Filmed Shakespeare began in 1899, with Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree performing the death scene from King John followed by Sarah Bernhardt in the duel scene for the Paris Exposition of 1900. In the era of silent film, several hundred Shakespeare films were made: even without the spoken word, Shakespeare was popular in the new medium. The first half-century of sound included many of the most highly regarded Shakespeare films, among them—Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet and Henry V; Orson Welles’ Othello and Chimes at Midnight; Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood; Polanski’s Macbeth; Kozintsev’s Hamlet and King Lear; and Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. Another extremely rich and varied period for Shakespeare on film began with the release of Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V in 1989 and includes such films as Richard Loncraine’s Richard III, Julie Taymor’s Titus, Zeffirelli and Almereyda’s Hamlet films, Baz Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Shakespeare in Love. This period has also seen an extraordinary growth of films as well as theatrical performances of Shakespeare in Asia and other regions of the world, including India (Maqbool, Omkara), East Asia (major work in theater now available by directors such as Ong Keng Sen, Yukio Ninagawa, the Ryutopia Company, Wu Hsing-kuo, and many others).
Shakespeare on film and video raises many questions for literary and media studies about adaptation, authorship, the status of “classic” texts and their variant forms, the role of Shakespeare in popular culture, the transition from manuscript, book, and stage to the modern medium of film and its recent digitally enhanced forms, and the implications of global production and distribution of Shakespeare on film in the digital age.
This term we will emphasize international films and performance videos from Russia, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore, along with British and American works.