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Archive for the ‘Shakespeare on Film’ Category

75thMacbeth508F-WeirdSisters-small

“Double, double, toil and trouble / Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”: The Weird Sisters (Andrew Zox, Cleo House, Jr., and Eric Hissom) in Macbeth at Folger Theatre (2008). Folger Shakespeare Library.

By Chris Lavold

If you are a fan of Folger Education, you are well aware of the focus on performance-based teaching and how getting kids up on their feet is an effective way to understand and appreciate Shakespeare’s plays.

I have found that an excellent complement to this is to view film clips of performances to generate intelligent class discussions. Some of the most interesting and insightful days of my ninth grade Macbeth unit were the days we watched multiple interpretations of the same scene. This also fits the Common Core Standard RL.7  perfectly:

Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production…), evaluating how each version interprets the source text.

The clips I mostly use are from the Folger 2008 production and the Polanski 1971 film. For certain scenes I might use the 2006 Australian version, the 2010 BBC version starring Patrick Stewart, or the 1948 Orson Welles film.

On  video analysis days, my class uses Michael LoMonico’s video expert sheet. I break the students up into four or five groups. Each group has five individual jobs, and each student in the group will do their task while watching the film clips.

  • The screenwriters follow the text and write notes about which lines were omitted or rearranged.
  • The cinematographers watch the camera angles and lighting. They ask questions such as  “Is the lighting trying to portray a theme?  Does a low camera angle tell the viewer someone is in an authoritative position?”
  • The sound editors are not allowed to watch the clip. They must have their backs to the screen and write down sounds they hear. Examples would be natural background sounds like a dog barking or the wind blowing. They also observe what the music tells us about what may be taking place on the screen.
  • The set and costume designers pay attention to the location, costumes, and props. This is always fun to talk about during the opening witch scene in Macbeth or the banquet scene where Banquo’s ghost appears.
  • The last group are the actors who concentrate on an actor’s performance paying close attention to accents, tone, subtext, and emphasis on certain words or lines.

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By Deborah Gascon

Have you ever seen any silent films of Shakespeare’s plays?

During the 2014 Teaching Shakespeare Institute, I sat for hours in the belly of the Folger Shakespeare Library watching black-and-white silent films of Othello and Romeo and Juliet—and it was the best day ever.

I was fascinated—how does a play with such essential language become silent? I realized while sitting in that basement that this would be an effective and quick tool to teach emotion, facial expressions, and pantomiming in acting (which all lead to understanding tone!).

When you watch a silent film, the most important words and emotions pop up on the screen, which makes it an effective way to help students engage in close reading and narrow the text for the main idea (which leads to understanding theme!).

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The amount of new technology springing up around us can be dizzying, especially when our students are picking it up so quickly. Much of their daily life is conducted online – so how can our classrooms extend into that area of their life?

Teacher to Teacher - Technology

In these Teacher to Teacher Videos, we’re highlighting some ways teachers are using technology and the internet to engage their students even more deeply in their Shakespeare studies:

Videos in class are tried-and-true, but sometimes might feel like a cop-out. In this video, Josh Cabat gives us several ways in which to use video effectively as a teaching tool with many active applications to try right away!

 

Why should you even consider using new technologies? “It’s collaborative, and it’s available 24 hours a day,” says teacher Robert Barker. Students can connect in their own time to their classwork and each other – strengthening their connection to the material.

 

Finally – you don’t even have to use the technology during class-time. Assigning online homework in a “flipped” classroom, according to Greta Brasgalla, gives you more time and more material to discuss in class.

You can hear more from Robert and Greta from their recorded “What’s Done is Done Online” webinar from last spring.

What technologies are you trying in your classroom? How are your students responding to it? Let us know in the comments!

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As you’re probably well aware, there are bazillions of versions of Romeo and Juliet on film. From the silent era through the present day, the pair has inspired countless adaptations from the faithful to the fun-house.  Below I’m listing a few of my favorites, but please share your favorites in the comments!

R&J Animated

When I was growing up, one of my favorite tapes to rent from Video Scene was the BBC Animated Romeo and Juliet featuring several famous voices and gorgeous animation by Christmasfilms. Using an abridgment of Shakespeare’s text, adapter Leon Garfield unfolded the tragic tale in under 30 minutes. It’s available on DVD, now, but preview it on YouTube!

