In this class, we’ll be reading four of Shakespeare’s plays alongside modern global adaptations for stage and film. In our first unit, we’ll read Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice alongside the 2004 film adaptation by the Indian-born English director Michael Radford. In doing so, we’ll explore what it means to be a racial and religious outsider—both in Shakespeare’s era and in our own. In our second unit, we’ll read Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night alongside a Hawaii-based adaptation of the play by the actor and standup comic James Grant Benton. As we read, we’ll think about what Shakespeare’s plays mean for communities who speak a range of global Englishes, including Singlish speakers living in Singapore. In our third unit, we’ll read The Tempest alongside an English translation of the Martinican poet and playwright Aimé Césaire’s Une Tempête, which reimagines the setting of the play in a postcolonial Caribbean context. We’ll also consider questions of gender and power in the play in the American director Julie Taymore’s 2010 film The Tempest, which reimagines the lead character Prospero as a woman. In our final unit, we’ll read Shakespeare’s otherworldly tragedy Macbeth alongside Joel Coen’s 2021 The Tragedy of Macbeth, which stars Denzel Washington as Macbeth and was one of President Obama’s picks for best films of 2021.
As with think about Shakespeare in global adaptation on stage and in film, you’ll have the opportunity to creatively adapt sections of Shakespeare. In addition to traditional argumentative essay options, you’ll be able to opt to do a creative translation project, or a creative dramaturgy or cinematic adaption for stage or film. Working either individually or in groups, you’ll get to reimagine a section of Shakespeare’s original play text within a global context of your own choosing.
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