Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Shakespeare Retold

So I just got Netflix and even though I'm only a couple of days into the free trial, I think I'm going to keep my subscription. For the past couple of days I've been watching a BBC series called "ShakespeaRe-Told," which I have been wanting to watch for several years now. It's a modern retelling of four of Shakespeare's plays: Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. They were so much fun to watch (well, Macbeth wasn't fun, but it was very interesting), especially when it came to the end of the play. The writers for the three comedies chose to end each play a little differently than Shakespeare did.

*Spoiler Alert*

In the original Much Ado About Nothing, Hero immediately forgives Claudio for accusing her of being unfaithful and ditching her at the altar and they go on to be happily married. The re-told version has Hero and Claude/Claudio having a serious discussion about what happened, which ends with Hero telling Claude that she doesn't want to be with him right then. Maybe in the future, but she doesn't trust him at the moment. Sometime in the future, at Beatrice and Benedict's wedding, the two see each other again and the audience is given a hint that they might give their relationship another try. I liked that Hero didn't rush back into Claudio/Claude's arms after he humiliated her in such a public way - I know that how people act today is extremely different from Shakespeare's time, but it was nice to see the woman stand up for herself. Even when Claude told Hero that he acted the way he did because he loved her, she shot him down and told him it was a poor excuse.

I also really liked the ending of the re-told A Midsummer Night's Dream. In it, Oberon realizes his mistake in punishing Titania for making him angry and jealous by tricking her into falling in love with a man (Bottom) who has a donkey's head. So when he wakes her up, it's not Titania who apologizes, but Oberon for acting like an idiot. When she first wakes up she says something along the lines of "I dreamed I was in love with an a**, then I woke up and look, I still am!" Oberon's response is "I love you. I'm sorry. You were right." and goes on to apologize for acting the way he has. The writer did a great job with wrapping up the Helena/Demetrius love story. Unlike in the play, Puck also gives Demetrius (or James as he's called in the episode) the cure to the love potion. So when James/Demetrius wakes up from his enchanted sleep, he's not under a spell when he realizes he loves Helena, not Hermia. I think that makes the story better - having Helena and Demetrius's love be a pure one, not a manufactured love.

Of course, as with all stories, I was left wondering what happened to each character and couple over time. Did Helena and James/Demetrius stay happy and in love? Did Oberon live up to his promise to not overreact anymore? Did Hero and Claude/Claudio get back together? That's the great thing about good literature and movies - they never tell you how the story finally ends, happily ever after or not, but they allow you to wonder and maybe create your own ending.

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