“The very stone one kicks with one’s boot will outlast Shakespeare”
– Virginia Woolf
While in terms of human civilisation Woolf may be correct, but as the 400th anniversary of his death approaches it’s clear that Shakespeare is not going away anytime soon. The simplest search proves that Shakespeare is ingrained heavily in today’s culture, not only his original works, but in adaptations and reimaginings, and his influence is undeniably impressive.
There are grand, traditional movies by great directors that bring Shakespeare’s original words to the screen, and there are remakes that play with dialogue or characters but still tell the same story. These modern adaptations can be so clever that you don’t even realise they are Shakespeare adaptations, or they can bring together the new and the old into something fantastic and memorable.
Movies are not the only thing to get the Shakespeare treatment, literature is just as filled with people retelling the works of Shakespeare in new and creative ways. From graphic novels to feminist retellings there are some wonderfully creative retellings out there.
There really are too many to go into depth about but I’ve linked them to the Wiki page, IMDB page, or other sources like an ultimate movie list from No Sweat Shakespeare. Since there are so many to pick from so I’ve only chosen a select few, some of the greats and some of the sneaky adaptations that may have slipped past you, and some that I myself only just discovered were Shakespeare in disguise.
The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson (The Winter’s Tale)
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (King Lear)
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (The Taming of the Shrew)
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (Hamlet)
The Dead Father’s Club by Matt Haig (Hamlet)
A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchinson (Hamlet)
Exit Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston (The Winter’s Tale)
Fool by Christopher Moore (King Lear)
Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer (The Tempest)
Warm Bodies by Issac Marion (Romeo and Juliet)
Requiem of the Rose King by Aya Kanno (Richard III)
Kill Shakespeare by Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col, and Andy Belanger (Multiple plays)
Prince of Cats by Ron Wimberly (Romeo and Juliet)
There are arguments for whether a traditional or remake is better to see first if you’re new to all things Shakespeare. I have found seeing an adaptation first can help you make sense of the story and get a handle on what’s happening, but on the other hand, if you see the traditional first you can pick up the clever references that have been included when you do see an adaptation. The other fun thing about adaptations is seeing one and not realising it was Shakespeare until later.
Hopefully this list has offered up some great suggestions to start or continue your Shakespeare experience and maybe even enlightened you about just how ingrained Shakespeare has become and how versatile he can be! If I’ve left off one that’s your absolute favourite, let me know in the comments.
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