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2010/1 Module Catalogue
Module Provider: English Short Name: MFC2021
Level: HE2 Module Co-ordinator: WYNNE-DAVIES M Prof (English)
Number of credits: 20 Number of ECTS credits: 10
Module Availability
Semester 1
Assessment Pattern

Unit(s) of Assessment



Weighting Towards Module Mark( %)



Essay 1500 words (period-based questions)


Exam (thematic analysis)


Individual Presentation


Group work


Module Overview

Shakespeare is a world-famous dramatist, yet his works are increasingly known via film adaptations and the plots are often first accessed through film derivations. This module explores the ways in which the plays are translated into different media and explains how to use contemporary criticism and theory in order to understand the various issues, themes and discourses involved in such transformations.

Module Aims
  • to introduce you to a range of Shakespearean plays
  • to help you develop an understanding of some of the current critical issues in Shakespeare studies
  • to enable you to compare original Shakespearean texts with film adaptations and derivations.
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this module, students are expected to be able to:  
  • a broad knowledge of a range of Shakespearean plays
  • the ability to apply a current critical approach to any Shakespearean text or adaptation
  • an understanding of the processes of comparison between an original Shakespearean text and a film adaptation or a derivation
Module Content

Week 1



Shakespeare on Film: Overview








The lecture is divided into seven cognate sections in order to provide a clear understanding of how different film versions of Shakespeare’s plays may be contextualised, both generically and chronologically. The areas covered are: Silent Shakespeare, Hollywood , key directors, the Olivier/ Branagh revolutions, New Wave Shakespeare, Shakespeare on television, and the differences between adaptations and derivations. As such, the lecture covers a wide range of key historical developments in screening Shakespeare’s plays and offers information that informs in-depth analyses covered in the subsequent lectures on this module.










A Brief Overview of Module



Group work - deciding groups and topics



ULearn - access and information



Seminar presentations - skills



essays - discussion of individual questions





Week 2



How to ‘Read’ a Shakespeare Film








This lecture begins by making it clear that the skills necessary for reading a Shakespeare play text alongside a film version are not those required for film theory analysis. It makes you aware that you will already have developed ways in which to ‘read’ the film alongside the play and these will be highlighted and built upon.








Relating a play text to a screen interpretation is discussed in order to develop an understanding of how reading texts relates to moving images with specific reference to the first scene of Romeo and Juliet and Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.







Week 3



Historical Contexts 1: 1920s – 1970s








This lecture looks at twentieth century film versions of Shakespeare plays from early Hollywood to the 1970s. It looks at the material elements of purpose, process and product for these dates, so that the theory described in the previous lecture and seminar is focussed within its historical period.








Looks at two versions of Macbeth, Welles (1948) and Polanski (1971); these represent respectively the Hollywood version of a Shakespeare play and a small ‘art house’ form.





Week 4



Historical Contexts 2: Olivier and Branagh








This lecture discusses the two ‘revolutions’ in developing Shakespeare’s plays on film, Olivier and Branagh, again using theory and contextualisation. Both directors are seen as key in reinventing Shakespeare for the popular culture of their age. We will discuss the directors’ works and how the films may be contextualised within their oeuvre, as well as looking at the way the play changes in terms of its period production, from the Early Modern period to the twentieth century.








The seminar will focus on the work of group one.





Week 5



Historical Contexts 3: New Wave Shakespeare








This lecture contextualises the recent focus upon teaching versions of Shakespeare’s plays in terms of the New Wave Shakespeare and television productions. It compares Baz Lurhmann’s film, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1996) with the BBC’s popular Shakespeare Retold version of Much Ado About Nothing (2006). Both popularise Shakespeare and demonstrate the ways in which the plays are now primarily communicated across the globe, in accessible forms. The lecture discusses this process of appropriation which the second half analyses and compares the treatment of gender and how it has been ‘updated’ in the two film versions.








The seminar will focus on the work of group two.