The BBC Television Shakespeare series from the 1970’s might not be the most engaging to watch in its entirety, but if you’ve ever wanted to see a young Alan Rickman in tights as Tybalt, well, this version is a treat! No matter which scene you want to focus on, this full-text version is sure to have it, too. Keeping with the traditionally set, Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film is still held in high regard. It’s authenticity of setting and the leads’ ages, as well as the wonderful performances by the entire cast make it infinitely watchable, even today. (Though, of course, with at least one scene post-wedding edited out for classrooms!)

Romeo+JulietSome modern-setting versions have kept the original text, as well, most famously in Baz Luhrman’s 1996 version set in Verona Beach. Even while it pokes fun (the guns are named “Dagger” and “Longsword,” for example), the story, edited from Shakespeare’s text, moves with an intense urgency. Additionally, the independently conceived and filmed Private Romeo uses Shakespeare’s text with a group of army-school cadets left alone at their campus. While it falters in places, it’s beautiful to see these young men using Shakespeare’s words to express themselves.

Finally, there are some wonderful new stories inspired by Shakespeare’s inspiration to re-tell the timeless cautionary tale of two warring groups whose youthful innocents fall in love with each other. West Side Story is the most familiar along these lines, and is a theatrical hallmark in its own right. Comparing this musical to Shakespeare’s play when I was a kid is what led me to be so interested in adaptation as an art form. Potentially less-inspiring, however, it’s worth noting that both The Lion King II and Gnomeo and Juliet are also inspired by these themes, though with happier endings for their young audience.

Shakespeare in LoveThere’s not much room to mention Shakespeare in Love, but I’m going to have to. It’s a funny and touching imagining of how young Will Shakespeare was inspired to write this famous play from his own romantic experience . It’s totally laughably historically inaccurate, of course, but it does not claim to be so and is, instead, a whimsical love-letter to the Bard.

This could go on and on, of course. There are ballets, operas, TV mini-series, anime series, and so many other milieus into which this play has been re-imagined. Sometimes these adaptations illuminate different facets of Shakespeare’s play for consideration the next time we study it. Do these examples fit the bill? Not always, but at least we can enjoy the ride. What is your favorite example of Romeo and Juliet on the big screen?

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Well, that’s a disappoinment.

A closer watch of the trailer for the upcoming Romeo and Juliet adapted by Julian Fellowes reveals that the play has not only been adapted as a screenplay (which is all well and good), but has also had its language adapted. Sneakily, too, it took awhile for the differences from the lines used in the trailer to sink in.

And it wouldn’t be such a disappointment if it weren’t being advertised as:

R&J Trailer Still

R&J Trailer Still 2

Adaptation is a fine thing – it can illuminate the play in ways we never expected. Luhrman’s Romeo+Juliet, while garish and dizzying, gave us a new context for the play and a feeling of vitality and importance though we’ve all known the outcome of the story forever. I honestly cannot see the point of an adaptation in which little to none of the original text is used and it’s set in an all-too-familiar setting. It looks exactly like the lavish Italian set of the famous Zeffirelli film, yet the language is ever-so-slightly (and not-so slightly) tweaked. And why? For time? For clarity? What is the purpose of these textual edits? And why, then, advertise it as Shakespeare’s?

I went through the trailer and picked out the lines used, then looked up what I believed to be their equivalents in the Folger Digital Texts to compare what’s being said. For some, it’s a simple word that’s been changed. For others, it’s an entire phrase that’s been re-edited for some reason.

“On honor of my blood, I’ll strike him dead”
vs “Now, by the stock and honor of my kin, To strike him dead I hold it not a sin.”

“I would not let any harm beset him in my house.”
vs: I would not for the wealth of all this town Here in my house do him disparagement.

“Juliet, if your heart like mine is full then tell the joy that weights us this night,”
“I cannot tell of what is limitless.”
vs: “My bounty as boundless as the sea, My love as deep. The more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite”

“These violent passions can have violent ends.”
vs: “These violent delights have violent ends.”

“Then you are mine no more, so help me God.”
vs: “An you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend. An you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets, For, by my soul, I’ll ne’er acknowledge thee, Nor what is mine shall never do thee good. Trust to ’t; bethink you. I’ll not be forsworn.”

“What have I done but murdered my tomorrow?”
vs: “O, I am Fortune’s fool!”

