Shakespeare's Happy Endings, a spoof documentary produced as part of the BBC's 2005 'Shakespea(Re)-Told' season, concludes with a scene outside Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon.1 Here, the erstwhile presenter, Professor Simon Starkman (Patrick Barlow), greets William Shakespeare (Kevin Eldon), welcoming him as the 'man of the millennium' and announcing a surprise celebration in honour of the famous guest. Unfortunately, the church is closed: the vicar has forgotten about the party, no one has bothered to turn up and, in a sublime rendition of bardic demythologising, Shakespeare is reduced to kicking at the doors and battering at a window in an attempt to gain entrance. The dramatist's inability to make a connection with his renowned place of nativity is part of a comic collision between what Shakespeare has come to signify (the commodified rhetoric of the industry) and the 'reality' of an early modern writer revealed as an embarrassing and confused unsophisticate. Certainly, many at the turn of the twentieth century would lend their voices to this debunking assessment. Writing in 1999, Gary Taylor contended that 'Shakespeare's reputation . . . has passed its peak of expansion, and begun to decline', resulting in a diminution of the Bard's 'cultural authority'.2 Richard Burt, surveying the field in 2000, goes one step further, arguing for 'the end of the Shakespearean' or what he terms 'the Shakespeare apocalypse'.3
Lending some support to these views is the smaller number of major Shakespeare films produced in the immediate post-2000 period. If the 1990s represented the heyday of the Bard's screen revival, the 'noughties' have thus far been marked by a less voluminous, or at least less obvious, corpus of screen 'Shakespeares'. Yet, as Shakespeare's Happy Endings also attests, the Bard's name is still one to conjure with; his works continue to reverberate; and the plays persist as repositories of lore and tradition even as they are reworked as salient signifiers of meaning and knowledge.
A brief look at the International Movie Data Base confirms this, with some seventy-six 'Shakespearean' titles being listed between 2000 and 2005 as either in production or having already been released.4 Some of these retain the familiar contours of the multiplex-oriented, star-encrusted feature; others take the form of the so-called 'spin-off' or appropriation, and it is in part towards an appraisal of such varieties and versions of Shakespeare that the current collection is directed. Shakespeare, in the post-2000 period, moves among and between a range of screen incarnations, which encompass adaptations, documentaries, cinema advertisements, post-colonial reinventions and mass media citations, and which test the boundaries of conventional idioms and mediums.
Typical of that twenty-first-century realisation of a screen Shakespeare is an advertising campaign launched by the H&M fashion empire in late 2005. 'Romeo and Juliet' by David Lachapelle, a six-minute film, constitutes a loose rehearsal of Shakespeare's play and is aired both in cinemas and as a playable clip on the H&M website.5 Unfolding in an urban, US environment, the film privileges the fetching attire and appearance of the two leads, Juliet (Tamyra Gray) and Romeo (Gus Carr), mediating its vision of a millennial romance via encrypted reference to a Shakespearean textual authority. Crucial here are the glimpse of the graffiti-sprayed name of 'Paris', which indexes the 'original', the image of Juliet on a fire-escape substituting for the balcony, and the reflection in a window of a billboard announcing a film entitled The Lady Doth Protest.6 These invocations of a not simply circumscribed 'Shakespearean' represent the authenticating rationale for the film, the culture of conjuration and pastiche within which 'Romeo and Juliet' by David Lachapelle affirms its particular logic. And, as the urban environment reveals itself as New York, a further summoning of the Shakespearean comes into view, with West Side Story (dir. Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, 1961), itself a revisiting of Romeo and Juliet, being instanced as another inner-city parable that takes the play into modernity. This Romeo and Juliet is acutely responsive to, and self-conscious about, the 'sources' of its own existence and the histories of revision that intercede in, and give shape to, its imaginative possibility. Both the ghostly background of West Side Story and the titular presence of the fictional Shakespeare film The Lady Doth Protest suggest that in 'Romeo and Juliet' by David Lachapelle the screen pasts of Shakespeare are a function of his current comprehensibility; that is, the ways in which the Bard has been packaged and transmuted through film are the precondition for the work's accessibility and applications, however displaced they might be from their early modern contexts and associations. What transpires in the wake of the authorial, material Shakespeare becomes the conceptual template whereby the play is made familiar.
