Shakespeare the Screenwriter
It sometimes seems there are as many explanations for the marriage between Shakespeare and the movies as there are Shakespeare movies. Many focus on the same elements that made his plays so popular on stage—the romance, comic characters, political intrigue, battles, colorful spectacles, and above all, the soaring language. The plays’ wide-ranging locations, from tropical islands to ancient Rome, seem perfectly suited to the cinema. At the same time, the stories of plays like Romeo and Juliet are familiar ground, so audiences know what to expect. The name “Shakespeare” alone also lends a cachet to any production. Film scholar Douglas Brode points to yet another explanation—the surprising parallels between Shakespeare’s own texts and a modern screenplay, suggested by none other than Orson Welles.