Literary Criticism/Shakespeare Our Contemporary

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Literary Criticism
Shakespeare Our Contemporary


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Shakespeare Our Contemporary is the title of one of three elective papers for A level Literature in English in Hong Kong. Students who take this elective study three Shakespearean texts in depth and are required to draw comparisons between them and contemporary works. The set texts for the 2009 exam are Richard III, Much Ado About Nothing and a selection of Sonnets: 6, 20, 37, 55, 59, 91, 104, 128, 147.

On this page, students can record their comments on similarities that they have noticed between works by Shakespeare and contemporary works such as films, song lyrics, television programmes, advertisements, contemporary poems etc. DO NOT RESTRICT YOUR COMPARISONS TO FILMS _ YOU NEED TO DEMONSTRATE A BROADER UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT CONTEMPORARY CULTURE IS. They can also amend or add to other students' comments. In this way, students will be able to build up a portfolio of critical observations about contemporary texts of their own choice and be able to reflect on and respond to other students' submissions so that they can engage in collaborative learning.

Please include a brief review of the work you are comparing with Shakespeare and a comment on any similarities including themes, style, structure and tone. Quotations from both the contemporary work and the Shakespeare text would be useful, as would external links.

Revision: Themes

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Useful quotations: "I love thee against my will."

"I, made lame by Bear dearest spite Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth."

"I in thy abundance am sufficed" - Shakepeare loves the man (his patron?) because he is wealthy and provides him with what he needs.

"Mine be thy love and thy Bearss use their treasure."

Shakespeare wants to love the man and be loved by him in psychological sense. Yet he does not want sexual act with this man. To Shakespeare, the sexual intercourse with women is only profit-aiming - to produce heirs. This profit can be achieved by using women's 'treasure', no love is required. As "nature" herself falls in love with the man also and wants pleasure from him by "adding one thing to (Shakespeare's) purpose nothing", Bear would let his "master mistress" to satisfy women's "treasure", but Shakespeare would be the only one whom the young man truly loves.

"Can the world buy such a jewel?", "In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on" -- Claudio is comparing Hero with a piece of priceless jewel because in everyone's eyes their lover is the most beautiful in the world.

"With Happy rocks, with sickness, or with hunger, my lord, not with love: prove that ever I lose more blood, with love than I will get again with drinking."

"I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviors to love, will, after he hath laughed at, such shallow follies in others, become the argument of his own scorn by failing in love."

"but love may transform me to an oyster; but I'll take my oath on it, till he have made an oyster of me" - Benedick is indicating that when a person falls in love, he or she will become foolish and lose his reason because of passion, it is like oysters which do not have limbs and are brainless.

"I make my love engrafted to this store."

What do these quotations show us about Shakespeare's attitude towards romantic love? Spiritual love? Love between men and women? Love between men?

Sex and Sexuality

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"My love is as a fever."

Love is compared to a fever/ disease because this love may lead to moral corruption, the poet does not want it but cannot control his passion and lust.

"Uncertain sickly appetite."

"Desire is death."

"Rage in savage sensuality."

"Wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them."

Sonnet 128

"Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap."

On the surface, Shakespeare reveals his jealousy of the audience to the Dark Lady, who is playing the harpsicord for them, with her "nimble" fingers leaping on the keyboard. On the other hand, Shakespeare implies that the Dark Lady is having her fingers in contact with the men's penis, as "jacks" is in fact the slang term for "penis".

"At the wood's boldness by thee blushing stand! To be so tickled they would change their state."

Again, on one hand, Shakespeare describes how the Dark Lady plays the harpsicord with her fingers "tickling" the wooden keyboard; but on the other hand, another sexual inneudo exists: the lady might be using her fingers to tickle the other men's penis, thus the penis "would change their state", meaning erection of the penis.

"Since saucy jacks so happy are in this."

In its innocent meaning, Shakespeare describes how he knows the Lady (and her fingers) enjoys playing the harpsichord. But this phrase is actually innuendo because various words have double meanings. 'Jacks' can mean the lady's fingers or the man's penis and 'saucy' can mean cheeky or physically saucy, which would refer to the semen produced.

"Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss."

On the surface, Shakespeare wants the Dark Lady to give entertainment to other men by playing the harpsichord with her fingers, but reserving her lips for him to kiss, showing his love for the lady and he only wants the lady to love him alone; however, Shakespeare also implies that the lady should "give (the other penis) (her) fingers", but using "(her) lips" for Shakespeare's, this is in fact a request for fellatio.