Hence, it is peculiarly apposite that the film should make a point of consistently invoking other Shakespeare and Shakespeare-related screen outings. The emphasis on fashion - in this case, jeans - is of a piece with the film's reminder of the lineage of Shakespeare's popular culture visibility. The opening menu, for instance, discovers Romeo and Juliet standing against a graffiti-sprayed image of a flaming rose: at once, the composition harks back to the panoply of interrelated flaming hearts and logos deployed in Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare's 'Romeo + Juliet' (1996), thereby elaborating a context in which it is the icon rather than the word that is prioritised. The Luhrmann film is instanced again in the sequence showing the heroine as a descending angel (an allusion to the appearance of Claire Danes as a Botticelli-inspired angel during the party-masque), while Michael Almereyda's Hamlet (2000) lurks behind the fleeting capture of a photo montage adorning the walls of Juliet's bedroom. Films already inscribed with the market stamp of youth culture and urban angst lend their reputations to Lachapelle's advertising utterance, pointing up a modality of articulation and reception in which Shakespeare is 'hip' and in which an affiliation with the Bard is as cool and current as the acquisition of the latest designer label.
Interestingly, where West Side Story and William Shakespeare's 'Romeo + Juliet' privilege urban life as an ethnic war zone involving, respectively, Puerto Rican and Polish American youth, and Anglo and Latino rival groupings, 'Romeo and Juliet' by David Lachapelle subscribes to a vaguely and ambiguously racialised constituency that belies any straightforward identification. Described on the H&M website as a 'true icon' who 'appeals to a wide range of ages and ethnicities', Gus Carr (Romeo) might be characterised as Asian or Latino or a combination of the two; similarly, although black, Tamyra Gray (Juliet) inhabits the aesthetically whitened extreme of the Afro-American experience. Ethnic specificity is not the point; instead, it is the notion of a free-floating and cross-cultural ethnicity defined by transatlantic parameters that 'Romeo and Juliet' by David Lachapelle asks its audience to countenance. In this connection, the film brings to mind what Mary C. Beltran has described as the 'new Hollywood racelessness': in action movies such as Romeo Must Die (dir. Andrzej Bartkowiak, 2000) and The Fast and the Furious (dir. Rob Cohen, 2001), she argues, 'mixed-race individuals' who nevertheless subscribe to a 'white ethos' embrace 'identities that are achieved through the . . . sharing of music, fashion and cultural forms . . . rather than by [an acceptance of] former ethnic . . . allegiances and in-group prejudices'.7 Such a vision of 'cultural métissage', to adopt a formulation of Ronald Niezen, is, as Beltrân goes on to suggest, a reflection of 'contemporary shifts in US demographics' as well as 'concerns regarding . . . the nation's burgeoning . . . creolization'.8 'Romeo and Juliet' by David Lachapelle models itself along the lines of these 'raceless' narratives: devotion to a product, if only briefly, is seen to be preferable to absorption in a community, and expectations about conflict are resolved in the spectacle of an ethnically diluted, and accessory-driven, homogeneity.
On the one hand, a 'raceless' Romeo and Juliet would seem to lend credence to notions about Shakespearean universality as it is mediated through the mechanisms and accompaniments that characterise film in its post-millennial manifestations. Thus, the Lachapelle film features a soundtrack of two songs, one of which, 'When I First Saw You', is performed by Mary J. Blige. This 'confessional singer', the website informs us, is possessed of 'an inner strength' and 'raw honesty [that are] used to tackle . . . personal pain, [so that her] uncompromising recordings reveal the universality of [her] heartaches and demonstrate the healing power of music'. Arresting here is the implied juxtaposition of the singer and the heroine, to the extent that this Romeo and Juliet becomes, in some senses, Juliet's story or, at least, her attempt at the articulation of suffering and psychological reparation. But more striking is the idea that the confessional form, because it rests upon a Shakespearean 'original', is listened to over and above the confines of the film's New York locations. Emerging from the construction of a narrative free of clearly demarcated ethnic markings is the representation of a personal journey that achieves a transcendently communicative efficacity. The song relies for its presumed effect upon Shakespeare, and Shakespeare is the guarantor of its 'soulful' appeal.
