The World Is Our Campus

The Arcadia Quill

The World Is Our Campus

The Arcadia Quill

The World Is Our Campus

The Arcadia Quill

Why Shakespeare Adaptations Resonate with Modern Audiences

Many of our favorite films are remakes of Shakespeare’s plays, ranging from romantic movies to tragedies.

“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” We learn these words in our freshman year English class, but don’t see much significance in them. What our freshman selves don’t realize, however, is that we are consuming Shakespeare’s works without knowing it. Many of our favorite films are remakes of Shakespeare’s plays, ranging from romantic movies to tragedies. 

Newly released 2023 film Anyone But You starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell is not just a silly romantic comedy (rom-com). In fact, the movie is based off of Shakespeare’s play, Much Ado About Nothing. Characters Bea and Ben meet again after a great first date, but their relationship quickly goes south. At a destination wedding in Australia, they pretend to be a couple to keep up appearances and fall in love in the process. Not only did the movie take the number one spot at the box office, but surprisingly grossed over $100 million dollars in only three weeks

Another fan-favorite, 10 Things I Hate About You, stars Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Larisa Oleynik. Centered around Kat and Bianca Stratford, a pair of boys (Cameron James and Michael Eckman) create a plan to win over Kat in order to go out with Bianca. Grossing over $53 million at the box office, it is a typical high school romance involving laughter, love, and heartbreak. What much of Generation Z doesn’t know is that their beloved movie is a modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, a comedy written by Shakespeare. 

There is no doubt that viewers love these films, but this love can be accredited to Shakespeare. There have been over two hundred screen adaptations of Shakespeare films, and the vast majority of them do well with their audience. This is due to the fact that Shakespeare’s works are timeless. Characters have qualities of jealousy, power, ambition, kindness, naivety, and nobility. Not only did these characters resonate with viewers over 400 years ago, but even now we are able to relate with the imperfections of Shakespeare’s characters.

In addition to timeless characters, the very plots of Shakespeare’s plays are still relevant today. Romeo and Juliet focuses on forbidden love, King Lear delves into chaos and order, while Macbeth is based around ambition. As flawed as society is today, we are able to find solace in Shakespeare’s stories and themes. 

Ms. Novak teaches Shakespeare’s plays in various English classes at AHS. She states that Shakespeare is still popular today due to “relevant themes. The language of Shakespeare is hard for students to navigate, and the stories are either very tragic or unreasonable. It’s either everyone gets married or everyone gets killed. However, we can all relate to the themes of jealousy, greed, need for power, heartbreak, and infidelity.”

Sophomore Abby Parker is currently reading Shakespeare in her English class. She claims that although she cannot directly relate to many of the characters she analyzes, she says that “their flaws make them more human.” She also suggests that “more books should have characters that are deeply flawed and mess up sometimes. Although I can’t say that I am exactly like any character, the lessons learned from their mistakes are valuable and can be applied to life today.”

Through the lens of modern popular culture, we can see the application of Shakespeare in the present. From characters to themes, we are able to relate to the character flaws that they exhibit. As Shakespeare remakes continue to be made, we look forward to the newest adaptation from the collection of one of the greatest playwrights of all time. 

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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