Robert Kimmerly April 2, 2013 The Cultural Adaptation of Shakespeare Society is most comfortable when everyone is doing things the same way. Everyone has an idea of “the way things should be” and unknowingly follows this whether they like it or not. Our culture has created this invisible guideline that everyone’s morals seem to originate from. There are forces within our culture that have the power to change these accepted practices. Using history, one is better able to understand how exactly society has culturally adapted. Art and literature have lived through many eras with constant alterations as to what is embraced by the culture. Sometimes the change is positive and sometimes it is negative. Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Anything is an example of how society has changed their views over time. Looking at his original work and comparing it to the live performance and film, it is evident that three main changes have occurred. The stage practices in the 17 thcentury, language, and cultural interpretations are all areas that have been modernized over time. During the original performances of Much Ado there were many aspects that were completely different from the modern adaptations. One of the main differences was the type of actors that were allowed to perform. During the 17th century women were banned from acting on stage. In the live performance very attractive women play the characters Hero and Beatrice. This is much different from the original performance because a man would dress up as a woman and play the roll. Society has changed the way sex is viewed and our culture has become engulfed in it. The use of attractive women in the live performance speaks to the way society has adapted to not only sex, but also commercialism. The modernism of the clothing and scenery would be much different from the original performances, as the characters look to be dressed in regular American clothes. There are many differences between the live performance and the film version of the play also. The budget for the movie is much larger and is evident through the scenery. The live performance still gives the audience a sense of involvement, as
each scene is physically changed when appropriate. In the film however, the scenes can whisk you away to another country in a blink of an eye. The film creates a real life image for the audience, where the live performance still entails the imaginations of the audience. The scene in the beginning where they await Don Pedro to arrive is an example of how films create a more realistic effect. In the play the audience has to assume time has passed during his travels, but in the film they use music and camera panning to create a time-lapsed effect. I noticed that the film was not set in the city, but an Italian town out in the countryside. I think the outdoors scenes is what really created the difference in the film from the live performance because the two settings are so different. The themes and readings of the different mediums were much different. The film had characters in traditional costuming for the time period and spoke in the traditional language of the time. They were untraditional in the sense that the setting was more nature involved and the characters less self indulged unlike the original play. The film also left out some important lines in Act II referencing religion that would have been important during Shakespeare’s time. The live performance was read in a much more modern way. Their clothing and speech was themed in a more southern American style. An example is in Act I scene I when the messenger speaks about Don Pedro’s arrival and says, “He was about three miles off.” Miles are not used in Europe so I noticed that the language used in the play was adapted to an American culture. He also references to the ‘dance’ multiple times instead of the ball they attend. These are slight variations that are easier understood by society today than the traditional audiences. The main difference I noticed between the film and live performance was the effect they each present. The live performance gave me the feeling of still watching a play. I like how they incorporate music into the play, which for me makes the experience more entertaining. The film detracts from the play I feel. I found myself disengaging myself from the lines in the film because everything I needed to
know seemed to be given to me. I like going to the play and having to listen to the words to understand what is happening. I like using some imagination to teleport myself to the scene that is being acted out. It feels like even though I am in the audience that I have some interaction with the play. Overall the original play, live performance, and the film are all different mediums for Much Ado About Nothing that are evidence that Shakespeare has adapted over time.