Translating literature onto film has been a trend that started as early as the late nineteenth century. The fascination that film makers have with the written word has undoubtedly transpired into something greater than was expected as the majority of classic, contemporary, fantasy, action, thriller and adventure novels have been converted into film. The most unexpected, yet surprisingly fitting, being the adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays into movies targeted at teenage girls and young adults.
The work of the greatest playwright in history has been the victim of adaptations since 1909, when one of the first adaptations of Midsummer Night’s Dream was filmed as a silent movie directed by Charles Kent. The 11 minute film captures the gist of Shakespeare’s 5 Act play and demonstrates how the most powerful aspect of the play – the words – can be absent yet the story can be faithful to the author’s vision.
Fast forwarding almost a century, we come to the Andy Fickman adaptation of Twelfth Night in his interpretation, aptly titled She’s the Man (2006). Strengthening Shakespeare’s position in the chick flick genre, Fickman’s film successfully delivers the themes of gender confusion and love from a comic perspective. Recycling the names of characters and places and installing them in the setting of a boy’s soccer team in a high school shows the timelessness and global outreach of Shakespeare’s plays.
The teenage spin of the play is in line with another chick flick adaptation of Shakespeare – 10 Things I Hate about You (1999) was one of the first chick flick interpretations of Shakespeare’s work, presented in the setting of an American high school. Starring Julia Stiles and the late Heath Ledger, this film sits on top of the chick flick pile as it is in a league of its own – presenting Shakespeare’s work in the universal and relatable themes of teenagers falling in love.
The question remains, would Shakespeare have approved of his masterpieces being converted into teenage comedies? The answer is pretty simple: the primary objective of the playwright was to entertain people and enjoy the comedies that he wrote – and chick flicks do just that. The timelessness and universal themes of love, laughter, confusion, joy and happiness are not misplaced in 21st century cinema and we hope that film makers will continue to entertain and educate us with stories that are as old as 3 centuries. Which Shakespearean-chick flick is your favorite adaptation?