (although animation of Shakespeare’s characters was noticeable as far back as the 1920s in Anson Dyer’s black and white cartoon of Othello) or a family classic, but it does (Rothwell 227). Take, for example, the aforesaid mentioned Shakespeare in Love; it is a Disney Miramax production. Moreover, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Lion King, despite using “low art,” make isolated allusions to Shakespeare. In fact, they borrow from the playwright. It is an attempt to use Shakespeare’s clever plot and character structures and gear them toward theaters, where parents will take their children to see the newest popular animated film. In the end, Walt Disney gains capital while Shakespeare’s stories lose authenticity. The Little Mermaid (1989) suggests Shakespeare generally, but the characters point to The Tempest (Desmet, Sawyer 185). Ariel represents Shakespeare’s Miranda. She has never before seen a human man, she is innocent and desires freedom, and she has little knowledge of the human race. In Disney’s version, however, Caliban is absent; he is the central antagonist in Shakespeare’s play. In addition, Ursula, the antagonistic sea 30
  31. 31. Grassell witch, fights a battle against King Triton, Ariel’s father. “Ursula is created by inflating the role of Caliban’s absent mother, Sycorax, and by conflating Sycorax with her son” (Desmet, Sawyer 186). In her war with Triton, Ursula fights for control of the undersea domain just as Sycorax fought with Prospero for the island. The focus of both stories is on female desires for independence, possessions, and sexuality. Similarly, The Little Mermaid and The Tempest use comic heroines that accommodate themselves to a society in which the husband’s role replicates that of the father. When Ariel joins Prince Eric’s world on land through an agreement with Ursula that involved the surrendering of her beautiful singing voice, she had to adapt to a new way of life. But in doing so, she joined a “new patriarchal order in [the] human realm [apart from her father’s underwater realm, which] mean[t] subsiding all that Ursula represents and prevents her from emasculating the King” (Desmet, Sawyer 187). A smaller off-shoot of Shakespeare is present in Disney’s 1992 release of Aladdin. Here, a bird plays friends with Aladdin. The bird is given the name Iago as in Othello. His isolated lines work as a sort of thought process, or conscience for Aladdin just as Iago led Othello through the murky realms of jealousy through his lines. The Lion King (1994), on the other hand, incorporates both Hamlet and Henry IV (Desment, Sawyer 187). A high-concept reading of Hamlet and The Lion King is as follows – “a prince is prevented from taking his place in the masculine world of action and politics because of improper belongings” (Desmet, Sawyer 191). Simba, the young lion cub, had been educated by his father, leaving him feeling ready to take over for his father, yet small when next to the greatness of his father (Desmet, Sawyer 190). Simba becomes weighed with the guilt that he killed his father when Scar, his uncle, is actually 31
  32. 32. Grassell guilty of conspiring to kill Simba’s father and making it seem as though his nephew was at fault; thus, he runs from his past and denies his royal duties, which is similar to Hamlet. Simba, like Hamlet, avoids all effective actions; Simba lives with Timon. He “seems immobilized by psychological conflicts originating in guilt over his [father’s] death” (Desmet, Sawyer 190). Finally, Scar takes over the royal duties, as a result. In comparison to Henry IV, Timon becomes a father-like substitute during Simba’s flee just as Falstaff was to Prince Hal. It remains so until a matured Simba returns later to dethrone his uncle, another reference to Hamlet. Turning from the typical American dominated world of entertainment and film, other cultures and smaller corporations have appropriated Shakespeare on film and in the theatre, but they have been given less recognition. Shakespeare is the most widely known author of all time. Granted, popular culture has given him some of this recognition through ill-use of his material, but he is globally known nonetheless. The most prominent “foreign” Shakespeare films were released in the former-USSR because the Russian film industry flourished under the VGIK (Rothwell 178). In 1979, more than seven hundred feature-length movies in the Indian film industry were appropriations of Shakespeare (Rothwell 168). In Ghana, Hamlet was turned into Hamile: The Tongo Hamlet (1994). Romeo and Juliet has been adapted in cultures such Egyptian (Shuhaddaa El Gharam, 1942), Indian (Henna, 1992), and Portuguese (Romero and Julieta, 1980) (Rothwell 170). Aki Kaurismaki, a Finnish director, released Hamlet Goes Business in 1987. This film adapted Shakespeare’s Hamlet to show Ophelia’s suicide as resulting in drowning in a bathtub after simultaneously gazing at Hamlet’s photograph and listening to a teen pop lyric that pertained to a boyfriend’s wishes only to make up 32