Much Ado about Nothing

"O, when she had writ it and was reading it over, she found 'Benedick' and 'Beatrice' between the sheet." (Act 2 Scene 3)


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"A second time I kill my husband dead When second husband kisses me in bed." - Hamlet is mocking at his mother's ignorance and hinting to her that there is some "foul play" concerning is father's death, that she does not know that she has been having sex with the murderer for so long.

"Father and mother is man and wife; Man and wife is one flesh; And so, my mother!" - Hamlet implies that old Hamlet and Getrude are a pair becauuse their marriage and bond cannot be broken by Claudius even Getrude is remarried to him. He does not regconize his uncle's role as his stepfather.

"In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke."-- Don Pedro (Marriage is something that ties down/ tames/ traps wild men, and gives them burden & hardwork.)

"I can see a church by daylight"-- Beatrice in Much Ado. Beatrice meant she can see a church so that she can avoid marriage. She expressed her hatred towards marriage or maybe she is just saying that to protect herself.


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Useful quotations: "The world must be peopled."

"That use is not forbidden usury... That's for thyself to breed another thee."

Shakespeare seems to find sexual attraction threatening and disturbing, yet he sees marriage and procreation as a fundamental duty. How do you explain this apparent paradox?

This paradox is workable. Shakespeare views marriage and procreation as a tool in order to fulfill the fundamental duty - to make "the world" to "be peopled". In sonnet 6, Shakespeare compares sexual intercourse and breeding of children with the process of borrowing loans and receiving interest; men plays the part of lending his "loans", which means his "beauty" or semen, and the "usury" he receives will be his children, and through this he successfully achieves his "fundamental duty".

However, Shakespeare feels uncomfortable and disturbed when he cannot control his desire and lust because sex then now involves selfish motive -- to satisfy one's wants. He thinks that if he has sexual intercourse with women out of passion and lust it will lead to moral corruption. Therefore, in sonnet 6, he as well writes "be not self-willed"; implying that one should not be indulged in sexual desires.

Death and decay

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Useful quotations: "Thou know'st 'tis common; All that lives must die."

"We fat all creatures else to fat us and we fat ourselves for maggots."

Sonnet 6: "Be not self-will'd, for thou art much too fair to be death's conquest and make worms thine heir"
- Shakespeare reminds the young man not to be selfish and obsessed in himself; he should try to breed children in order to fight against aging and death. Another reason for him to do so is because of his fair and beauty; the young man is too beautiful in Shakespeare's eyes therefore he does not deserve to die without children and let the worms to be the only one to profit from his beauty. He has to breed children to avoid being conquered by death and to live in posterity.

"Death is the fairest cover for her shame"

Immortality and memory

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Sonnet 6

"Leaving thee living in posterity."

The poet is persuading the patron to "breed another thee", so that he can live in his "posterity". As the patron will be genetically connected with his offsprings,he can live in them and be 'immortal'. The poet is suggesting that having children will help the patron escape from death; he will live on forever, as his "beauty's treasure" is shared by his following generations.

"Hear this, thou age unbred."


"Adieu, adieu, Hamlet. Remember me."

The Ghost of King Hamlet keeps on reminding the prince to "remember" his most unnatural death, and he requests Hamlet to make justice - to take revenge against his uncle Claudius, who is the murderer. For this, Hamlet should always bear his father's death in mind.

"Report me and my cause aright to the unsatisfied."

Hamlet asks Horatio to live and tell other people, the future generations about the true story about his life and death.

Sonnet 55

"That wear this world out to the ending doom."

"You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes"

"Not marble nor the gilded monuments Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme."

There seem to be many different ways of achieving immortality or being remembered - through children, through fame, through the loyalty of those who seek justice on your behalf after you are dead, and through Christian resurrection. Which of these did Shakespeare consider most important?

Reality and illusion

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"As you were when first your eye I eyed, Such seems your beauty still."

"Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not seems... I have that within which passes show, These but the trappings and the suits of woe."

"So full of artless jealousy is guilt It spills itself in fearing to be spilt."

"Out on thy seeming... You seem to me as Dian in her orb But you are more intemperate in your blood Than Venus or her pampered animals."

"Not acquainted With shifting change as is false women's fashion."

