Shakespeare, the Movie: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, and Video

By Lynda E. Boose; Richard Burt | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Shakespeare, the movie

Lynda E. Boose and Richard Burt

In the wake of the recent shift from literary studies to cultural studies, few critics now believe that representations can be vehicles for universal truths divorced from the time and culture that created them. Rather than divide an original Shakespeare off from subsequent adaptations, critics are now more likely to deconstruct that opposition, to see the first production simply as part of a continuum that encompasses all subsequent versions, including even heretical ones that unapologetically rewrite the Bard. Moreover, since recent textual work has compelled Shakespearean scholarship to divest itself of the belief that “the text” has any knowable original or is itself a stable entity, to judge a film based on a Shakespeare play according to how closely or how well it adheres to the (presumed) Shakespeare text is to invoke a criterion implicitly dependent on a referent no longer there.

Shakespeare, the Movie includes a generic potlatch of what is presently available in filmic (usually video) format to the Shakespeare student or scholar. On the less contestable end of the spectrum of meaning encompassed by our implicit definition of “Shakespeare on film, ” 1 the collection includes BBC television productions, filmed theater productions, and full screen adaptations like Kenneth Branagh's. It also includes films like Zeffirelli's that, eschewing Branagh's more lineal kind of textual adaptation, deliberately whittle down and then cut and paste the sixteenth-century narrative in order to tell and sell a story more amenable to contemporary viewers. In terms of films that reconstruct a Shakespeare narrative in some new realm of the imaginary, the collection has welcomed innovations such as the animated Shakespeares that reformulate radically truncated texts into images no longer tied to their origin in an actor's body and its representation of the real. Yet, in the largest sense, a discourse about “Shakespeare on film” encompasses an even broader reference that extends even to films with a wholly different representational economy and market strategy-films like Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Last Action Hero, in which Shakespeare is neither the underlying text nor even the source of the plot, but only the reference to a film within the film.

In addressing the interplay between the discourses of Shakespeare criticism, film studies, performance criticism, and cultural studies, the essays in this

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Shakespeare, the Movie: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, and Video
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Plates vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Totally Clueless? 8
  • Notes 20
  • 2 - Race-Ing Othello, Re-Engendering White-Out 23
  • Notes 41
  • 3 - War is Mud 45
  • 4 - Top of the World, Ma 67
  • Notes 78
  • 5 - Popularizing Shakespeare 80
  • Notes 93
  • 6 - Shakespeare Wallah and Colonial Specularity 95
  • Notes 102
  • 7 - Poetry in Motion 103
  • References 119
  • 8 - When Peter Met Orson 121
  • References 134
  • 9 - In Search of Nothing 135
  • References 146
  • Stage Performances of King Lear Cited 147
  • 10 - A Shrew for the Times 148
  • Films and Videos Discussed 168
  • 11 - Shakespeare in the Age of Post-Mechanical Reproduction 169
  • References 185
  • 12 - Grossly Gaping Viewers and Jonathan Miller's Othello 186
  • 13 - Age Cannot Wither Him 198
  • Notes 213
  • 14 - Asta Nielsen and the Mystery of Hamlet 215
  • References 224
  • 15 - The Family Tree Motel 225
  • References 239
  • 16 - The Love That Dare Not Speak Shakespeare's Name 240
  • References 267
  • Index 269
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