Week 6



Adaptation versus Derivation








While the previous three lectures focus on key periods in the development of Shakespeare on film, this account addresses the complex question of adaptation and derivation, looking at two genres that have been successfully employed, the musical and science fiction. The two plays/films used are: The Tempest with Wilcox’s Forbidden Planet (1956) and Romeo and Juliet with Wise’s West Side Story (1961).






 The seminar will focus on the work of group three.





Week 7



Thematic Analysis 1: Power and the State






This lecture explores the ways in which the theme of power and its location within the state, including kingship, is transferred from text to image. Using the theory and the historical contexts discussed in lecture one it looks at King Lear and explores the ways in which the play is contextualised politically in Brook’s King Lear (1971) and Kurosawa’s Ran (1985). We will explore how the themes of power and the state are in evidence in Shakespeare’s King Lear, as well as discussing the political circumstances in the productions by Brook and Kurosawa.






The seminar will focus on the work of group four.





Week 8



Thematic Analysis 2: Gender and Sexuality






Using the same methodology as in the previous lecture this session discusses the importance of feminist and queer theory. We will look at theories drawn from feminism, gender and sexuality studies in order to explore the way in which Shakespeare’s plays may be re-contextualised in contemporary film versions of the plays. It also introduces two versions, a derivation and an adaptation, that provide a sharp contrast with Branagh offering a conventional heterosexual reading and Van Sant suggesting a homoerotic reading. The lecture analyses Much Ado About Nothing with Branagh’s version (1993) and Henry IV 1 and 2 with Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho (1991). Reference will also be made to The Tempest and Jarman’s film version of the play (1980).






The seminar will focus on the work of group five.





Week 9



Thematic Analysis 3: Race and Faith






This lecture looks at the ways in which the discourses of race and faith have shifted and/or remained comparable from Shakespeare’s plays to contemporary film versions. It explores Othello with Suzman’s South African production (1988) and Radford’s post 9/11 version of The Merchant of Venice (2004). There will also be reference to Nelson’s O (2001). We will discuss concepts and theories of race and spirituality and how these may be employed in analysing Shakespeare’s plays; there will be particular focus on the tradition of black actors in Othello and the portrayal of Jews in The Merchant of Venice.






 The seminar will focus on the work of group six.





Week 10



Thematic Analysis 4: Identity








This lecture engages with contemporary Early Modern literary theory through its focus on identity and the self and in so doing addresses the way in which the individual subject has been a sustained presence in Shakespeare’s plays and the film versions of them. The widest and most complex of the themes, identity addresses the way in which individuals are seen to construct themselves either on stage or screen. It compares two versions of Richard III, that by Olivier (1955) and that by Loncraine (1996) and explores the ways in which the directors facilitate a powerful link with the eponymous character. Moreover the module concludes with two of the finest performances by two of ’s finest actors.









 The seminar will focus on the work of group seven





Week 11



Assessment and Revision








Focus on how to present assessment and prepare for the examination.








Individual help on assessment and revision plans.





Week 12








Week 13








Week 14








Week 15








Assessment deadlines





Essay: 10/11/2010





Exam tbc





Oral presentation:  Throughout the module





Group work:  Throughout module

Methods of Teaching/Learning

2 hours per week – 1 hour lecture, 1 hour seminar



Selected Texts/Journals

Primary texts





There are no set texts, although it would be helpful to read/view the plays and films referred to in the lectures.  Seminars will focus on extracts and/or texts decided upon by each group in week 2.





Please use any Shakespeare texts you wish. The Arden and Oxford editions are very useful, but may be consulted in the library once you have decided to work on a specific play/s.



For class work and seminar presentations the videos or DVDs again should be borrowed from the library or purchased (very reasonable versions may be obtained from Amazon). When concentrating on the long essay you may use the texts/recordings of your choice. 



