Courtesy TrekToday.com comes the news that Patrick Stewart will star in a modern-day filmed adaptation of The Merchant of Venice. Captain Picard in Las Vegas reciting William Shakespeare?… Well, two out of three ain't bad.
I have a love-hate relationship with the Bard — he almost kept me from graduating from high school — but I find his works more palatable when correlated with my preferred media of musical and film. Engaging in five community theater productions a year, I enjoyed my most recent experience participating in Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate — a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew. (But I've not seen the more modern, less musical adaptation of his classic tale, that being Ten Things I Hate About You.)
I extended this penchant for connections and adaptations a few years ago, when I took a remedial college course on Shakespeare and his work. The professor offered us a number of topics on which to write our term paper, but none of them were about Hamlet. Having learned the prince's famous monologue from watching Johnny Carson, I noticed three movies take their titles from the soliloquy: To Be or Not to Be; What Dreams May Come; and The Undiscovered Country (Star Trek VI). I focused on one and produced a paper comparing Hamlet to Jack Benny's role in his 1942 comedy (not Mel Brooks' 1983 remake). The paper, entitled "Your Country or Your Life", was fun to write and even more fun to present — with selected clips from the film — at a regional Shakespeare conference.
So I guess my qualm isn't with the material, but with the presentation. Put it in a more popular, easily consumable format, and I'll happily bear witness to the staying power of the Bard. But as originally written? Give me The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) anyday.