“There is no world beyond this city’s walls. Just purgatory… Heaven is here where Juliet lives. Every unworthy thing may look on her but Romeo may not.”
vs: “There is no world without Verona walls But purgatory, torture, hell itself… Heaven is here Where Juliet lives, and every cat and dog And little mouse, every unworthy thing, Live here in heaven and may look on her, But Romeo may not.”

“A greater power than we can contradict has thwarted all our plans.”
vs “A greater power than we can contradict Hath thwarted our intents.”
(not too bad, but is Friar Lawrence really saying that to Romeo? That’s supposed to be his line to Juliet in the tomb.)

“O, Furtune Fortune, send him back to me.”
vs: “O Fortune, Fortune, all men call thee fickle. If thou art fickle, what dost thou with him That is renowned for faith? Be fickle, Fortune, For then I hope thou wilt not keep him long, But send him back.”

“Take this vial… and drink through the last drop… and there will be no sign of life within you.”
vs: “Take thou this vial… And this distilling liquor drink thou off… No warmth, no breath shall testify thou livest.”

“Give me my Romeo. And when he shall die, cut him out in little stars. He will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night.”
vs:
“Give me my Romeo, and when I shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night.”

This is a topic we keep coming back to:

“Bless thee, Thou Art Translated”
“Shakespeare… in Other Words”
“All Students Deserve Shakespeare”
“More to Fear from No Fear”

And it was addressed in our May 14th Webinar, of which you can watch an archived recording: Shakespeare in Other Words.

What do you think? What could the purpose of this sly translation be? What is lost or gained by these edits? How could it affect the way the audience perceives Shakespeare?

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Film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays appear regularly each year. Some of the plays get more attention than others – I mean, just look at the wikipedia lists of film adaptations for Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and especially Hamlet! There was definitely a lot of (deserved) hype this summer for Joss Whedon’s independent Much Ado About Nothing, but nothing matches the well-trod tragedies for film popularity.

Even so, I was surprised to see that not one, but two new film adaptations of Romeo and Juliet are in the works this year. One is the highly publicized adaptation by Downton Abbey scribe Julian Fellowes, and the other is a… well… an operetta set in a trailer park in New Zealand? The former is certainly much more faithful to the text, but the latter has this vitality about it that reminds me of some of our student performances at the Festivals – the inspiration of imagination and making the text one’s own.

I’ve seen students present R&J on our stage as a comedy (with a little death at the end), as a serious love story, as a story about swords (with a little love thrown in), as characters from Twilight, as modern teenagers, and just about everything in between. Every class that presents the same play brings something different to the table, just as every film director will bring something new to light in their vision of the play on screen.

I, personally, can’t get enough of film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, but I am surprised by how much we’re still making the same ones! Why do you think that is? What plays would you like to see made into screenplays? I’m going to begin a push for Cymbeline, I think…

And can I mention just how much Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth look like Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting?

twor&j

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Ben Jonson once wrote of Shakespeare, “He was not of an age, but for all time.”  Now, almost 400 years after Shakespeare’s death, we live in a world where it gets more difficult every day to convince students of the Bard’s relevance. Cell phones, iPads, and video games seem to have taken center stage in the common teenager’s life.  Is it really as difficult as some suggest to engage today’s student in the study of Shakespeare and his play?  I would argue that Shakespeare is doing just fine in 2013.  In a recent Folger Education Facebook entry, there was a link posted about seven upcoming film or television projects that all involved Shakespeare.  PBS recently began their six episode series entitled “Shakespeare Uncovered” and the first episode examined my all time favorite play, Macbeth.  As someone who feels they have a strong grasp of the play, I was fascinated at all the little insights I gained from watching this episode.  It was especially thrilling for me to see Dunsinane Hill and possibly the remnants of Birnam Wood in the surrounding countryside. As I watched, I was already plotting which clips from the show I wanted to share with my students next year when we study Macbeth.

In addition, I am amazed at how many newspaper and magazine headlines, syndicated columnists, and television shows make references to the Bard’s works.  One recent example that comes to mind was an opinion piece about the US tax code and how it relates to Shakespeare.  On television, CBS’s The Mentalist had two episodes from 2012 where Shakespeare had a major role in the outcome of the show. In the episode, “Something’s Rotten in Redmund” the lead character Patrick Jane investigates a teacher’s death by hanging around rehearsals of Hamlet.  By the end of the episode, Jane is on stage playing the ghost of Hamlet’s father and let’s just say that this ghost has other things to reveal than a usurping uncle. In another episode, “Cheap Burgundy,” Jane catches a killer by misquoting lines from Macbeth that the killer supposedly knew nothing about, but who felt the need to correct Jane’s mistake.  In this week’s Sports Illustrated, there is a college basketball article by Luke Winn entitled “Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of Hoops.”  I love seeing references to Julius Caesar in my favorite sports magazine.