For texts also try:






Anderegg, Michael, Orson Welles, Shakespeare and Popular Culture (1999)



Boose, Lynda E. and Richard Burt (eds.), Shakespeare the Movie: Popularising the Plays on Film, TV, and Video (1997)



----- Shakespeare the Movie II (2003)



Branagh, Kenneth, Much Ado About Nothing. The Making of a Movie (1993)



Brown, Richard Danson and David Johnson (eds.), A Shakespeare Reader: Sources and Criticism



Buchanan, Judith, Shakespeare on Film (2007)



Burnett, Mark Ramona Wray (eds), Shakespeare, Film, Fin de Siecle (2000)



----- Screening Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century (2006)



Collick, John Shakespeare, Cinema and Society (1989).



Crowl, Stanley Shakespeare Observed. Studies in performance on Stage and Screen (1993).



Davies, Anthony and Stanley Wells (eds.), Shakespeare and the Moving Image: the Plays on Film and Televison (1994)



---- Filming Shakespeare’s Plays: the Adaptations of Laurence Olivier, Orson Welles, Peter Brooke, and Akira Kurosawa (1988)



Davison, Peter, Text in Performance: Hamlet (1983)



Dawson, Anthony, Shakespeare in Performance: Hamlet (1995)



Hatchuel, Sarah, Shakespeare, From Stage to Screen (2004)



Henderson, Diana, A Concise Companion to Shakespeare on Screen (2005)



Hindle, Maurice, Studying Shakespeare on Film (2007)



Jackson, Russell, The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Film second edition (2007)



Jorgens, Jack Shakespeare on Film (1977)



Rosenthal, David, 100 Shakespeare Films (2007)



Rothwell, Kenneth, A History of Shakespeare on Screen second edition (2004)



Shaugnessey, Robert (ed.), Shakespeare on Film (Macmillan New Casebook) (1998)



Films: adaptations and derivations



BBC TV Shakespeare Collection



BBC, Shakespeare Retold 



Hamlet dir Laurence Olivier (1948)



Hamlet dir Kenneth Branagh (1996)



Hamlet dir Michael Almereyda (2000)



(HenryIV Parts 1 and 2) My Own Private Idaho dir Gus Van Sant (1991)



Henry V dir. Laurence Olivier (1944)



Henry V dir. Kenneth Branagh (1989)



Julius Caesar dir Joseph L Mankiewicz (1953)



King John dir Sir Herbert Beerbohm-Tree (1899)



King Lear dir Peter Brook (1971)



(King Lear) Ran dir Akira Kurosawa (1985)



Love’s Labours Lost dir. Kenneth Branagh (1999)



(Macbeth) Throne of Blood dir Akira Kurosawa (1957)



Macbeth dir Roman Polanski (1971)



The Merchant of Venice dir Michael Radford (2005)



Midsummer Night’s Dream dir. Max Reinhardt (1935)



Midsummer Night’s Dream dir. Michael Hoffmann (1999)



Much Ado About Nothing dir. Kenneth Branagh (1993)



Othello dir Orson Welles (1952)



Othello dir Janet Suzman (1988)



(Othello) O dir Tim Blake Nelson (2001)



Richard III dir Laurence Olivier (1955)



Richard III dir Richard Loncraine (1996)



(Richard III) Looking for Richard dir Al Pacino (1996)



Romeo and Juliet dir Franco Zeffirelli (1968)



(Romeo and Juliet) West Side Story dir Robert Wise (1961)



(Romeo and Juliet) William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet dir. Baz Luhrmann (1996)



RSC Shakespeare Collection



Shakespeare in Love dir John Madden (1998)



Taming of the Shrew, dir. Franco Zeffirelli (1966)



(Taming of the Shrew) 10 Things I hate About You dir Gil Junger (1999)



 (Tempest) Forbidden Planet dir Fred McLeod Wilcox (1956)



(Tempest) Prospero’s Books dir Peter Greenaway (1991)



Titus dir Julie Taymor (2000)



Twelfth Night dir Trevor Nunn (1995)






For a cool internet interactive Hamlet see click on the first image, then on animation and then on the first image.

Last Updated

5 July 2010 JG