Worst Shakespeare Adaptations

I like Shakespeare a lot. I’m one of those kids you hated, but even more so during English lessons, when I enjoyed questioning the plot details of Othello more than was necessary. I didn’t have a clue what I was talking about, but my English teacher was unspeakably hot, and I enjoyed the attention. I’m fortunate that some of my friend’s forgave me for my faults; I like to think that I have some redeeming features which saved my character, like my distinct lack of height. As Gnomeo and Juliet presents itself for inspection this week, it’s time to take role call for those Shakespeare adaptations that have NO saving qualities whatsoever. Join me then, as I point the finger and cry SHAME!

She’s the Man

>Gossiping high-school girls + Soccer (FOOTBALL) + Shakespeare = a princely reward for whoever brings me the head of Amanda Bynes. That’s what you get when the director of Disney’s The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain and menstrually fuelled You Again thinks he’s capable of taking on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Why Andy Fickman? WHY?! There’s no shipwreck, barely any appearance from Sebastian (one half of the play’s centrally important twins), and ultimately, no comedy. Viola (Amanda Bynes) reveals her true female identity to her fellow soccer (FOOTBALL – a sport which NONE of the writers of this film will have ever watched, considering the issue that Viola is somehow subbed out of the big game, only to be put back on again to save the day. Which is impossible) buddies by GETTING HER TITS OUT. Who spent money on these people?! Who left a meeting thinking “That’s going to be a massive success”? WHO CAN I VENT MY RAGE AT?!

Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride

It’s not Shakespeare is it? It flippin’ well is mate. Just as The Lion King is an adaptation of Hamlet without the tragedy (like sex without the other person – pointless, but very safe) Simba’s Pride is an utter hash of Romeo and Juliet. Where the first of the Lion King’s is an altogether brilliant adaptation of a Shakespearean classic, the latter attempt just feels like Disney thought that they’d put another Shakespeare play into the ‘Disney Musical’ machine and see what came out. A mess, in short. It’s more like Grease than Romeo and Juliet. The songs are rubbish, the characters lack anything of the magnitude of the original, and it went straight to video in the UK. This is one that should be lost in the Disney vault for good.

Romeo Must Die

Sticking with the star crossed lovers, for one of the more bold attempts at adapting Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy. Making Shakespeare contemporary is almost as old as the man himself, and many interesting new readings are discovered with each attempt. No complaints then for Romeo Must Die when it sets the romance in modern day Oakland, USA. The complaints rain thick and fast as soon as you find out Romeo is a kung fu wielding ex-cop, out to revenge his murdered brother, and Juliet is some ghetto mob princess. The film resulted in this conversation taking place in Stratford: Man 1: “What’s that?” Man 2: “Oh that, that’s just the sound of old Billy Shake’s furiously spinning in his grave.” I kid you not.


Igao is the coolest bad guy ever created. Ever. Forget your Darth Vader and your Joker – read Othello and soak yourself in how insanely twisted and brilliant Iago is. Now, imagine Josh Hartnett gets called upon to play said villain. And then imagine that instead of Othello being an all powerful ruler, he’s actually just a regular guy who’s really good at Basketball. Well my fellow film lovers, stop imagining it and go see O! That’s what Shakespeare would have wanted. You know, when you’ve seen O, you’ll wonder if Shakespeare himself might have had a hand in the casting, writing and direction of this utterly brilliant film. He didn’t? Oh… the guy missed a trick there. Incidentally, this is the first of two utterly awful Shakespeare adaptations to feature Julia Stiles. You’d think she’d learn?

Get Over It

A film that let Sisqo get near the Bard. How high were they during that casting meeting? I mean, seriously, what the hell was going through their tiny minds when they cast THONG-SONG-SISQUO in a Shakespeare adaptation?! This might be a touch harsh, as Get Over It is only very loosely based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but in my view, if anything comes within so much as a country mile of one of Billy’s plays in the hope that it could sip from the pool of its creative genius and make a quick buck, then they can flipping buck right off. The tag line says it all: “Get dumped. Get pumped. Get even.” And I thought Shakespeare was good…

10 Things I hate about you

Ooooh he went there! Don’t have a go at Heath! Lovely Heath?! I miss Heath as much as the next man (probably not as much as the next woman), and this is by far the best film to appear on a list of Worst Shakespeare Adaptations – but it’s still bad. Taming of the Shrew has so much to offer audiences in its depiction of love and sacrifice. That Julia Stiles is back, reducing Shakespeare’s masterpiece of a female role to nothing more than a high school drama queen. I’m sorry if this film has a special place in your heart. Chances are you probably watched it countless times at girly sleep overs, or found it to be the only thing on Film 4 after 21:00 so thought you’d “see how things turned out”. So long as your realise it makes a mess of a bloody good play, I’m happy to let you keep loving it.

Gnomeo & Juliet

Call this a pre-emptive strike if you will. Just watch the trailer though.

Now, this is a neat conclusion to the moan; at no point do I have any regret that all of these films will introduce new people to the world of Shakespeare, particularly all the kids who’ll see Gnomeo & Juliet – I think that’s great. My only hope is that people will go BEYOND these awful films, and look to the incredible source material behind them. Because if they don’t, then they’re a waste of air.

Rant over. Now, I’m off to watch Twilight, because no one’s ever written a better book about Vampires than Stephenie Meyer. Sorry? Bram who?

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