On the other hand, to argue for a 'universal' Romeo and Juliet is to ignore the details of any film's political and ideological underpinnings. 'Romeo and Juliet' by David Lachapelle is no exception to this rule for, as much as the film gestures towards a whitened value system that traverses the restrictions of place and history, so does it betray both the structures of thought that lend its conceptions shape and the larger contemporary contexts that inform its mindset. Originally a clothing outlet founded in Stockholm in 1947, H&M has subsequently grown into a worldwide consortium, with stores in over twenty countries across the US, Canada and Europe. New York's flagship H&M store opened in 2005 with a timeliness that, given the Lachapelle film, cannot have been unintended. For all of its Swedish antecedents, then, H&M is a fashion empire distinguished by a global frame of reference and, as we will see, by particularly American representational methods and interpretive tendencies. For example, Tamyra Gray, who both plays Juliet and performs the other song on the soundtrack, 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going', is a former near-miss winner of American Idol, the syndicated pop contestant show that has recently entered its fifth season on the Fox television channel. Part of a global export network, American Idol testifies to the competitive cult of manufactured celebrity that characterises the US in the twenty-first century even as it expresses an illusion of traditions of meritocracy that contributed to the nation's ideological complexion.
Perhaps the most revealing moment of 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going' comes when, in a seemingly innocuous diegetic detail, the song lyrics interact with the filmic image. Previously, Romeo's killer is identified as a gunman who, from a passing car, unaccountably aims a fatal shot at the hapless lover. Because the killer is hooded, and the audience is granted only a brief glimpse of his eyes, a parallel is afforded with the infamous Carl Juste photograph 'Mask' (1994), which shows an anonymous hooded Haitian migrant detained at the US military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.9 The reminder of 'Mask' encourages further identifications, not least with constructions of Muslim and/or Islamic extremists: the stereotype of the lone, crazed assassin has in the US, in particular, acquired a fearful currency. The point is that this does not connote the ethnic gang disputes of the ghetto or, indeed, of previous film versions of Romeo and Juliet; rather, the hero's death is symptomatic of the attitudes informing American foreign policy, and participates in what Ken Booth and Tim Dunne have termed elsewhere 'a global war against terrorism'.10 Crucially, the gunman appears as a black 'other': his is the film's most conventionally ethnicised appearance. Yet, towards the end, another view of the -now police-escorted - killer is granted. The hood is pulled back and the countenance is repentant as the lines from the Tamyra Gray song sound: 'We're part of the same place, / We're part of the same time, / We will share the same love, / We both share the same mind'. Ostensibly, the 'we' are the star-crossed lovers themselves; however, judged alongside such fundamentalist rhetoric of identicalness, 'we' simultaneously signals the born-again spirit of US patriotism. The moral conversion of Romeo's murderer makes sense inside this framework, the assumption being that the American people, regardless of ethnic affiliation, share a common goal and must band together against the outsider. At a deeper remove, the assassin's repentance, and the suggestion that he has already been punished, justifies the aggressive military tactics of the Bush administration. In the post 9/11 moment, there can be no differences, only unity: racial alterity is absorbed or incorporated, and 'racelessness' comes to serve a politically expedient purpose. The quotation from The Merchant of Venice - 'I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you' - that adorns a shop awning is in keeping with this orientation, suggesting, as it does, fraternisation rather than rejection, intercourse rather than ostracisation.11 But, in a rare instance of ironic counterpoint, the Shylock citation also works against itself, alluding to earlier US relations with Iraq, a history of trade in armaments, and a complicity in the engendering and perpetuation of authoritarian regimes. 'Romeo and Juliet' by David Lachapelle styles itself to rehearse the concerns of a world in which US attitudes and actions are often dominant, at the same time as it dispassionately withdraws from the informing determinants that are among the conditions of its own production.
