What has the 21st century done to the Bard?

From Photosforclass.com under Creative Commons

From Photosforclass.com under Creative Commons

So, what’s with the changes to the Bard? People are having fun with him again.

For years, students have been dragged to performances, condemned to perform in, listen to their classmates recite or watch the BBC versions in darkened classrooms (which are good for a snooze.) They are subjected to endless admonitions that he was the greatest playwright of all time.

Now a new generation is poking fun at the stuffy image.

There is a musical on NY’s Broadway called “Something Rotten. It’s an extended riff on William Shakespeare and his work. The Today Show has a song medley worth watching. Shakespeare as a preening rock star (Christian Borle who won a Tony Award for it) in tight leather… well, something new to consider for Shakespeare’s image.

Author Ian Doescher recast the entire 20th century classic, the “Star Wars” saga, and casting it into iambic pentameter for his mashups from Quirk Books. You actually get to hear what Darth Vader thinks of the world around him. And you get new insight into Jar Jar Binks which might (or might not) make you rethink the character.

This trend might have started with “Shakespeare in Love” in 1998. Anyone remember that movie? It got the Best Picture Oscar. It was also riddled with allusions to Shakespeare’s work as well as other Elizabethan contemporaries. (It was also the movie that caused me to call the Bard a SOB because I knew the kind of trouble he was getting Christopher Marlowe into as if Kit Marlowe needed more… but I digress from the point of this posting.)

So what will drag the younger generation from their iPads or the Internet?

Make it relatable and you have generational support.

Maybe it’s a (stage) musical.

Maybe it’s a (book) mash-up.

Maybe it’s Shakespeare’s words buried in an action movie where the bad guy and/or good guy is spouting his heroism/villiany. (And if anyone can find this among the Marvel sagas, point it my way. The closest I remember is watching Magneto/Gandalf (otherwise known as Sir Ian McKellen giving a one-man show on Shakespeare.)

So a strutting Will Shakespeare in a musical? Bring it on. Maybe in 20 years it will become a high school staple like “Bye Bye Birdie” and Shakespeare will not be confined to the musty pages of school books.

There is a world of fun to be had with him. Let’s go for it!

(Next: Illustration – a not so dead art)

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