Today is Shakespeare’s birthday!
Or the day his birth was registered (traditionally on a Sunday back then, which it was on April 23, 1564), for those who want to be picky about it. But whatever. It’s still cause to celebrate, in my book. Because after 448 years his stories are still as popular as ever. Maybe more so, given the variety of media and audiences they’re still adapted for.
Which if you think about it, makes him one of the coolest dudes. Ever. But … how did he do it? (Photo credits: Shakespeare in Love)
No. I’m not talking about the age-old dispute over who wrote all those plays. If you really want to know who wrote Shakespeare, Eric Idle spills the undiluted truth here. Not for the faint of heart (you could die laughing). Don’t say you weren’t warned!
The REAL question (and most important for any writer) is… What makes Shakespeare’s stories so timeless? I admit I was clueless for a long time. I couldn’t get into the language, so I stayed clear of anything Shakespeare. So of course I missed the bawdy jokes sprinkled throughout his stories. That is, until I took a class in Shakespeare one summer to satisfy an English credit. To cut to the chase … Shakespeare was one racy dude. The professor delighted in his translations of all the bawdy bits. He made Shakespeare fun, and I was hooked. I read deeper and got a clue. I discovered that Shakespeare keeps on appealing to generation after generation, because his stories are wrapped in the comedy and tragedy of the human condition. Not to mention being written to entertain the common folk (hence the bawdy jokes), as well as royalty.
In case you’re thinking, “Yeah, right. Shakespeare’s just for old farts.” Think again! Aside from a new Romeo and Juliet movie coming out almost every decade (Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes in the 1996 version, and Gnomeo & Juliet in 2011), other Shakespearean plays have become hits with a Hollywood YA spin.
She’s the Man is really Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a romantic comedy of mistaken identity that’s centered around a high school soccer team. When the girls’ soccer team is discontinued and Viola (Amanda Bynes) isn’t allowed to play on the boys’ team at her school, she’s out for blood. By impersonating her brother Sebastian (James Kirk…who’s away on a secret rock band trip) at his high school (her high school’s archrival), she lands a position on their soccer team. She wants to help defeat her own school’s team in the season’s opening match.
But revenge is never that easy. Viola has to room with Duke (Channing Tatum), another soccer player, and falls for him hard. Of course, Duke is crushing on Olivia (Laura Ramsey), and Olivia only has eyes for Viola, because she thinks Viola is really Sebastian. Add a liberal dose of hormones, toss, and side-splitting hilarity is served. Amanda Bynes’ physical comedy is priceless. Seriously!
10 Things I Hate About You is really The Taming of the Shrew with a contemporary high-school spin. Kat (Julia Stiles) and Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) are polar opposite sisters. The younger Bianca is pretty, popular, and shallow. Kat, the older sister, is sharp of tongue and wit, but has the street cred of being the Ice Queen. Their father, Walter (Larry Miller), laid down a family law … Bianca can’t date until her older sister does.
This is a social death sentence for Bianca, because no guy in his right mind will talk to Kat, much less ask her out. As prom approaches, Bianca has two boys fighting over her: cool, vain Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan) and kind, shy Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Working as reluctant allies, Joey and Cameron go after a date for Kat (so Bianca can go to prom with one of them): Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger). He’s a perfect, because he’s as scathing as she is and has the rap sheet to back it up. But getting Kat and Patrick together is harder than they thought. That is, until Patrick finally realizes that he’s in love with Kat and goes to shameless lengths to win her trust and tame the shrew.
What’s your Shakespearean favorite?
play … Movie … character … Actor
you name it!
Inquiring minds want to know!