Ultimately, of course, both the evident presence of Shakespeare, and the more muted reminder of US foreign policy, must give way in the film to its primary directive, which is to sell the product. Here, Shakespeare comes into his post-millennial own, being mortgaged to, and deployed in promoting, the narrative's commercial requirements. The Merchant of Venice quotation is a subliminal part of this imperative: so, too, is the shop awning reference to The Two Gentlemen of Verona - 'Win her with gifts' - and the general equation of romance, youth and the designer lifestyle.12 Contrary to the hood, which obscures the identity of the gunman, the jeans worn by Romeo and Juliet have an individuating effect. That, at least, is the claim of the film's website, which states: 'Each &denim pair are different . . . created . . . for the fashion of today and the one we will honour tomorrow'. As this parodic recasting of the language of the marriage service suggests, the '&denim' range of jeans is conceived of internally rather than externally, as the carrier of a sublime virtue rather than the demonstration of a must-have materiality. Jeans with the H&M label, therefore, are 'true . . . companions in long and honest relationships': they are purveyors not so much of momentary needs as timeless realities. There is a purposeful blurring here with one cultural construction of Shakespeare: like the Bard, whose works live on in the popular imaginary, '&denim' jeans will survive vicissitude. Or, to put it another way, the wearer/consumer enjoys a personal and permanent connection with his/her clothes, filling out the vacant space preceding the '&' and responding affirmatively to the invitation to buy the item and complete the romantic circuit.13 Canonically entrenched ideas about the ageless applications of Shakespeare recur in the part of the menu devoted to the jeans themselves. Different styles are represented, variously, as 'loyal', 'classic' and 'original': the descriptors deployed suggest that, by acquiring a particular garment, the consumer partakes of, and comes to inhabit, precisely that Shakespearean attribute. To enjoy '&denim', it is implied, is to become acculturated, to claim a past that has a present purchase and an assured future. Inside this semi-otic structure, all is geared towards facilitating the interested party and bolstering an impression of his/her buying power. Such a process is hinted at in the on-screen message at the close, 'With Love From H&M', which equates the experience of watching the film with the receipt of a gift. Yet, within this economy, to be so honoured is simultaneously to enter a system of debt and exchange whereby the primary act of giving must be responded to and repaid. 'Romeo and Juliet' by David Lachapelle endows consumers with 'values' that span more than one cultural category, that privilege and implicate in the interests of broadcasting the '& denim' range's multivalent irresistibility.
Given the interplay between recollection and fantasy that makes up 'Romeo and Juliet' by David Lachapelle, it is unclear which of the film's endings is granted priority. The penultimate sequence discovers Juliet seizing Romeo's mobile phone in order to shoot his assassin, yet the final composition displays the lovers reclining on a bed, barely moving as they gaze at each other adoringly. Vengeance is entertained, but so, too, are ideas about resurrection, survival, a shared approach to death and the embrace of an alternative reality. The confusion is, in fact, integral to the broader workings of the film: via the selection of jeans the consumer is encouraged to make particular narrative choices. Viewers are placed in the position of mixing and matching various readings of Shakespeare's play as part of the process whereby the desirability of the product is reified. Thus, it is not so much the case that, as the website informs us, 'the importance of fashion yields to the forces of true love'; rather, the ending(s) of the film reveal how a conservative construction of Shakespearean 'love' is the instrument through which 'fashion' is affirmed: the consumer is empowered at the level of narrative in order to be targeted in the extra-filmic economy. Because of these narrative layerings, 'Romeo and Juliet' by David Lachapelle emerges as no straightforward filmic statement. It represents a collocation of texts to be decoded as much as it appears as a cross-media tie-in for the latest initiative of the global garment industry. A work in which Shakespeare is himself a brand or an implied icon, this Romeo and Juliet is part homage, part imitation, part trailer, part promotion, part PC experience. As such, Lachapelle's 'film' illustrates in abundance the signature features of Shakespearean filmmaking in the new millennium.
The essays assembled in the present volume confirm that Shakespeare is a magnet for negotiations about style, value and cultural identity. At the same time, the reverberations set up by his name facilitate screen reflections upon the operations of history and the nature of representation - the legacies of the past as they play themselves out in present circumstances. Shakespeare, the chapters argue, is frequently made understandable via an intertextual apparatus; that is, an always-already mediatised Bard is put into the service of discussions about, variously, place, locale and class in a range of contexts. The lineages through which Shakespeare is constituted in the post-millennial moment facilitate explorations into race, ethnicity and multiculturalism, across nations and formats, even as they shore up the romantic charge of his works' deployments. Indeed, it is precisely because of Shakespeare's prior and continuing absorption in popular culture that, in filmic guise, his plays are enabled to broach a spectrum of local and global twenty-first-century concerns, from the dangers of terrorism to the workings of a 'McDonaldised' world. And, as Shakespeare's association with authority and authenticity are the cues for film production, so, too, is his cultural leverage reinforced by his being marketed as a mystery that is still to be deciphered, despite the knowable qualities that his plays appear to epitomise.
