Known as one of the finest playwrights in all of history, William Shakespeare has definitely made his mark in both the theatre and literature world. His plays and poems are still taught in classes today despite being written centuries ago. Despite being taught Shakespeare at a fairly young age, young people today have a difficult time understanding his words as well as his relevance in our world today.
To be completely honest, I absolutely dreaded learning Shakespeare in school. I did not understand why so many people were so fascinated with him or why we had to study poems and plays that were written by a man who lived in a completely different time period, especially since most of us could not even decipher what his classic poetry actually meant. It was not until I attended a production of Romeo & Juliet set in 1920’s New York City that I realized just how influential and relevant Shakespeare really is in today’s world.
At the beginning of the show, I was really only fascinated by the costumes and set chosen for the production. I realized as I kept watching, however, that I was actually very engrossed in the story of Romeo & Juliet, more than I had ever been reading the play. Not only was I more interested in what was happening, but I was also able to better comprehend the story of the star-crossed lovers and the meaning behind Shakespeare’s lyrical way of writing. After the 1920’s setting lured me into the story, I thought more about why so many people were infatuated with Shakespeare’s writing. It was then that I realized how adaptable Shakespeare is for any audience. Seeing a classic play set in a relatively modern era that I knew more about made the entire plot more relatable for me. I quickly became fascinated by the balance of his work being better understood whilst set in a more modern world while our modern world is better understood through his writing.
The stories and ideas of Shakespeare have existed for centuries. Although at first Shakespeare may seem difficult to grasp, it is easier to understand thinking of his writing in a modern context. Many of the stories, famous quotes, and characters produced by Shakespeare are still considered vital for comprehending people, relationships, politics, and human emotion, even in today’s age. Adaptations of Shakespeare plays work in any era because the stories are open minded and timeless enough that they can address themes and make people feel emotions without only focusing on the traditional portrayals of characters or following the exact plot as directed by Shakespeare.
These adaptations, whether direct or indirect, are important to today’s world because they give modern audiences the ability to gain better insight into the scenarios of the stories and the characters involved. Not only do adaptations provide insight, but they also inspire and encourage creativity from the general public. From West Side Story to 10 Things I Hate About You to The Lion King, adaptations give Shakespeare’s work new life by introducing his stories to different audiences. By keeping the adaptation tradition alive, people today can easily be given the opportunity to learn the valuable lessons and classic stories of Shakespeare in a way that they better understand.
Try it out: The next time you are having difficulty reciting a sonnet or remembering your monologue, try reimagining the scene to fit in a new setting. Relate what is happening in the scenario to your life today or come up with a completely different era that you love to practice in. It might seem difficult at first, but it’s a great opportunity to use your imagination and get creative!