  33. 33. Grassell with his girlfriend so his dreams would come true – a combination of multi-cultural Shakespeare and pop-culture (Boose 18). But it is often due to the treatment of a subordinate group in Shakespeare’s plays that “mobilizes authors to revisions” (Novy 8). “Transformations of Shakespeare have flourished at the end of the twentieth century precisely because many writers of both sexes and many different racial and ethnic backgrounds are conscious of how different the stories they want to tell are from his” (Novy 9). For example, an all-Africa-American cast appeared in a small version of Othello (1980). Mass media has had to embrace culture and racial differences, which has allowed for African-Americans to be heard in Shakespearean film (Burt 17). A.R. Gurney’s play Overtime (1996) is really a sequel to The Merchant of Venice. Gurney, despite being a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant heterosexual male who typically writes about American upper-class, was even influenced by oppositional perspectives – Jews, homosexuals, African-Americans, and feminists (Novy 8). Because of these subordinate groups, many different reactions, including feminism, have emerged. The three other major emerging trends are psychoanalytic, new historicist, and cultural materialist. These reactionary groups have all attempted to approach Shakespeare in a harmonious fashion, but they can never agree. As a result, Shakespeare has been interpreted and modified in many ways by these criticisms in a way that loses authentic Shakespeare. There are many problems with all three. Psychoanalysis develops too much of a reliance on a self-enclosed world view. It also leaves out historical and social analysis that may make the story important (Erickson 11). Finally, it is too fixed on gender roles and sexuality. New historicist, however, avoids 33
  34. 34. Grassell gender issues completely. It is a one-sided “preoccupation with containment” (Erickson 12). Moreover, it has developed a silence about contemporary political implications (Erickson 12). Finally, cultural materialism places more stress on class divisions and national identity. It uses its political stance in emphasizing a difference between social life in England and America (Erickson 12). Perhaps the most prominent perspective that influences Shakespearean appropriation today is feminism, a direct result of postmodernism. It is actually strengthened by the new historicist and cultural materialist approaches (Erickson 10). The late twentieth century brought about an explosion of literature in which women actually rewrite Shakespeare, which is causing the world to remember Shakespeare in a different tone. Women have even been “popping up” on stage and in film. Many of them seek to let Shakespeare’s original characters “escape [from] plots that doom them to an oppressive marriage or death. [Others] seek to demythologize myths about male heroism and female martyrdom” (Novy 1). Overall, feminism has given women a push to address such topics in literature, even Shakespeare. They want women to be known as subjects of his plays rather than mere objects. This thinking results from a drastically different society of today as compared to the society of Shakespeare’s day. Women are treated differently in legal, social, political, and cultural forms. This is agreeable. But feminists believe that Shakespeare should be rewritten to address women’s changing roles. They want to see a reality in Shakespeare’s women that is not merely in relation to the men in their lives. These feminists believe that William’s women are pleasing because they are seen as men see them (Novy 3). Many admit that they do not want to break from Shakespeare, but merely transform him into their liking. How is this any 34
  35. 35. Grassell different from the previous film adaptations or theatre versions of Shakespeare that have been mentioned? Either way, it is an appropriation because the context is completely different than originally intended (Novy 3). Shakespeare has been completely dismissed from his own works by feminists. Since he was a white male author, he was free to write with more authority than any other race or gender during his lifetime. Since society has changed, especially toward its views on women and culture, many believe that he framed his writings around assumptions, perceptions, and values. This has been a direct cause of the rise of feminist writers in the world. In addition, there has been an emergence of African-American women authors who call attention to equivalency between being white and male; thus, white male critics have begun to lose credibility (Erickson 168). Since feminists have started to detract all masculinity from Shakespeare’s texts, masculinity cannot be announced anymore, but it must be worked through by bringing together common culture and identity politics and realize the tensions between them. Male feminist perspectives have been begun to rise (Erickson 169). Continuing with the feminist theme, William’s history plays are considered least by women appropriators because there are so few main roles for women in them, although women are beginning to accept leading roles portraying men (Novy 8). Among these plays are Henry IV (Parts 1 & 2), and Henry V (Novy 4). Comedies, however, are an area of power for women. For example, feminists view As You Like It as being to masculine; so, they reworked it by targeting the final marriages of the play. Taming of the Shrew is another example. They say it “shows a spirited woman forced into an accommodation with husband and society” (Novy 4). Several rewritings of this comedy 35