As Shakespeare's Happy Endings suggests, culture after the millennium is still drawn to, if not haunted by, popular constructions promising to illuminate Shakespeare as author. Richard Dutton's provocative opening essay in this collection addresses In Search of Shakespeare, arguing that the persistent privileging of the presenter, Michael Wood, is key to the 2003 series' initiative - to 'discover' the Bard through subjecting him to a rigorous 'searching' process. Moving nimbly between scholarly accretions and media interpretations, Dutton analyses the ways in which Shakespeare's life is transformed into a 'whodunit' through the documentary's zealous use of unscripted conversation, insets of performance and stylised images. The result, it is argued, is the production of 'a Shakespeare for the twenty-first century', one who was always 'unseen', self-effacing and purposefully elusive both in his writing and in his material relations with authority. The thesis that this is a politicised Shakespeare, whose need for dark secrecy captures the mood of the present moment, chimes unerringly with Mark Thornton Burnett's contention that Shakespeare and surveillance are familiar post-millennial bedfellows. For him, Shakespeare on screen is penetrated by the broader strategies and methods that define and control the subject in modernity; hence, in post-2000 film versions of Hamlet, Burnett argues, surveillance is everywhere apparent as a practice that bespeaks cinema's sensitivity to the relations between incarcerating visual regimes and a terror-haunted world. Concentrating on three very differently produced Hamlets which, nevertheless, share surprisingly similar thematic connections, Burnett shows how new modes of seeing are integral to the endeavour to establish both forms of political understanding and possibilities for social and cultural emancipation. In this way, through representation of the organisational bases of surveillance, these Hamlet films draw a heightened attention to the ways in which Shakespeare and optical systems of power form part of a symbiotic and mutually reinforcing dialectic.
Just as Burnett detects a marked change of emphasis in post-2000 versions of Hamlet, so does Richard Burt find Stage Beauty (dir. Richard Eyre, 2004) to be a twenty-first-century transfiguration of its twentieth-century precursor, Shakespeare in Love (dir. John Madden, 1998). He suggests that the film's interest in the fortunes of Othello in an imaginary Restoration theatre argues both for a break in an earlier filmic tradition interested in stagings of Shakespeare and for a 'post-post-colonial Shakespeare', a Bard enmeshed in a still unfolding trajectory of racial impersonation and parody. Consistently, racial marking has a subversive edge, avers Burt, who positions the film's challenge to prevailing cinematic codes governing race as part of a responsiveness to a newly transnational Shakespeare. Close analysis of 'fakery' and performance aesthetics inside a global film industry allows Burt to claim convincingly and controversially that Stage Beauty's final effect is unwittingly to point up the inherent provinciality of the forms through which a raced Shakespeare might adequately be transmitted. Courtney Lehmann's understanding of provinciality occupies a contrasting register, moving as it does from the workings of race to a grammar of place. Her contribution, alive to the interplay between time and history that identifies the post-millennial Shakespeare, argues that, in My Kingdom (dir. Don Boyd, 2001), a 'post-nostalgic' yearning for a Liverpool that was is held in ideological equipoise with the shaping realities of late capitalism and post-9/11 paranoia. The city, Lehmann suggests, is a place poised at a crossroads made up of regret for an earlier glory, and aspiration for rehabilitation and improvement. It is such a doubled perspective that permits the film to read King Lear according to a twenty-first-century paradigm that involves fascinating reflections upon the formation of global polity and anticipations of a reinvigorated species of postmodernity.
In their chapter, Susanne Greenhalgh and Robert Shaughnessy address intersections between the local and the global, the urban and the rural, and the 'native' and the 'migrant' in order to pinpoint the multicultural status of the contemporary Shakespeare. Focusing on British television's evolving prioritisation of ethnicity and multiculturalism as essential modalities for Shakespearean interpretation and dissemination, their discussion ranges impressively across documentaries, dramas, adaptations, educational programmes and musical scores. In a Britain where colour-blind casting and the multicultural performance of Shakespeare have become increasingly normative, Greenhalgh and Shaughnessy make a case for the operation of a genuinely new dynamic of cultural 'fusion' in a growing body of post-2000 Asian work. Small-scale productions of Shakespeare, such as Twelfth Night (dir. Tim Supple, 2003) and Indian Dream (dir. Roger Goldby, 2003), give way in the next chapter to globally marketed and multiplex-targeted screen realisations. The subject of Samuel Crowl's chapter is The Merchant of Venice (dir. Michael Radford, 2004), a film which secured international distribution via MGM and Sony Classics and which, it is suggested, displays in its ideological orientation an intriguing essentialist alliance with some recent literary criticism, including Stephen Greenblatt's best-selling Will in the World. Crowl posits the importance of a relation that both demonstrates the symbiotic relationship enjoyed by film and literary analysis and marks a significant turning-point in attitudes towards, and constructions of, Shakespeare's play. The twenty-first-century The Merchant of Venice, the essay concludes, is striking for playing up the perils of a global system in which religious revivals, and sectarian intolerances, are everywhere apparent. Complementing and complicating the perspective of Radford's film is the first full-length Shakespeare film to be made in New Zealand and the first full-length Maori Shakespeare film. Catherine Silverstone's discussion of The Maori Merchant of Venice (dir. Don Selwyn, 2001) demonstrates some of the tensions that inhere in 'intercultural' performances of Shakespeare, where Shakespeare's texts are produced in the context of local knowledges and traditions. While The Maori Merchant of Venice takes pains to showcase Maori language (te reo) and heritage, it does so unevenly and uncertainly: traumas of past tensions and inequities are conjured in the effort to bypass memory and imagine a better, 'intercultural' future. Indeed, it is as an articulation of the 'future-past' that the film functions most cogently, with histories of land dispossession and violence being revived in the same moment as a post-millennial impulse towards mutually satisfactory integrationist policies is formulated.
