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Suiting the action to the word: examining genre film remediations of Shakespeare’s plays

Pope, L. (2020) Suiting the action to the word: examining genre film remediations of Shakespeare’s plays. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

My research is interested in examining the remediated forms of the Shakespeare genre film. In order to achieve this, my thesis asks the following question: “Why Shakespeare in this Form?” The research question interrogates how the adaptation of Shakespeare’s playtexts speaks through the iconographic codes and conventions of cinematic genres, and why the genre film provides such a rich vehicle for Shakespeare. It is my purpose to examine and establish the artistic, narrative and structural correlations between Shakespeare’s dramatic form (the narrative and theatrical codes, and conventions) and those popular cinema genres which remediate Shakespeare’s narratives (visual icons, narrative tropes, conventions which travel across media boundaries). Representing the playtexts through the narrative codes, conventions and iconography of popular Hollywood film genres, the remediated Shakespeare genre film produces, in Neale’s words, a ‘multi-faceted phenomenon’ (2000: 25). Directing the players newly arrived in Elsinore, Hamlet advises that their performance should ‘Suit the action to the word, the word to the action’ (H.III.ii.17-18). This thesis examines how the reflexively remediated Shakespeare genre film responds to questions of suiting the iconographies of the action of cinema to the words and verbal imagery of Shakespeare’s playtexts. Direction for this research is provided by examinations focusing upon sequences of demonstrable depicted action (scenes of gestural movement), described action (the transposition of verbal imagery into genre convention), iconographic themes or leitmotifs (devices representative of narrative meaning), and plot (or narrative). What transpires is the result of merging early modern dramatic traditions with cinematic conventions of filmic narrativity and exploits the capabilities of the cinematic medium to produce a spectacle of remediation. Examining the narrative and audio-visual correlations between Shakespeare’s plays and their remediated genre vehicles involves analysing the dynamism of performed action, the aestheticism of narrative action, and the entertainment contexts in which the adaptations were made, as well as engaging with scholarly debates about the same.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:O'Brien, A.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Arts and Communication Design
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
ID Code:88955
Date on Title Page:2019

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