Shakespeare and Film

English 366 Shakespeare and Film: M, W 8:00–9:15 Mark Heberle
Shakespeare is the only writer from the English Renaissance whose work continues to be published and produced—and quite profitably!—in the twenty-first century. This course explores two reasons for his pre-eminence: the quality of the plays that he wrote, helped to direct, and even acted in, as well as their infinite adaptability for audiences over the past four hundred years, most prominently through the medium of film. We will read five of his works, from all four of Shakespeare’s genres, that have had strikingly different film adaptations over the last fifty years: the romantic comedy A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, the romantic tragedy ROMEO AND JULIET, the triumphalist English history play HENRY V, the dark yet brilliant tragedy HAMLET, and Shakespeare’s final play, THE TEMPEST, a romance that is both a tribute and a farewell to his entire career. Plays will be read in sequence, followed by showings of all or portions of at least two notable film versions of each, with viewings in class of whole productions or selected scenes. You will first come to know each play closely and then observe and reflect on how, and how differently, they are transformed in works like Franco Zeffirelli’s and Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet, Laurence Olivier’s and Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, or Julie Taymor’s and Derek Jarman’s Tempest. There will be quizzes on each of the plays; worksheets on all viewings of films; two comparison papers (play text and plot versus film, one film of a play versus another film of the same play), and a final exam.