An essay that deals with the legacies of colonisation is followed by one devoted to exploring a filmic reworking of what has come to be regarded as a salient colonial statement - Shakespeare's Henry V. Almost twenty years ago, Kenneth Branagh's Henry V (1989) kicked off the Shakespeare film boom of the 1990s, but, as Sarah Hatchuel writes in her contribution, Peter Babakitis' Henry V (2004), in conception, method and execution, is intriguingly nuanced by comparison. Available only inside the conference and convention circuit, the film draws upon the popular genre of docu-drama and mobilises pre-existing media representations of the invasion of Iraq in order to promote a sense of historical realism. At the same time, Hatchuel argues, the use of digital stylisation in the realisation of Henry counters moves towards verisimilitude and creates a distancing effect: the two forms co-exist in a tense rapport that underscores an ultimately mythologised reading of the protagonist at the new millennium. If Babakitis is one of the many directors defining himself in complex opposition to the Shakespeare films of the 1980s and 1990s, then this is a procedure also common to the numerous 'spin-off' Shakespeare films that have proliferated since 2000. As Carolyn Jess-Cooke argues in her chapter, screen 'Shakespeares' after the millennium, despite internal differences and international market distribution, are marked by a curious homogeneity and indebtedness in the extent to which they cannibalise, sequelise and entertain a 'repetition compulsion'. This, following recent developments in cultural theory, Jess-Cooke labels 'McDonaldisation', which she defines as a commercialising rehash of the work of a Hollywood film industry marked by a general poverty of imaginative energy. Yet her essay argues against a summary dismissal of the films discussed in that they make available routes though cultural diversity, throw light on the imperial legacies of the present era, draw a necessary attention to the politics of reterritorialisation, and establish discursive fields within which Shakespeare might be newly negotiated. In this way, Jess-Cooke's argument imaginatively appreciates the significance of 'spin-offs' for an understanding of what Shakespeare 'means' in, and to, popular culture in the twenty-first century.
It is precisely such an absorption in popular culture that Ramona Wray elaborates in her discussion of the 2005 'Shakespeare (Re)-Told' season. Addressing the latest Shakespearean incarnations, Wray argues for a contemporary purchase on Shakespearean comedy, one capable of accommodating the genre's characteristic intransigence in exciting and original ways. Jointly foregrounding identical popular television genres, character types and contemporary media debate, Much Ado About Nothing and The Taming of the Shrew, Wray argues, demonstrate an assured sense of modern equivalents for Shakespearean comedy and a considered awareness of the ways in which post-feminist understandings operate. Particularly distinctive, in a transformed sexual economy, are the means whereby modern-language adaptation is capable of pushing into productive proximity early modern constructions of gender and twenty-first-century reflections upon life-work balance and male-female relations. Both adaptations suggest the ongoing vibrancy of the Shakespearean word, the utility of his applications and the complexion of his current manifestations. They point, too, to constructions of Shakespeare that are more thematically demanding, and less ironically strident, than the conclusion to Shakespeare's Happy Endings would appear to offer. Despite views to the contrary, Shakespeare has been drained neither of 're-telling' potential nor of the energy of his imprimatur. His 'endings' are not so much the stuff of millennial unhappiness as they are the material for an unfolding series of interrogations and interpretations, a sequence of screen Shakespeares that promises a new chapter, another beginning.
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