Shakespeare, Modernized

by Marina

Today we celebrate Shakespeare!

April 23rd is Talk Like Shakespeare Day and we celebrate both his birth and death on that day.

I’m a fan of Shakespeare. Of his plays, at least. The comedies more than the tragedies. I guess I don’t really know much about the man himself. Besides what might be true in Shakespeare in Love. Which is probably very little.

But that’s not the point of this. I’m here to share some of my favorite retellings of classic Shakespeare. Modernizations, if you will. (Apparently spellcheck is telling me “modernizations” isn’t a word. But, in this case, I’m making it a word. Like Shakespeare.)

Now, back to my list.

My number one go-to for a modern Shakespeare fix is the movie 10 Things I Hate About You, based on The Taming of the Shrew. Is it the fact it’s set in Seattle? The zany and amusing characters? Heath Ledger? Whatever the reason, I went so far as to convince my mom go with me to the high school in Tacoma where they filmed a lot of the movie. (No, that was not my blog post in the link. But I do have pictures of my visit. Somewhere.) (To be fair, I believe we were also visiting the Washington State History Museum at the time. So it wasn’t really as obsessive at it might seem. Really!)

The next title I’d like to highlight, E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars. Now, I’ve never seen (or read) King Lear but Lockhart’s tale of a modern family featuring a controlling patriarch with three daughters does appear to reflect aspects of the play. Plus, there’s an unexpected ending, which is the best part. Sorry, no spoilers, you’ll have to read it to find out.

Romeo and Juliet defined the term “star-crossed lovers” in Shakespeare’s play of the same name. (Yet another term coined by Shakespeare. He was PROLIFIC in adding to our lexicon.) Allyson and Willem might not meet such a tragic end but they definitely have their difficulties in Gayle Forman’s duology Just One Day and Just One Year (plus the e-novella epilogue Just One Night). Plus Willem is part of an underground troupe of Shakespeare actors that perform interactive theater. I guess it might be an actual thing? Only in California.

One of my favorite Shakespeare plays is Twelfth Night, or What You Will. Which brings me to my guiltiest of guilty pleasures, She’s the Man. Modern day Viola dresses up as her brother Sebastian in order to take his place at a school where she can play on a soccer team after the funding for girls’ team at her school is cut. A series of hijinks and mistaken identities ensues. Plus a shirtless Channing Tatum.

How about you?

Do you have a favorite modernization of Shakespeare? Or how about just your favorite Shakespeare? I try to indulge my Shakespeare fix every summer by attending one of the several free, outdoor performances put on by local theater groups.



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4 responses to “Shakespeare, Modernized”

  1. Gail says:

    Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres. Modern retelling of King Lear, taking place in Iowa farmland. Starts out sounding like family drama, ends up very creepy.

  2. danielle dreger-babbitt says:

    I love 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s the Man. Both are underrated!

    • Marina says:

      I agree, Danielle! (Obviously, or I wouldn’t have put them on my list.) Thank you for sharing your support of those two movies.

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