With the release of the biker gang vs. dirty cops take on “Cymbeline” this weekend, audiences were treated to another Shakespeare adaptation that transports the Bard to modern day.
Plays that were written 400 years ago continue to find relevance with modern audiences and continue to fit into contemporary settings with fresh retellings. But for all the talk that Shakespeare”s plays are “timeless” and “universal,” there is still a lot in his plays that is very specific to the social and political environment of Elizabethan and Jacobean England. Some storylines and characters translate well to modern settings, while others don”t. (“Measure for Measure,” for example, may be an unpopular one for reinterpretation in part because of a central plot line dependent on a law forbidding pre-marital sex.)
A film's commitment to using Shakespeare”s language in a modern setting can lead to beautiful results. Also entertaining and thought-provoking are updates that use Shakespeare”s stories and characters with modern language.
Check out the gallery below for a collection of some of these modernized Shakespeare adaptations and a breakdown of what works and doesn”t work in different eras – from films that use the Bard”s original language like Baz Luhrmann”s “Romeo + Juliet” and Ralph Fiennes” “Coriolanus” to movies with contemporary speech like “West Side Story” and “10 Things I Hate About You.”