Cinematic and TV Adaptations

Introducing Shakespeare: A Graphic Guide - Nick Groom, Piero 2013

Cinematic and TV Adaptations

Shakespearean cinema has proved as infinitely adaptable as Shakespearean theatre, perhaps more so. There have been musical adaptations, such as The Boys from Syracuse (The Comedy of Errors), Kiss Me Kate (The Taming of the Shrew), West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet) and Return to the Forbidden Planet (The Tempest). Shakespeare is often quoted at length and as part of the integrity of films: in My Own Private Idaho (Henry IV), Withnail and I (Hamlet) and Interview with the Vampire (Othello). The Complete Works features significantly in Star Wars IV. This is true on the small screen as well.


The first series of the BBC TV comedy The Black Adder (“with additional dialogue by William Shakespeare”) began with Peter Cook playing Laurence Olivier playing Richard III, and declaring …

Now is the summer of our sweet content

Made overcast winter by these Tudor clouds.

And I, that am not shaped for blackfac’d war …

I that am rudely cast and want true majesty

Am forced to fight to keep sweet England free.

I pray to heaven we fare well.

And all who fight us, go to hell!


The first episode in particular quotes extravagantly from many of Shakespeare’s plays. Once one starts looking, there are allusions and parodies everywhere: explicitly in the film Shakespeare in Love or implicitly as in Disney’s The Lion King (Hamlet).