Screening Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century

Screening Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century

Screening Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century

Screening Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century

Synopsis

This bold new collection offers an innovative discussion of Shakespeare on screen after the millennium. Cutting-edge, and fully up-to-date, it surveys the rich field of Bardic film representations, from Michael Almereyda's Hamlet to the BBC 'Shakespea(Re)-Told' season, from Michael Radford's The Merchant of Venice to Peter Babakitis' Henry V. In addition to offering in-depth analyses of all the major productions, Screening Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century includes reflections upon the less well-known filmic 'Shakespeares', which encompass cinema advertisements, appropriations, post-colonial reinventions and mass media citations, and which move across and between genres and mediums. Arguing that Shakespeare is a magnet for negotiations about style, value and literary authority, the essays contend that screen reinterpretations of England's most famous dramatist simultaneously address concerns centred upon nationality and ethnicity, gender and romance, and 'McDonaldisation' and the political process, thereby constituting an important intervention in the debates of the new century. As a result, through consideration of such offerings as the Derry Film Initiative Hamlet, the New Zealand The Maori Merchant of Venice and the television documentary In Search of Shakespeare, this collection is able to assess as never before the continuing relevance of Shakespeare in his local and global screen incarnations. Features
• Only collection like it on the market, bringing the subject up to date.
• Twenty-first century focus and international coverage.
• Innovative discussion of a wide range of films and television.
• Accessibly written for students and general readers.

Excerpt

Mark Thornton Burnett and Ramona Wray

Shakespeare's Happy Endings, a spoof documentary produced as part of the BBC's 2005 'Shakespea(Re)-Told' season, concludes with a scene outside Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. Here, the erstwhile presenter, Professor Simon Starkman (Patrick Barlow), greets William Shakespeare (Kevin Eldon), welcoming him as the 'man of the millennium' and announcing a surprise celebration in honour of the famous guest. Unfortunately, the church is closed: the vicar has forgotten about the party, no one has bothered to turn up and, in a sublime rendition of bardic demythologising, Shakespeare is reduced to kicking at the doors and battering at a window in an attempt to gain entrance. The dramatist's inability to make a connection with his renowned place of nativity is part of a comic collision between what Shakespeare has come to signify (the commodified rhetoric of the industry) and the 'reality' of an early modern writer revealed as an embarrassing and confused unsophisticate. Certainly, many at the turn of the twentieth century would lend their voices to this debunking assessment. Writing in 1999, Gary Taylor contended that 'Shakespeare's reputation … has passed its peak of expansion, and begun to decline', resulting in a diminution of the Bard's 'cultural authority'. Richard Burt, surveying the field in 2000, goes one step further, arguing for 'the end of the Shakespearean' or what he terms 'the Shakespeare apocalypse'.

Lending some support to these views is the smaller number of major Shakespeare films produced in the immediate post-2000 period. If the 1990s represented the heyday of the Bard's screen revival, the 'noughties' have thus far been marked by a less voluminous, or at least less obvious, corpus of screen 'Shakespeares'. Yet, as Shakespeare's Happy Endings also attests, the Bard's name is still one to conjure with; his works continue to reverberate; and the plays persist as repositories of lore and tradition even as they are reworked as salient signifiers of meaning and knowledge.

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