Shakespeare wrote in times of plague, protest, and social division: whether kings, queens, or commoners, characters in his plays struggle with personal confinement and their own emotions, highlighting themes of justice, responsibility, and forgiveness. From Nelson Mandela to Toni Morrison and from Kashmir to Kentucky, in every new medium and across the entire world, artists, citizens, fans, and social reformers have taken inspiration from—or taken issue with—Shakespeare’s words. We will study how these plays, re-mediated as books, films, television, images and more, work and circulate now. We will look at scenes and speeches, spin-offs and spoofs, as well as studying especially powerful films from India, Russia, western Europe, the US, and Japan.
This semester, drawing on the affordances of Zoom and other digital technologies, we will also create a unique community of students learning together at a distance while aware of their own confinement—whether in homes, hostels, dorm rooms or New England prisons. We will highlight Shakespeare’s dramas of isolation and social struggle, including Hamlet, King Lear, Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1 and The Tempest, with special attention to the challenges of cross-cultural filmic translation and the importance of collaborative artistic processes across media.