While this was a long-winded introduction to what I want to share, I think it is important that students be shown the numerous examples of how the Bard’s works are alive and well in the 21st Century.   With that said, I also think that, we as educators, need to embrace the technology of today and also get the students out of their desks and experience the plays on their feet.  In this blog, I would like to share two of the activities that I have done in my classroom over the past three years to make the Bard come alive and allow the students to use a plethora of the technology that they love.

One of my most popular classroom activities is the making of a movie trailer after we study a play.  With the majority of newer iPads and cell phones  possessing video cameras that are HD quality, many of the students can film these projects using their own devices.  Of course, actual video cameras may be used as well.  The simplicity of movie editing programs like iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, and other similar programs allow students to use edit the film and use effects that we could only dream of having at our fingertips ten years ago.  So far, my classes have done Hamlet and Othello.  None of them will earn Oscars, but they all have a special place in my heart and the students appear to really enjoy this particular week of my class.

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Chris’s students act out scenes from HAMLET for their trailer project.

I will give you a general overview of what the students are responsible for, but if anyone has more specific questions feel free to contact me.  First, the students make groups of 7-10 depending on class size.  Together, we view some film trailers in class and have a short discussion on what was effective or ineffective about each.  Next, the students decide on which scenes or lines must make an appearance in the film.  I try and stress to them that short clips are most effective, but if you watch the links that I provide you will see that they don’t always follow those instructions.  Sometimes their disobedience was effective and other times not so much.  After building the script, Students also need to discuss scene locations(we are limited to our school grounds), costumes, and props.  We usually borrow clothes from the drama department closet, but you will see in the Othello trailers that some were just dressed in normal school clothes. Finally,  we begin the filming process.  Even though the trailer will probably be no more than one to four minutes long, it will probably take at least three or four days to film and we have the block schedule at my high school.  One can never underestimate how many times the “actors” will stumble over their lines, unexpected encounters with  students from other classes or cars that appear in your video backgrounds forcing a cut, or when the laughter bug hits and nobody can keep a straight face.  You can view the bloopers reel at the end of our trailer videos to see what I mean.

After all of the filming is completed, the editing process takes over. I usually do most of the editing with the help of a few students.  I think this is a mistake that I need to remedy.  There is a pretty slick trailer feature on iMovie that my dog could probably figure out with a little time.  My plan this year is to arm the students with iPads and allow them to use the iMovie app to create their masterpieces.  I have included links to our previous trailers here.  Hamlet #1 , Hamlet #2 , Both Othello Trailers.

Staying on the theme of video production, I’d like to quickly share a project that two of my students created on their own that I now plan on having my future classes do as a formal assignment.  They called it the “Shakespeare Infomercial”. Neil and Spencer picked a product to sell that played a role in a specific play.  In one Othello infomercial, they sell an Egyptian handkerchief complete with strawberry embroidery. If the customers acted soon enough, they would also throw in a complimentary scimitar and scabbard.  They finished the video with several satisfied customer’s remarks.  What I enjoyed most about the infomercials was how they threw in several references to the plays and the Bard that were very clever.  Watch the Othello informercial here and then check out their Macbeth infomerical where they sell witch cauldrons among other items.  The portion of the assignment that takes the longest is the writing out of the script. They filmed and edited the video on an iPad in under an hour.

I am out of space, but I hope to share some more activities from my classroom in the future.  Thanks for taking the time to read this and making your classroom one that makes the Bard come alive!

Chris Lavold has been  an English teacher and baseball coach at Mauston High School in Mauston, WI for the past 16 years.  As a 2010 Folger Library Teaching Shakespeare Institute participant, he learned many valuable techniques and insights about Shakespeare and the teaching of his plays.  He has spoken at the NCTE conference for the past two years on behalf of the Folger on topics specializing in technology and the use of film in the classroom. Lavold can be reached at clavold@maustonschools.org  or follow him on Twitter @Shakehitch.

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