Shakespeare’s language and the contemporary cinema audience
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Among the many difficulties which are encountered in realising the plays of Shakespeare for the screen, perhaps the greatest is the translation from a primarily verbal medium to a primarily visual one. The decisions made by filmmakers with regard to how much of Shakespeare’s language they chose to include or exclude, and the ways in which they use a visual language either as surrogate or enhancement, throw open areas of discussion which go to the very core of Shakespeare’s currency in contemporary culture. This article examines the differing approaches of a selection of filmmakers to the vexed question of making Shakespeare’s words work in the cinema. Furthermore, by drawing upon a range of examples from the early silent cinema to the modern multiplex the author asks how Shakespearean a film is when the words are not Shakespeare’s own.