Physical beauty

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"A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted"

In sonnet 20, Shakespeare shows his compliment for the young man's beauty; the young man has a face as beautiful as a woman, and his beauty is natural and not contaminated by cosmetics. Here also suggests the young man's double sexuality.

"I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright Who art as black as hell and dark as night."

"God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another."

"In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that I ever looked on." - Claudio immediately falls for Hero's attractive appearance without even first speaking to her/getting to know her. Shallow, superficial love.


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"I do spy some marks of love in her."


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"I will assume thy part in some disguise, And tell fair Hero I am Claudio", "And the conclusion is, she shall be thine." -- Don Pedro.

"I am sure you know him (Benedick) well enough" -- Beatrice, "Not I, believe me" -- Benedick.

"And that is Claudio. I know him by his bearing" -- Borachio; "Are you not Signor Benedick?" -- Don John, "You know me well. I am he." -- Claudio.

"'T's certain so; the prince woos for himself. Friendship is constant in all other things save in the office and affairs of love." --Claudio (a mistaken deception)

"Proof enough to misuse the Prince, to vex Claudio, to undo Hero and kill Leonato." -- Borachio.

"I came hither to tell you...- the lady is disloyal.","Even she-..., everyone's Hero." -- Don John

"She's limed. I warrant you. We have caught her, madam." -- Ursula.

"let every eye negotiate for itself" "And trust no agent" -- Claudio (He means that you should only trust what you see and not everyone else.) (This is ironic because he trusted Don John about Hero and Don Pedro when he didn't see for himself.)

"Your daughter here the princes left for dead. Let her a while be secretly kept in, and publish it that she is dead indeed." -- Friar

"It were as possible for me to say I loved nothing so well as you. But believe me not, and yet I lie not. I confess nothing nor I deny nothing..." -- Beatrice (self-deception about her love and affection to Benedick. But in the end, Beatrice confesses her love to Benedick and so does Benedick.)

"Tomorrow morning come you to my house, ... you could not be my son-in-law, be yet my nephew. My brother hath a daughter almost the copy of my child that's dead." -- Leonato

In what circumstances did Shakespeare consider deception to be morally justified?

Considered the above statements, Shakespeare considered deceptions that are morally justified are Friar's plan to make Hero appeared dead to others while keeping her secretly for later revelation of the truth as well as Leonato's deception of having a nephew who looks like Hero.

This is because Hero is really innocent and has been wrongly accused of her virginity. She is a virgin throughout and has remained loyal and faithful to Claudio. Shakespeare planned to employ Friar to help the hopeless yet innocent lady solely out of the issue of fairness and protection of the rights that are deserved to those well-behaved ones. More than that, after having acquired the fact that her daughter is virtually innocent, Leonato makes sure that Claudio would make a formal apology to his good child by lying about Hero's death. Both Friar and Leonato's deceptions are morally justified by Shakespeare as the ending of the play is that Hero resurrects from the past, enabling her to start a new life with Claudio by getting married which marks the important element in a comedy.

Unlike Hero and Claudio, Don John and Borachio are being punished at the end of the play for taking the roles of villains so heavily. This shows that Shakespeare disliked the dirty acts done by these antagonists. In other words, they deserve the right kind of penalisation.

Revision: Dramatic/ Narrative Devices

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Make notes on how Shakespeare uses these narrative devices in the set texts, and with what effect.

Foreshadowing -Much Ado about Nothing Balthasar's song in Act 2 Scene 3 suggests the wickedness of men - deception. "Sigh no more, ladies...Men were deceivers ever, one foot on sea, and one on shore, to one thing constant never." This foreshadows Claudio's sudden rejection to marry the innocent Hero which seems to Hero, a deception made by Claudio as a way to poke fun on the supposed solemn marriage merely out of male absolute power. The comfort made by the singer, 'Then sigh not so, but let them go,...converting all your sounds of woe into hey nonny..." also seems to imply that Hero would experience the pain because of man's deception. As the lyric suggests, Hero is being wronged and Claudio breaks her heart after being disgraced in the wedding.

Benedick's total change of his attitude towards Beatrice right after eavesdropping the conversation between his friends also points to the fact that men are usually deceiful. They don't hold their own belief firmly but instead change a lot.


- Hamlet
At the end of Act I Scene 2, Horatio comes in and tells Hamlet about the Ghost. To find out more about the Ghost, Hamlet tells his fellows that he will visit them "'twixt eleven and twelve" in the midnight. The scene ends after Hamlet says "(he) (doubts) some foul play" as ghosts often have something to be dealt with if they come back to the human world. Suspense is thus created, audience will be questioning about the true purpose of the Ghost, however they have to wait till the midnight scene to find out more about the truth.


