Shakespearean words and phrases have had a profound influence on the English language. But Shakespeare's plays have also served as important sources of adaptation. Many Shakespearean plays have been adapted to film, for example, ranging from one-reel films of the silent era to the famous adaptations by Japanese director Kurosawa Akira. Other well-known—albeit loose—adaptations include the Disney film The Lion King (1994, based on Hamlet), Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer-winning novel A Thousand Acres (1991, based on King Lear), and Tom Stoppard’s absurdist play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1990, based on Hamlet). (The latter two have themselves spawned filmic adaptations).
From a theoretical perspective, the question of adapting Shakespearean plays is intriguing: given that Shakespeare himself adapted a large portion of his plots from previous material, what exactly is being adapted in the new adaptations? Does the new work adapt the plot, the characters, or perhaps something more essential? As the answer will differ from work to work, the reader is invited to consider the following titles.
Adaptations of Macbeth
Javier Marias, A Heart So White [Corazon tan blanco]. The New Directions Edition on Amazon.
Throne of Blood [Kumonosu-jo], Dir. Kurosawa Akira.The Criterion Collection release on Amazon.
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury. The Norton Critical Edition on Amazon.