Shakespeare can be tough for today’s students to understand, but seeing the Bard’s masterworks acted by familiar faces in more modern settings can work comprehension miracles. Here are some film adaptations that keep the original text largely intact, but place the action in eras that are better-known to a contemporary audience than that of Shakespeare’s time.
Descriptions below are from IMDB.
Much Ado About Nothing (PG-13, 4/5 stars, closed captions available, currently priced at $14.99 to buy in SD, $17.99 to buy in HD, currently FREE for Prime members to view)
Note that this film is presented in black and white, set in the current day, and was adapted and directed by Joss Whedon.
Leonato (Clark Gregg), the governor of Messina, is visited by his friend Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) who is returning from a victorious campaign against his rebellious brother Don John (Sean Maher). Accompanying Don Pedro are two of his officers: Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Claudio (Fran Kranz).
While in Messina, Claudio falls for Leonato’s daughter Hero (Jillian Morgese), while Benedick verbally spars with Beatrice (Amy Acker), the governor’s niece. The budding love between Claudio and Hero prompts Don Pedro to arrange with Leonato for a marriage. In the days leading up to the ceremony, Don Pedro, with the help of Leonato, Claudio and Hero, attempts to sport with Benedick and Beatrice in an effort to trick the two into falling in love.
Meanwhile, the villainous Don John, with the help of his allies Conrade (Riki Lindhome) and Borachio (Spencer Treat Clark), plots against the happy couple, using his own form of trickery to try to destroy the marriage before it begins. A series of comic and tragic events may continue to keep the two couples from truly finding happiness, but then again perhaps love may prevail. - Written by http://muchadomovie.com/#story
Hamlet 2000 (R, 3/5 stars, closed captions available, currently priced at $2.99 to rent in SD / $3.99 in HD, $6.99 to buy in SD / $12.99 in HD)
New York, 2000. A specter in the guise of the newly-dead CEO of Denmark Corporation appears to Hamlet, tells of murder most foul, demands revenge, and identifies the killer as Claudius, the new head of Denmark, Hamlet’s uncle and now step-father.
Hamlet must determine if the ghost is truly his father, and if Claudius did the deed. To buy time, Hamlet feigns madness; to catch his uncle’s conscience, he invites him to watch a film he’s made that shows a tale of murder.
Finally convinced of Claudius’s guilt, Hamlet must avenge his father. Claudius now knows Hamlet is a threat and even uses Ophelia, Hamlet’s love, in his own plots against the young man. Murder will out? - Written by jhailey
Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (PG-13, 4/5 stars, closed captions available, currently priced at $2.99 to rent in SD / $3.99 in HD, $9.99 to buy in SD / $12.99 in HD)
Classic story of Romeo and Juliet, set in a modern-day city of Verona Beach.
The Montagues and Capulets are two feuding families, whose children meet and fall in love. They have to hide their love from the world because they know that their parents will not allow them to be together.
There are obstacles on the way, like Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, and Romeo’s friend Mercutio, and many fights.
But although it is set in modern times, it is still the same timeless story of the “star crossed lovers”. - Written by Anonymous
The Tempest (PG-13, 4/5 stars, closed captions available, currently priced at $14.99 to buy in SD, $19.99 to buy in HD, currently FREE for Prime members to view)
Note that this version is set on a somewhat surreal, fantastical island.
In Julie Taymor’s version of ‘The Tempest,’ the main character is now a woman named Prospera.
Going back to the 16th or 17th century, women practicing the magical arts of alchemy were often convicted of witchcraft.
In Taymor’s version, Prospera is usurped by her brother and sent off with her four-year daughter on a ship. She ends up on an island; it’s a tabula rasa: no society, so the mother figure becomes a father figure to Miranda.
This leads to the power struggle and balance between Caliban and Prospera; a struggle not about brawn, but about intellect. - Written by Anonymous