Week 1: Shakespeare was always Shakespearean
Our introduction to the ideas of adaptation in Shakespeare start with a consideration of the instability of Shakespeare’s texts, as well as his tendency to borrow from older sources. This kind of investigation will help us relinquish the idea that there is an original text against which to test adaptations and then proclaim them more or less authentic. This look to the past will allow us to appreciate the adaptation as an artistic creation in its own right.
Week 2: Adaptations and interpretations of Shakespeare throughout history
We look to the future, and explore how Shakespeare’s oeuvre has survived and morphed over the centuries. We will specifically consider the example of Hamlet, and look at some of the ways the play and its title character have been reshaped by critics such as Freud, and actors such as Sir Laurence Olivier.
Week 3: All’s Well That Ends Well
This week, we continue the theme of Week 2 with another play in which gender dynamics are highly problematic for the 21st-century viewer. What are some of the options available to update this play? And why might some directors decide not to alter the seemingly abusive marriage between Helena and Bertram?
Week 4: Coriolanus
Shakespeare’s Coriolanus has had a history of being adapted to criticize political leaders of various historical time periods. We will consider some famous examples, as well as some more general ideas about the role of art/theatre to criticize the political establishment or, more broadly, society.
Week 5: Taming of the Shrew
One of the most important new angles for analyses of Shakespeare since the late 20th century is definitely the new look on Shakespeare’s female characters. This will be the main focus for our analysis of Taming of Shrew. After a consideration of the historical context of marriage in Shakespeare’s time, we will delve into 20th and 21st century interpretations of the relationship dynamics in the play, focusing specifically on the actor/director choices that make Kate’s final speech either (proto-)feminist or conservative/traditional.
Week 6: Shakespeare in Love
This will include a brief look at the fourth play staged at Bard on the Beach this summer, Shakespeare in Love, which is not a Shakespeare play, but, as we will understand by now, highly Shakespearean. We will conclude this session with some reflections and questions to accompany your visit to Bard.