Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Miller and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.
This summer, we decided it would be great fun to tackle the movie versions of many of the classics that show up on summer reading lists. In researching classics that had been retold in movie format, we actually found enough to break it down into two posts! So this month, we decided to focus on one of history’s greatest authors: the Bard, William Shakespeare. With love stories that have inspired millions and revenge tales that resonate in every culture, it is no wonder that Hollywood has chosen to rework his epic tales again and again.
Some great examples that will make for fun viewing this summer:
The Classic: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
A young prince of Denmark must deal with intrigue in the Court after he is visited by the ghost of his father requesting that he avenge his murder. Along with the ever-present threat of invasion; ridiculousness from his two lackeys, Rosencrantz and Gildenstern; and serious relationship issues with his new fiancee Ophelia, Hamlet has a lot to deal with. Here’s where you get the famous “To be, or not to be” soliloquy, guys.
The Contemporary: Disney’s “The Lion King”
Did you ever realize that The Lion King is a reimagining of Hamlet set in the Animal Kingdom? An “Uncle” who has bumped off the current king and stepped into his position of power … a young prince determined to regain his proper place and to save his mother and people from a power-hungry ruler … complete with award-winning songs and heart-warming lion cub cuteness!