Shakespeare in the Movies


23rd April is the day that history records as Shakespeare’s birthday and what better way to mark the occasion than by listing some of the greatest screen versions of his plays?

Of course, to actually try and write it in the style of one of Shakespeare’s Sonnets would be pompous and to start off with some reference to how all the world is now a movie, not a play, would be predictable. Even attempting a series of rhyming couplets would be cheesy

Still, while I hope am I neither of the first two, I might have to occasionally hold my hand up to being the last so here I go:

Since the arrival of the kinetoscope in 1894,
no other writer has had their work filmed more.
They’ve adapted Shakespeare time and again
with the current total of screen versions being 410.

It’s not just straight tellings of this playwright’s tomes
there are other movies with everything from samurai to gnomes.
We’ve had street gangs and mobsters and a lot set in schools
When it comes to the bard there’s no set of rules.

Film makers just keep coming back to this guy
and when you look at the work it’s not hard to see why.
So of all of these movies, which are the best?
How do you sort the great ones from the rest?

Well, of the right place to start I am totally sure.
Just turn to the director of Jack Ryan and Thor.
Olivier, Welles, Kurosawa? As if!
You should start with Branagh’s Henry V.

Our Ken was already a great Shakespearean actor
(the Bard was a performer too, I’m sure that’s a factor)
but with this film he really showed what he could do
and his Much Ado and Hamlet are both brilliant too.

Speaking of men who Harry Potter made famous,
you should also check out Voldemort’s Coriolanus.
In a contemporary war setting, with political uprising,
it has a good turn from Gerard Butler, which is actually surprising.

Next on my list of recommendations for you
is Joss Whedon’s version of Much Ado.
Made at his house with his friends as the players,
it is a far cry from Avengers and Vampire Slayers.

All of these so far use Shakespeare’s own prose
but if you want modern versions then there’s plenty of those.
Take everything that’s wrong with Taming of the Shrew
and see it made right in 10 Things I Hate About You.

There’s Return to Forbidden Planet but if space isn’t your thing
you could try West Side Story or The Lion King,
and I’ve not even mentioned the best one yet:
which is has to be Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.

Hopefully that gives you a good place to start
in choosing an example of the playwright’s art.
Finding a good one needn’t take long
because if Shakespeare wrote it you can’t really go wrong.

Yeah, okay, I apologise for some of those rhymes but please take it in the spirit in which it’s meant. Besides, just wait until you see what I’m working on for the day Dr Seuss was born.

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