Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay 2,500 words  40%
Semester Assessment Essay 2,500  60%
Supplementary Assessment Assessed work will be resubmitted on a different topic 

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

  1. Critically assess the variety and often conflicting analytical paradigms which characterize the study of literary adaptations;
  2. Critically assess who a literary adaptation film is addressing, and discuss how that address is constructed;
  3. Critically assess differing approaches to genre in the adapted film;
  4. Critically assess the different perspectives between a literary notion of the author, and the 'author' within film studies.

Brief description

This module is an in-depth case studioes module which wuill explore the film and television adaptations of a single author (or series of authors). From year to year the studied author(s) may change but regardless of which author(s) are bein studied we will explore the vaiety of discourses and controversies surrounding the issue of film adaptations of work from other literary media; assess the address to different kinds of audience for the chosen author's works and the movies based on them (racial, cultural, class and gender-based, sexual orientation); apply the specialized film studies paradigms of genre to these films in the hopes of problematising the taxonomies of literary genres; and critically assess the notion of who is the 'author' of these films: the literary writer or the film director.


This module introduces students to the study of film adaptations, and, specifically, film versions of the plays of William Shakespeare. Firstly we will look at a range of films which adapt the written texts. Secondly we will pay attention to films which are based more loosely on these texts, and finally we will look at some films which document the lives of Shakespearean actors and the workings of Shakespearean acting companies. We will be examining these films from a variety of critical perspectives, and will be asking key questions such as: What is adaptation? How are 'original' texts to be treated? How do we decide on the legitimacy of an 'original' text? How important is authenticity as a concept? We will also consider the reasons why Shakespeare's plays endure, and will try to determine what their 'timeless' qualities might be.

Central to this module will be the consideration of the ways in which filmmakers re-read and re-write the works of Shakespeare.

  • Is it possible to critically approach the work of Shakespeare without dealing with the myth of Shakespeare?
  • How far is it possible or impossible to talk about Shakespeare's authorial intentions?
  • If some filmmakers have been criticised for moving away from the 'spirit' of Shakespeare's plays, what is this 'spirit' and how are we to approach it critically?
  • Is it possible to think about Shakespeare's work as purely aesthetic, detached from ideology?
  • How and why is Shakespearean language marked as linguistically brilliant?
  • Why has Shakespeare's work been adapted again and again throughout the history of cinema and television?
  • How far are Shakeseare's plays reinterpreted every time they are performed?
  • How far can the languages of film develop aspects of Shakespeare's writing; or, how do filmmakers show us what Shakespeare (or his characters) can only describe?
While this module encourages students to consider different ways in which the plays of Shakespeare have been adapted on film, students will not be expected to be familiar with Shakespeare's plays. We will instead pay more attention to critical approaches to styles of adaptation.

Films Studied - indicative list

Henry V (Laurence Olivier, 1945)

Macbeth (Orson Welles, 1948)

Hamlet (Laurence Olivier, 1948)

Forbidden Planet (Fred M. Wilcox, 1956)

West Side Story (Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins, 1961)

King Lear (Peter Brook, 1970)

King Lear (Grigori Kozintsev, 1970)

The Tempest (Derek Jarman, 1979)

Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)

Hamlet (Franco Zeffirelli, 1991)

Much Ado About Nothing (Kenneth Branagh, 1993)

Richard III (Richard Loncraine, 1995)

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrman, 1996)

Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh, 1996)

Looking for Richard (Al Pacino, 1996)

Shakespeare in Love (John Madden, 1998)

10 Things I Hate About You (Gil Junger, 1999)

My Kingdom (Don Boyd, 2001)

