Penn Badgley

‘Cymbeline,’ Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo + Juliet,’ and Why Shakespeare Is So Hard to Adapt for the Screen


When a director does Shakespeare today, it seems there are three options most commonly selected, each of which has its drawbacks. The first is to do a loyal interpretation, maintaining the original setting and time specified by the Bard (for if you’re the type that chooses loyalty, you also may use this insufferable term), but risking the adaptation seeming like an ostentatiously astute encapsulation of a period and lifestyle that’s now irrelevant. The second is to set it in the present day,  underscoring the barbarism, archaism, and/or hilarity of a current societal norm by aligning it with Elizabethan text, but also risking bifurcating the text and its original meaning. The third is to set it somewhere and sometime else completely, avoiding the distraction of current day trappings (Lady Macbeth discovers Seinfeld emojis!), not to mention the equally distracting trappings of Elizabethan imitation (vocal fry is especially noticeable when it’s coming from a ruff-encased throat).
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