William Shakespeare By William Blake

William Shakespeare By William Blake

Had William Shakespeare been immortal, he’d have been 452 years old today!! But, just short of, half a century of turning 500; 400 years after his death, at the age of 52, his mortality has stood the test of time, through his great works of Literature.

Why is the Bard, the quintessential element of the highly cultured, even today? The 21st century? He’s an artiste, of great penmanship, that goes beyond borders, race & religion, gender and sexuality. He’s ventured, beyond ink on paper, into the world of art, cinema and now cyberspace. Shakespeare Lives!!

With my family (parents & sister) at Shakespeare’s Birth Place (October 2004)

With my family (parents & sister) at Shakespeare’s Birth Place (October 2004) in Stratford-upon-Avon

In front of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, in London (February 2005)

In front of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, in London (February 2005) – UK

In front of Shakespeare & Company (Bookshop), in Paris (July 2008)

In front of Shakespeare & Company (Bookshop), in Paris (July 2008) – FRANCE

When I was in school, pre-teens, we studied condensed works of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet; and I went onto read other works, such as a condensed version of Othello; and soon, (unabridged) complete works, such as Twelfth  Night, Macbeth, Anthony and Cleopatra, etc etc… and many more (not to mention, the lyrical sonnets of his, we studied); and by the time I was in University, for my bachelors, I studied Julius Caesar and, other studies on, Othello. In my school days, the tragic love story of, Romeo and Juliet, was my favourite, but as I grew older, another, more serious tragedy started to grow on me, i.e. Hamlet. It is obvious, that Shakespeare has been inspired by the Classics; and having been a student of ‘Greek and Roman Civilisation’ (for my A/L’s – Advance Levels), Hamlet, is very much a Greek Tragedy, with a more contemporary setting, in 16th century Denmark; where “the killer must be killed, by the nearest and the dearest”!! In fact, Hamlet, was derived from a Scandinavian legend, of Amleth.

Scenes from Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1968), starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey; based on the most popular of tragic love stories of Shakespeare

Scenes from Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1968), starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey; based on THE most popular of tragic love stories of Shakespeare

Just as William Shakespeare, was inspired by the literary works of ancient Greece and Rome; Shakespeare has been a great inspiration to the world of modern cinema and computer games. All the romance, the tragedies, the wars; even in the worst of films today; don’t tell me there isn’t more than just a hint of the Bard himself, quite literally “Ghost” writing the story lines. Take a look at all the run on the mill, Hollywood and Bollywood, love, romance and violence; there is so much of Shakespearean comedies and tragedies, underlining the main plots.

BBC television adaptation of Antony & Cleopatra (1981); based on Shakespeare’s famed historical play

BBC Television adaptation of Antony & Cleopatra (1981); based on Shakespeare’s famed historical play

I have seen quite a few, of Shakespeare’s work, that have been adapted onto Television and film, and the ‘original’ screen versions I love, and or generally like, are; As You Like It (1936), Romeo and Juliet (1968), Antony and Cleopatra (1981) along with some other BBC adaptations of Shakespeare (watched as kids in the early/mid-80’s, don’t recall them all), Prospero’s Books (1991), and Much Ado About Nothing (1993). Some excellent, some just pretty good, adaptations of brilliant pieces of great literature, here. Added to these original adaptations there have been some superb modern adaptations, including, West Side Story (1961), set in the late 1950’s, in New York (see the post I did for The Stage to Screen Blogathon, from October 2014); My Own Private Idaho (1991), brought forward into the 20th century, in Portland, Oregon; Hamlet (1996), brought forward to 1800’s Denmark; A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999), again set in the late-19th century, this time in Italy; Titus (1999), mostly a mixture of ancient Rome, and the 20th century; Haider (2014), set in the mid-1990’s, Kashmir. Most modern adaptations of Shakespeare happen to be crap; but the above mentioned films happen to be some of rare greats, transporting the Bard’s work, very successfully, way post his time. Other (original & modern day) Shakespearian flicks, that I’ve seen (good or bad), to my memory, include; The Tempest (1979) pretty Bad; Angoor (1982), remember watching this enjoyable Bollywood comedy as a kid, but don’t remember it well enough to rate it; Hamlet (1990) very Bad; Romeo + Juliet (1996) pretty Bad; Love is all There Is (1996), one of worse films ever made; Dil Chahta Hai (2001), near Excellent; As You Like It (2006) pretty Good; and Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013) near Excellent (see my post Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela: A Pleasant Surprise from February 2014).

An artwork depicting William Shakespeare, with his family (wife and children)

An artwork depicting William Shakespeare, with his family (wife and children)