  36. 36. Grassell include portraying the woman as the beholder of power or turning it into a tragedy by having Kate commit suicide (Novy 4). Finally, tragedies, incorporating the most cultural force, are most often rewritten by women authors (as well as “feminist men”). Othello, for example, is a favorite target. The Tempest is also a goal for many because of its dominant father-daughter motif (Novy 5). The most recent popularized reaction to Shakespeare is Jane Smiley’s novel, A Thousand Acres. If reinterpretations of Shakespeare’s plays were not bad enough, the issue has been taken to yet another level. A Thousand Acres was further transformed into a film version by director Jocelyn Moorhouse in 1997, which starred Michelle Pfeiffer and Jessica Lange. To think – a film version of a literature version of Shakespeare’s original play! Jane Smiley was disgusted by the dominant masculinity in Shakespeare’s King Lear. As a result, she transformed the play into a female-oriented story about life in 1970s Midwestern America. To express it plainly, the father is portrayed as a mean- spirited, secretly incestuous child beater (Novy 1). In her response, Smiley suggests that King Lear generates femaleness as the cause to a fallen world (Novy 145). To tell her story she uses the narrative as the method and the novel as the instrument (Novy 145). Smiley was upset that Lear dominated Shakespeare’s play while the daughters – Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia – all received few lines in comparison (187, 181, and 115 respectively). She used her authorial power in controlling the point-of-view of the story; the female character Ginny is used as the instrument of power. Even the narrator of the story is a woman – Virginia Cook tells the story of her family. Briefly, while Virginia is unstable in the novel, she is only so because she has been misguided by the male pressures and institutional powers in her life (Novy 147). The readers are forced to 36
  37. 37. Grassell mistrust the male figures in Smiley’s version because of their abuses heaped upon Virginia. In keeping with modern literature, a plethora of books is released each year based upon Shakespeare’s life and works. In addition to these books, many criticisms and journals dedicated to studying Shakespeare seem to be released just as rapidly. Shakespeare, while gaining his literary fame by writing, has been abused by the very agent that gave him popularity – literature, specifically the modern novel. The novel has taken Shakespeare’s plots and reworked them to fit a certain political, social, or economic agenda. In response to opposing perspectives, Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses (1988), reworked Othello. Caryl Phillip’s novel, The Nature of Blood (1997), rethinks Othello and The Merchant of Venice as a combined effort for the very same reason (Novy 8). Turning toward the music industry, Shakespeare has not been devoid of exploitation here, either. It began in the 1960s with the previously mentioned “teen revolution.” Following the Vietnam War, teens were roused in joining a cultural revolution as university students rebelled against normal conventions and demanded personal liberation (Rothwell 143). Lyricists saw vast market appeal in the teen audience in connection with rising popularity in the music industry. Once again, both Romeo and Juliet were favorite targets for song lyrics, which exploited Shakespeare’s characters with alternate interpretations. Peggy Lee’s hit “Fever” (1958) and The Diamonds’ “Soft Summer Breeze” (1956) portrayed Romeo and Juliet as being too childish (Burt 248). Jackie Wilson released a song in 1959 called “That’s Why I Love You So,” which placed an emphasis on Juliet’s devotion and response (Burt 248). During the 1960s, Romeo was 37
  38. 38. Grassell portrayed as being sincere while Juliet was viewed as proactive. During the 1980s, Juliet took on an assertive tone. Even Bruce Springsteen, Grammy Award winner, stressed Juliet in three of his songs – “Incident on 57th Street,” “Fire,” and “Point Blank.” In these songs, he chose to pose a possible outcome to Juliet’s love relationship with Romeo had she not participated in the tragic series of events (Burt 253). Popular writer Bob Dylan wrote “Highway 61 Revisited” (1965). This song pondered the question – what if someone else had stumbled into Romeo’s story (Burt 262). More recently, he wrote “Love and Theft” (2001), a song in which he is obviously frustrated by Romeo. Tom Waits released “Romeo is Bleeding” (1978), a song about romanticized violence; the protagonist feels futile and dies as a result of his choices (Burt 255). Lou Reed’s “Romeo Had Juliette” (1989) criticized the romanticism in the popular version of West Side Story. In fact, he went as far as to reconstruct an interracial love-affair between Romeo Rodgriguez and Juliette Bell through his lyrics. It resulted in a deadly turf battle between crack-cocaine dealers (Burt 255). To bring the situation into postmodernity, Aerosmith’s “Flesh” (1989), Madonna’s “Cherish” (1989), and Alanis Morissette’s “Superman” (1991) all reference Romeo and Juliet (Burt 258). In the end, both forms began to embody forms “of cultural negotiation that recognize complicity in the political and economic institutions that resist them” (Burt 248). These songs and many more reveal how a culture can affect or change a certain perception of something as simple as a Shakespearean character. Lyricists claim that these songs allow William’s characters to speak (Burt 262). These characters, however, are not free to speak; they are speaking as a direct result from societal pressures aimed at a changing audience filled with varying values. Again, Shakespeare is used to attract customers, which, in this case is the youth. 38
  39. 39. Grassell Romeo and Juliet have become so widely known with a rather large fan-base. William, as usual, is abused for the sake of the pop-culture dollar. While this paper has focused on the growing popularity of Shakespearean appropriation due to the effects of entertainment and media on society, it must be noted that Shakespeare himself has been abused by the growth of advertising and the power of the dollar. If abuse of his works was not enough, the poor man has been subject to character abuse as well. Why? Shakespeare’s name is responsible for a growing trend in the media; his name has been known to sell products and attract audiences. The capitalization upon Shakespeare’s name in the mass media world began, in large part, in the aftermath of the Cold War era. “Electronic and digital mass media, along with shifts in the global political landscape [following this era] and the development of global capitalism, have begun to transform the ways in which [society] attends to Shakespeare and conceptualize him and his writings” (Burt 8). All in all, the growing trend of “Shakespeareanism” is negative; the various ways in which he has been used to represent companies, advertising campaigns, and entertainment mediums can only be counted as a loss, especially for the literary world (Burt 8). This sort of statement cannot be made, however, without proper support or examples to verify its legitimacy. Shakespeare is everywhere. His name carries much weight. He “is held as an icon of good taste, cultural refinement, and intellectual ability” yet, he “has crossed over from high art representation to the realm of commodified icon available to all consumers” (Desment, Sawyer 21; Esche 17). A feature article in the December 1996 version of Newsweek heralded the title, “Shakespeare Rocks.” This article revealed Shakespeare’s success after “going Hollywood.” In the article, success is further measured by the fact 39
  40. 40. Grassell that William is on the Web, has a teen fan-base, and has a theme park. There is even a Shakespeare karaoke CD-ROM, various Shakespeare computer games, and a disgusting pornographic industry that misuses Shakespeare’s titles, characters, and famous lines to attract some sort of “intelligent” or “cultural” appeal. William’s picture is even on his own credit card in England. He was enshrined as “Briton of the millennium” during the 1990s for a number of reasons, which has nothing to do with his authentic literature but rather with his modern appropriators making Shakespeare out to be something he never intended to be. The reasons behind this “esteemed” award were among the following – his works are studied by more than twenty million plus students as English departments hold him as a staple of a core requirement for graduation, Shakespeare in Love received more Academy Awards than other movie in 1998, and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet was the number one grossing film in America the weekend it opened in 1996 (Desmet, Sawyer 197). He is so highly looked upon that even the Prince of Wales referenced Hamlet’s soliloquy, “To be or not to be,” in his political speech to the public. Even this shows the decline of Shakespeare, especially in the recent past. This use of Shakespeare demonstrates the decline of language from Shakespeare’s day to the present. The Prince of Wales has “the ability to call on Shakespeare even though no one in Shakespeare’s time would speak Hamlet” (Desmet, Sawyer 21). Still more, Star Trek, a popular television show in the past decade among science fiction fans, has been shown to cite or even quote Shakespeare; this runs parallel to the academic tradition (Burt 10). This example is yet a perfect example of something else – how “Shakebites” use famous quotes from Shakespeare out of context and trivialize them to fit the a certain situation. “Shakebites” are prevalent in various postmodern self-help 40
