Saturday, 23 August 2008

Is Shakespeare getting hot again?

I realise that's probably a facile title but I have been noticing him quite a bit over the last 3 months.

Tilda Swinton is scheduled to take the role of Lady Macbeth in Come Like Shadows, there's an all star cast gathering for King Lear including Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts and Keira Knightley. Just this week James McAvoy and Emily Blunt have been outed as the star-crossed lovers in the bizarre sounding Gnomeo and Juliet. Finally I also spotted on imdb that Julie Taymor will be returning to the bard for The Tempest.

Now I don't know about you but I've not seen such a glut of Shakesperean adaptations in a long while, probably not since he fell in love with Gwynneth Paltrow (who's also in King Lear). Of course I had to check this theory and naturally I was proved wrong.

If we take a look at imdb the cinematic Shakespearean releases have been increased each decade since the 70s by about 45%. And if we look on a closer scale we can see that over the noughties adaptations have been slowing down with just 3 in 2008 against 9 in 2004. What has changed is the newsworthyness of the talent involved. As strange as this may seem Keira Knightley is a bigger box office draw than Al Pacino (who portrayed Shylock in 2004).

Perhaps the statistics are showing the turning of the tide and the growth is indeed coming to a close. If so these starry versions must be the last hurrah before a period of decline. Maybe Marlowe or Jonson will come back into fashion. I expect it's more likely to be a short term blip. Shakespeare wrote in such a way that generation after generation are captivated by the insights he had into human interactions and situations. The writing is so powerful that directors and actors will always want to present new ideas and interpretations.

Not to mention Branagh still has loads of them to make.

I expect I'll go to see at least 2 of the films I listed, but I think I will also be looking out for the more obscure adapatations. I wouldn't want to miss anything great just because it doesn't have a marquee name.

What do you think? What is the future for Shakespeare? Will the trend for more adaptations continue or are we about to hit an Elizabethan recession? Feel free to comment.

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