From Queen Elizabeth I, to the Suffragette movement, to the scientific world of technological advances; Shakespeare’s work is, no doubt, of highly cultural, social and political significance, around the Globe, even today. Back in the early 18th century, a club was formed, by a group of aristocratic ladies, known as the ‘Shakespeare Ladies Club’; who petitioned the London theatres to produce William Shakespeare’s plays, back in the 1730’s. The ‘Shakespeare Ladies Club’ was responsible for getting the highest percentage of Shakespeare plays produced in London during a single season in the 18th century. Thus they ended up being the modern women, of that era, that helped make, Shakespeare popular again. Still in the 18th century, in September 1769, months after the Bard’s 205th Birth Anniversary, actor & playwright, David Garrick, hosted the ‘Shakespeare Jubilee’, a three day festival, as an inspiration to the very essence of freedom, and promise of a new life. This movement, helped cement Shakespeare as England’s national poet. On the second day, of the function, Garrick gave recognition to the ‘Shakespeare Ladies Club’. The ‘Romantic Poets’, of the early mid-1800’s, attempted to revive Shakespearean verse, though not as successfully. Shakespeare had a strong influence on novelists, Thomas Hardy, William Faulkner and Charles Dickens. To celebrate, William Shakespeare’s, 300th Birth Anniversary, in 1864, 100,000 people marched to Primrose hill in North London, and using the Bard’s Birth, pitched a protest, against the departure of, the Italian nationalist responsible for the unification of Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi, from England. The Suffragettes, used the character of Paulina, from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, a character that fights against injustices, and stands against an unfair King, symbolically. For the 300th Death Anniversary of Shakespeare, in 1916, a theatre performance was held, in Drury Lane, London. The eulogy, honoured the great, 16th & 17th Century writer, along with the shadow, cast by the Great War (WWI).

Various adaptations of Shakespeare’s Hamlet on the Big Screen

Various adaptations of Shakespeare’s Hamlet on the Big Screen

Added, to these various festivals, honouring Shakespeare, by literature buffs; it’s interesting to note, how many people, today; Shakespeare enthusiasts, or not; Literature literate or not (in English speaking communities); spurt out words and phrases, used by the Bard himself (whether he coined those words, is unclear; but it is obvious, that such words were used in the 16th century as well). Of course, us literature fans, do tend to quote him, with phrases like, “Part(y)ing is such sweet sorrow”, “To be, or not be”, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen”, “All’s Well, that Ends Well’ et al; but everyday, ordinary, English speaking folk, who have no clue, or have no interest, whatsoever, in the Bard, use words/phrases like, “What’s done is done”, “Laughable”, “break the ice”, “Devil’s incarnate”, “give the devil his due”, “not slept one wink”, “arch-villain”, “puking”, “come what, come may”, “mum’s the word”, “Good Riddance”, “faint-hearted”, “a heart of gold”, “in-stitches”, “vanish into thin air”, “stuff as dreams are made of”, “Too much of a Good Thing”, and many many more, from various plays of his. Many a words used in Elizabethan England, are still in use, in modern day English, mainly thanks to Shakespeare. As a matter of fact, Shakespeare’s usage of language, helped shape the modern day language of English.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968)

Being a Film Buff; I’d love to watch, many more screen (Big & Small) adaptations of the Bard of Avon (be it an original or a modern adaptation, be it an English language or a foreign film); like; A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935), Romeo and Juliet (1936) Twelfth Night (1939), Henry V (1944), Romeo and Juliet (1947) Hamlet (1948), Macbeth (1948), Les Amants de Vérone (1949), Julius Caesar (1950), Othello (1952), Julius Caesar (1953), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Romeo and Juliet (1954), Richard III (1955), Forbidden Planet (1956), Kumonosu-Jô (1957), The Tempest (1960), Hamles (1960), Romanoff and Juliet (1961), Sibirska Ledi Magbet (1962), All Night Long (1962), Ophélia (1963), Hamlet (1964), Carry on Cleo (1964), Chimes at Midnight (1965), Othello (1965), The Wars of the Roses (1965-1966), The Deadly Affair (1966), Ages of Man (1966), The Taming of the Shrew (1967), The Winter’s Tale (1967), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968), Quella Sporca Storia nel West (1968), King Lear (1971), The Tragedy of King Richard II (1971), Korol Lir (1971), Macbeth (1971), As You Like It (1978), The Life of King Henry VIII (1979), Measure for Measure (1979), Falstaff (1979), A Performance of Macbeth (1979), Twelfth Night (1980), The Tempest (1980), The Merchant of Venice (1980), Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1980), All’s Well That Ends Well (1981), Othello, El Comando Negro (1982), The Comedy of Errors (1983), King Lear (1983), Ran (1985), The Angelic Conversation (1985), Otello (1986), Hamlet Liikemaailmassa (1987), Twelfth Night or What You Will (1988), Henry V (1989), Richard III (1995), Othello (1995), Twelfth Night or What You Will (1996), Looking for Richard (1996), 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), Titus Andronicus (2000), O (2001), Je rentre à la Maison (2001), My Kingdom (2001), The Seasons Alter (2002), Maqbool (2003), Souli (2004), The Merchant of Venice (2004), ShakespeaRe-Told (2005), Othello: A South African Tale (2005), Ye Yan (2006) Omkara (2006), Mark Antony (2006), The Hamlet Adventure (2008), Were the World Mine (2008), Macbeth’s Disciple (2008), Romeo & Julio (2009), Hamlet (2009), Romeo & Juliet in Stanley Park (2009), Verona (2010), Coriolanus (2011), Much Ado About Nothing (2011), Private Romeo (2011), The Hollow Crown (2012 onwards), Romeo & Juliet (2013), The Tempest (2014), Venus & Adonis (2015), Arshinagar (2015) and Macbeth (2015). This might seem like a lot, but it’s just a handful, considering the fact, there are thousands of adaptations of the Bard’s work, on film, within the last 120 years of the cinematic arts.

William Shakespeare – 400 year on! Never say Die!!
This month, literary enthusiast, have been celebrating Shakespeare, around the world, in his honour, for his 400th death anniversary; which was on the 23rd of April, 2016!!

To William Shakespeare (April 1564 – 23rd April 1616)  

Bookish Nuwan
Nuwan Sen n’ Literature
Nuwan Sen’s Art & Film Sense

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