Reading List

Recommended Text
Anderegg, Michael (2003) Cinematic Shakespeare Rowman & Littlefield Primo search Brode, Douglas (2000) Shakespeare in the Movies: From the Silent Era to Today OUP Primo search Buchanan, Judith (2005) Shakespeare on Film Primo search Burnett, Mark Thornton (2007) Filming Shakespeare in the Global Marketplace Longman Primo search Burnett, Mark Thornton & Ramona Wray (2006) Screening Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century Edinburgh University Press Primo search Burt, Richard (2001) Shakespeare After Mass Media Blackwell Primo search Burt, Richard and Lynda Boose (eds.) (2003) Shakespeare the Movie II: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, Video and DVD Routledge Primo search Cartelli, Thomas & Katherine Rowe (2006) New Wave Shakespeare on Screen Polity Press Primo search Cartmell, Deborah (2000) Interpreting Shakespeare on Screen Palgrave Primo search Collick, John (1989) Shakespeare, Cinema and Society Manchester University Press Primo search Crowl, Samuel (2008) Shakespeare and Film: A Brief Norton Guide Norton Primo search Crowl, Samuel (2005) Shakespeare at the Cineplex Ohio University Press Primo search Crowl, Samuel (2006) The Films of Kenneth Branagh Prauger, Westport Primo search Davies, Anthony (1988) Filming Shakespeare's Plays CUP Primo search Davies, Anthony and Stanley Wells (eds.) (1994) Shakespeare and the Moving Image Cambridge University Press Primo search Desmet, Christy and Robert Sawyer (eds.) (1999) Shakespeare and Appropriation Routledge Primo search Donaldson, Peter (1990) Shakespearean Films/Shakespearean Directors Unwin Heyman Primo search French, Emma (2006) Selling Shakespeare to Hollywood University of Hertfordshire Press Primo search Hatchuel, Sarah (2008) Shakespeare, from Stage to Screen CUP Primo search Henderson, Diana (ed.) (2005) A Concise Companion to Shakespeare on Screen Blackwell Primo search Hindle, Maurice (2007) Studying Shakespeare on Film Palgrave Macmillan Primo search Holderness, Graham (2001) Cultural Shakespeare: Essays in the Shakespeare Myth University of Hertfordshire Press Primo search Holderness, Graham (2001) Virtual Shakespeare: Essay in Film and Television University of Hertfordshire Press Primo search Howard, Jean and Marion O'Connor (eds) (1987) Shakespeare Reproduced Methuen Primo search Hulme, Peter and William Sherman (eds) (2000) The Tempest and its Travels Reaktion Primo search Hutcheon, Linda (2006) A Theory of Adaptation Routledge Primo search Jackson, Russell (2007) Shakespeare Films in the Making: Vision, Production and Reception CUP Primo search Jackson, Russell (ed.) (2000) The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Film Cambridge University Press Primo search Jorgens, Jack (1977) Shakespeare on Film Indiana University Press Primo search Joughin, John (ed.) (1997) Shakespeare and National Culture Manchester University Press Primo search Kastan, David (1999) Shakespeare After Theory Routledge Primo search Looma, Ania (1998) Post-Colonial Shakespeares Routledge Primo search Manvell, Roger (1979) Shakespeare and the Film A.S. Barnes, South Brunswick Primo search Richie, Donald (1996) The Films of Akira Kurosawa University of California Press Primo search Rosenbaum, Jonathan (ed.) (1993) Orson welles and Peter Bogdanovich: This is Orson Welles Harper Collins Primo search Rosenthal, Daniel (2007) 100 Shakespeare Films BFI Primo search Rothwell, Kenneth (2004) A History of Shakespeare on Screen: A Century of Film and Television Cambridge University Press Primo search Rothwell, Kenneth S. and Annabelle Henkin Melzer (eds.) (1990) Shakespeare on Screen: An International Filmography and Videography Neal-Schuman Primo search Shaughnessy, Robert (ed.) (1988) Shakespeare on Film Macmillan Primo search Thompson, Ann (ed.) (1997) Women Reading Shakespeare: An Anthology of Criticism Manchester University Press Primo search Thornton and Wray (eds.) (2000) Shakespeare, Film, Fin de Siecle Macmillan Primo search Wells (ed.) (1986) The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare Studies Hapgood, Robert 'Shakespeare on Film and Television' CUP Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6