Top Ten Tuesday: My Syllabus if I Taught ‘Shakespeare Modernizations’

toptentuesdayI’m very excited about this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) because it is a topic I’ve thought about a lot: what would be on my syllabus if I was a teacher. For years now I’ve told myself that if I ever taught a college class, it would be about Shakespeare adaptations because I love seeing those parallels between centuries-old plays and modern films (and now webseries!).

I’ve seen most of these modernizations, but I added a couple of new-to-me films because they really intrigued me. Ideally, if I was really teaching this class, we would read the play and then watch a modern adaptation of it.

Top Ten Adaptations on My Syllabus if I Taught ‘Shakespeare Modernizations’

The Lion KingThe Lion King (Hamlet) – The first Shakespeare adaptation I ever saw (also the first movie I ever saw in theaters)! The Lion King is a happy ending retelling of Hamlet, my favorite Shakespearean play, so I would definitely be including it. It would probably be the first assignment :)

10 Things I Hate About You10 Things I Hate About You (The Taming of the Shrew) – A 90s classic. I adore this retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. When I first heard it was a Shakespeare adaptation I went and read the play on my own and began comparing the two. I really enjoyed how they kept Kat fiesty throughout the entire movie.

She's The ManShe’s the Man (Twelfth Night) – The red lettering on the movie poster describes this movie perfectly. I love that the original confusion and pandemonium of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is maintained in this modern film retelling. Plus I think Amanda Bynes is perfect for this role.

muchadofilmMuch Ado About Nothing – I’ve talked about how much I loved this adaptation before, so it would definitely be on my syllabus! One thing we would discuss is how it’s modernized even though the script is word-for-word Shakespeare (with the exception of one word). This is also my favorite Shakespearean comedy!

nmtdNothing Much To Do (Much Ado About Nothing) – In the past few years, “literary inspired webseries” have become very popular and pronounced. The first one I ever watched was The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice where Lizzie is a communications grad student and Mr. Darcy is a young CEO of a media enterprise. Nothing Much To Do is a New Zealand based webseries that follows the lives of a group of high schoolers, namely Beatrice and Benedick who loathe each other. The first series was phenomenal, and for season 2 they are using the same characters to adapt Love’s Labour Lost, which I have not read yet but probably would before teaching this class :)

Romeo + JulietRomeo + Juliet – I would have to include Romeo and Juliet on the list, especially since there are so many different adaptations of it. The “forbidden love” theme alone has been repeated countless times. This 90s version of the play is one of my favorite adaptations, however, probably because it makes me as emotional as the play does. Plus it’s fun to study it as a film in itself.

MacbethShakespeaRe-told: Macbeth – Even though Macbeth is my least favorite Shakespearean work (that I’ve read), I would have to talk about it, because it is a great play (I just despise the main characters). About 10 years ago, the BBC released four Shakespeare adaptations in a series called ShakespeaRe-told. I’ve only seen the Macbeth adaptation and I remember it being gruesome (mostly because of “Macbeth’s” profession as a chef.

A Thousand AcresA Thousand Acres novel/film (King Lear) – The first of four adaptations on this mock-syllabus that I haven’t actually seen yet. King Lear was so incredibly sad to me that I’ve only read it once, but the story-line has always stuck with me so I would like to read/see A Thousand Acres one day. Side note: I realized while preparing this post that the relationships between King Lear and his daughters/his daughters with one another is mildly portrayed in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, with Anne Elliot representing Cordelia. That would also be fun to discuss!

The Black AdderThe Black Adder (MacbethRichard III, and Henry V) – I just discovered this TV series when I was researching for this post, but it has Rowan Atkinson and it received high reviews, so I think it would be an interesting addition to the syllabus.

OO (Othello) – Another film I haven’t yet seen! Othello is one of Shakespeare’s tragedies that has me face-palming over the characters’ blindness and stupidity instead of feeling sympathy for them. But it has plenty of good themes that I’m sure are relayed into this film as well. Plus, I love Julia Stiles :)

Alternative:

The Forbidden PlanetThe Forbidden Planet (The Tempest) – This movie just sounds so fun. A 1950s sci-fi version of The Tempest (another play I haven’t read yet). Maybe I would assign this as extra credit or something?

Do you know of any other Shakespeare adaptations I should add to this mock syllabus? Let me know! I love discussing The Bard and his endeavoring inspiration.

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14 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: My Syllabus if I Taught ‘Shakespeare Modernizations’

  1. Such a great list! Reimaginings of classic books is one of my favorite sub-genres so anyone that can pull off a Shakespeare modernization really has my vote. Although an adaptation not a modernization, you should check out Christopher Moore’s “Fool” – it’s King Lear from the POV of the court jester. Ridiculous, hilarious and yet also really fascinating to think about.

    • The casting is really what drew me to ShakespeaRe-told. Macbeth stars James McAvoy, Keeley Hawes, and Richard Armitage so I was totally on board to watch it even though I’m not a fan of the play itself. I’d like to watch the other adaptations sometime too.

  2. I WANT TO TAKE THIS CLASS!!!!

    I am so serious. I love several of these (especially Ten Things…), and want to see others.

    I’ve seen A Thousand Acres, actually for a Shakespeare class I took in college, and I disliked it because it added an ick factor I didn’t appreciate. But the acting is top-notch, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is especially compelling as she slowly becomes disillusioned with her father.

    I focused on Shakespeare for TTT this week too, specifically Hamlet :-D

    Oh, and Branagh said that he though Thor, which he directed, was kind of a retelling of… I think it was Henry V, with the heir to the throne having to find his way in the world. I found a lot of Hamlet in it too, with Loki as Claudius.

    • I haven’t read Henry V so I didn’t see that connection but I love Thor so I’m going to have to read that play sometime for comparison!! Thanks for letting me know about that :) And I think it’s cool that you watched A Thousand Acres for a Shakespeare class, but sorry you didn’t like it! I hate when ick factors ruin nice things :(

  3. Nice topic! I absolutely love the Joss Whedon Much Ado About Nothing. I could watch that one at least once a year for years to come… and in fact, I’m probably due for a rewatch. I really love 10 Things I Hate About You. I think it does such a great job of staying true to the original but also making it fun and new. I don’t know why I never ended up seeing A Thousand Acres. I read the book long ago and thought it was great.

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