  41. 41. Grassell or “feel-good” books such as Shakespeare on Leadership: Timeless Wisdom for Daily Challenge, William Shakespeare Quotations, or Shakespeare on Love: The Love Poetry of Shakespeare. In these books, Shakespeare’s quotes are used as purple-passages, while out of context, to fit people’s personal needs. “The purple passage tradition, however, carries over into film and other visual media and fragments of plays called ‘Shakebites.’” (Burt 12). This has already been shown from incidents in the movies Scary Movie and Shakespeare in Love, but several plays also use select lines and scenes from Shakespeare’s original texts. Examples of this are The Royal Box (1930), Prince of Players (1954), and Theatre of Blood (1973) (Rothwell 226). Additionally, Shakespeare has been the subject of other types of reference books aimed at Shakespeare illiterates – Shakespeare for Beginners (1997), Shakespeare for Idiots (1999), Shakespeare for Dummies (1999) (Burt 14). Shakespeare is even promising as a tourist industry. The tourist industry, much like Shakespeare’s appropriated plays, is a direct result of postmodernism among a changing social and cultural climate. As society, affected by postmodernism, has changed the way in which Shakespeare is perceived, so too, tourism has been the result of a changed society affected by different values. Tourism began to explode as the technology of travel increased. People began to see the world as achievable. After 1960, there was a reported increase in domestic and international tourism as people received paid holidays amidst an expanding US economy and improvements in the airline industry (Esche 7). In a world where Disneyland is becoming part of American culture’s heritage, theme parks and historical sights are trying to capitalize on the same venue. Historical theme parks “are successful because they provide an accessible and diverting 41
  42. 42. Grassell thoroughfare to an imagined history or mythical world” (Esche 8). Once again, anything can be merchandized if there is a market, which is the ongoing dogma at the Disney Institute in Orlando, Florida. It is clear from previous examples that there is certainly a market for Shakespeare. As a result, there is a gift shop at the place of Shakespeare’s birthplace and the new Globe Theater was opened in 1997 (not be completed until the 1999 season). While the builders of the Globe want it to be a Shakespearean experience in all its authenticity, it can never be so. It is merely a tourist trap based on the makers and designers claim that it is accurately comparable to the construction of the original Globe. How can this be when renovations and expansion projects have already highlighted its history? The main reason for this is because it is really just a timely renovation at the heart of the tourism age. Dollars are its aim rather than pure Shakespeare. Targeted at cultural tourists, the new Globe has profited greatly over the past few years. In December 1996, it was honored as the top tourist attraction in Europe. Its 1999 season allowed it to operate at a profit without public subsidy (Esche 11). Even the performances that take place during the day at the new Globe show signs of Elizabethan inaccuracy. Acting styles, gestures, and body postures reveal unrelenting signs of modernist concepts of performance (Esche 13). Some plays such as The Two Gentlemen of Verona are being performed in the new Globe when they were never even presented in the original. In keeping with the performances within this theater, the modern day spectators treat the groundling experience (watching the play while standing up in front of the stage as the poor class tended to do during Shakespeare’s time) much like an American football game or rock concert. For example, they hiss, cheer, and applaud at 42
  43. 43. Grassell random moments, and even these moments are not the result of the majority audience; sole members may feel the need to do so at any time throughout the production (Esche 14). At London’s new Globe Theater, people are being drawn in for more reasons than just the inauthentic productions. The Globe offers displays, tours, educational programs with a postmodern veneer, and spectator plays aimed at Shakespeare’s authenticity, but they all “miss the boat.” In addition to these attractions, there is a restaurant with a great view of the Globe. It has a high art appeal, which some may find fascinating. It is appears historic in nature; it looks like late Elizabethan structure. The only problem with this is that it is modern architecture. Sam Wanamaker, director of the Globe, said that “it was not a Disneyland, but it has become one” because it is very capable of operating within a tourist postmodernity (Esche 15). Why Shakespeare all of a sudden? The people of Shakespeare’s day had very little use for live theatre. The following centuries brought about an acceptance of literature and plays, and they began to be the focus of study. Studies bring about more reaction and criticism. Bringing it to the modern day, 1927 saw more universities studying the Bard. Students began complaining that William was outdated, or out of comprehension, which saddened them because the plays were meant for commoners. Soon, students were being forced to read Shakespeare in junior high and high schools across the country. They grumbled at the thought of reading Elizabethan language, and they never had the opportunity to see authentic Shakespeare performed live. Then, adolescence began changing in America. Schools were forced to adjust their teaching of Shakespeare to fit this rising change. At the same point, film and music industries were 43
