How To Adapt a Shakespeare Play

Shakespeare's Plays
Without question, William Shakespeare was a master of understanding human nature as is exhibited in all of his works.  Shakespeare's plays portray characters that have been borrowed time and again in numerous scripts.  The best example of an adapted Shakespeare play is "Romeo and Juliet", a romantic tragedy. Two lovers beset by obstacles, has been adapted numerous times in scripts such as "West Side Story".  Shakespeare's "Hamlet" is replayed again and again in scripts in movies and on TV.  Many of Shakespeare’s themes have been adapted by authors who base the plots of their stories on Shakespearian themes.

How To Adapt A Shakespeare Play
To learn how to adapt a Shakespeare play, understanding the central theme of Midsummer's Night Dream, Merchant of Venice, Othello, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Taming of the Shrew, Richard III, The Tempest or Macbeth, is the first step. It may take more than one reading of these plays to reveal Shakespeare's real intent for a particular play might have been.  Certainly, fashioning a storyline with heroic values can easily be adapted to suit modern day plays.  To be able to adapt a Shakespeare play, it's necessary to find the central pulse of the storyline.  Once this is discovered, adapting Taming of the Shrew, a comedy, becomes easier. The two main characters, one a macho man and an equally tempestuous woman, and a romantic attraction that has a testy start, makes an adapted script that has form. Othello, another example of a script that can be adapted has a fairly basic theme:  jealousy, betrayal, love and racism. The adapted script merely requires combining these aspects of tragedy. Note that many of Shakespeare's plays are tragedies or romantic comedies.

Nuts and Bolts of How To Adapt A Shakespeare Play
Once a clear understanding of the chosen Shakespeare play has been achieved, begin to assimilate the plot and character to fit a particular dramatic scenario.  Develop characters based upon the strength they add to the plot. Since the plot is "borrowed" from a Shakespeare play, finding similarities in present day situations becomes less difficult. Adapting a play means managing the original script to fit the same tragic or comedic theme, but with contemporary appeal.  Character development depends upon viewing the original character from the Shakespeare play in a broader light.  For example, Petrucchio, in Taming of the Shrew, can be less boisterous and macho.  The character may be toned down slightly to a more cunning schemer. The way a play is staged also has a significant impact on how well the adaptation of a Shakespeare play is received.  Creativity is key to this facet of adapting any play. The script may be good on paper; but, acted out on stage, it may become dull and insipid if staging isn't creative.


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