  44. 44. Grassell capitalizing on Shakespeare’s characters and throwing them into the changing mode of society. It all seemed to fit together; Shakespeare had become a star. “There was a time in history when one could make a classic version of Shakespeare and have it last for many years. This is no more; the classic era has passed” (Brode 10). Today, teachers have to help students recognize the barrier between Shakespeare’s world and theirs because of the misinterpretation of Shakespeare throughout the past few decades. Students have little understanding of what is really Shakespearean. While the language is still a problem for many students, it will remain so regardless of how he is taught. While annotated versions of Shakespeare make efforts to rend him accessible by providing introductions, appendices, and notes for obsolete words, these editions also require a reader to “constantly move back and forth from text to note” and so forth (Rozett 166). Students are becoming too reliant on assistance in understanding, reading, and comprehending the texts. Teachers, too, become frustrated because they cannot address every issue that arises. The answer is not to run from the texts or to use some abused appropriation, which seems easy in an age when Shakespeare has been transferred to animated films, comic books, and MTV videos (Boose 17). In fact, one teacher saw the benefit of immersing her students in historic fiction before diving into William’s plays. In this case, she assigned the reading of Patricia Finney’s Firedrake’s Eye (Rozett 167). This process familiarized the students with Shakespeare’s words and phrases and a history of the time. Films lack this ability; they may allow for visual stimulation, but Shakespeare has been entirely misinterpreted in the recent past that no visual imagery is safe. Films may give students the wrong idea. For example, in the Shakespearean film industry in America, directors aim to be as indirect as possible so 44
  45. 45. Grassell as not to lose any part of its audience; they even cut original lines from films in case some of them may lend the wrong impression to a young or uneducated viewer (Boose 14). Film cutting and editing can “generate unexpected responses among our student audiences (Osborne 228). In addition, there is a main singular difference between the ending of a Shakespeare play and that of a film adaptation – the ending is spoken by characters on stage, but it is visualized by the camera in film. This “foregrounding of sight over speech in the narration of the ending…draws attention to another seeing of the play….” (Li Lan 128). This is the sole reason that teachers refrain from showing any film in its entirety, unless it is done after studying Shakespeare’s original text as a whole (Osborne 229). All these adaptations of Shakespeare produced during the second half of the twentieth century all claim to be genuine, but as they multiply in number, they lose Shakespeare (Taylor 308). “Film diverges from analysis because its representations differ from the accepted modes of academic profession” (Osborne 237). It is comforting, at least, to note that most classrooms are attempting to preserve Shakespeare in its original form by not straying too far from the original works. In fact, books such as Teaching Shakespeare Today and Teaching Shakespeare into the Twenty-First Century have been released to assist teachers at all levels on how to get students “hooked on” Shakespeare (Newlin 543). As the world grows older and generations pass, the Bard will continue to experience separation from the age of Shakespeare; his plays and texts will never be the same. From the time William wrote, he began to be the product of appropriation and reinterpretation. Today, directors, authors, and actors feel that they are free to modify his texts with extreme liberty according to what they feel to be true to the age in which they 45
  46. 46. Grassell live. This playwright's texts have changed along with society. In addition, society has embraced worldly and cultural influences upon Shakespeare’s texts so as to represent a growing minority among this new age Shakespeare. Shakespeare has become an industry as well as the victim of several other industries. Capitalism and entertainment have abused him because there is money to be made through him. Authentic Shakespeare is gone, and there are very few who are attempting to keep him alive. As a result, future generations are losing Shakespeare as well. Two or three generations from now may even lose the little grasp today’s society has on Shakespeare. 46