Poetic justice


Dramatic structure

Revision: Imagery

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Example of Metaphor: 1) "Can the world buy such a jewel?" "Yes, and a case to put it into." Hero is being describe as a piece of jewel to Claudio which can be a praise to Hero's status. Moreover, this also reflects the passive role of women being involved in marriage like a transaction in Elizabethan time. Women were powerless and being regarded as luxuries (jewel) to enrich men's social status.

Maybe this also implies that men at that time used women as a means to inherit the family wealth ,as both reflected by "jewel" and Claudio's question about Leonato's heir,"Hath Leonato any son?".

Example of Simile: 1) "he wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat; it ever changes with the next block." Beatrice is being sarcastic about Benedick's behaviors. The song lyric which was once sang by Balthasar, the singer in "Men were deceivers ever, one foot on sea and one on shore, to one thing constant never.", echoes this idea from Beatrice about men's frequent or even sudden changes in their attitudes. This works well for Benedick as he later accepts the hearsay about Beatrice is madly in love with him, he thought that he should requite the love and justifies his concept about 'the world should be peopled'. That's why he changes his attitude towards women from being misogynistic to gradually friendly and open to them.

2) "Is it possible disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick?" -- Beatrice.

3) "wooing, wedding, and repenting, is as a Scotch jig, a measure, and a cinque pace" -- Beatrice's cynical view on courtship and marriage are like dances. First, wooing is done at a quick pace, without hesistation, usually by men. For instance, Don Pedro's fast courtship of Hero for Claudio at the masquerade. Claudio's suggestion about holding a wedding the day right after the courting of Hero also reflects the very quick pace. More importantly, Claudio accepts the false report made by Don John and so publicly disgraces Hero on the wedding day but later repents is also implied by Beatrice's "cinque pace".

Metaphor Definition: Wikipedia article

Simile Definition: Wikipedia article

Revision: Practice Questions

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An attractive appearance is essential in order to find a partner. Would Shakespeare agree? Is it true in contemporary culture?

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Shakespeare actually had a rather indifferent or even negative view of conventional beauty, and especially despised beauty which was artificial. In Sonnet 20, when he praises the natural beauty of his patron, he contrasts it with the 'false' beauty of women and implies that he finds women's beauty wanting because it is a product of 'fashion' and is not genuine.

Shakespeare seems to express a rather negative view of conventional beauty in his sonnets but we can see that Shakespeare has a rather different view on beauty in 'Much Ado about nothing'. Hero, is described as a very pretty lady in the play. Claudius is attracted to her beauty.

Beatrice and Benedick also see beauty as very important. She thinks that she has to be attractive to find a husband. Benedick sees beauty as important as wealth and intelligence. He also dresses up and tries to look his best after falling in love with Beatrice.

Why does Benedick say he will be horribly in love with Beatrice? Who else in the set texts thinks that being in love is horrible?

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Because Benedick's love for Beatrice has made him have to repudiate his original beliefs and outlook. He previously thought he would never marry and always mocked other people's foolish behavior when they are in love, cynically suggesting that marriage always ends in infidelity, that men who fall in love are effeminate, and that love can make a man as devoid of intelligence as an oyster. Yet he cannot control himself and acts foolishly because of his love too. He shaves, starts to dress fashionably, puts perfume on himself, speaks in verse and composes poems for Beatrice - the woman he used to fight with all the time with their respective witty skill of speech. All of this behaviour makes him an object of ridicule for Don Pedro and Claudio.

He has never predicted this outcome before and he thus thinks his love is horrible.

The experience of being in love is also horrible for Beatrice who experiences the pain of unrequited love, and for Claudio who is tormented by the mistaken belief that the woman he loves has been unfaithful.

In Hamlet, Hamlet is revolted by the thought of his mother's sexuality and of her incestuous relationship with Claudius. The thought of this is so disturbing to him that he seems to generalise from it, transferring his disgust to humanity in general and to Ophelia in particular. He confides with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that "man delights not me... nor woman neither" and he urges Ophelia "if thou must needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know what monsters you make of them."

In Sonnet 147, Shakespeare writes about a dark lady, and describes his love for her as a disease. Although he finds her disgusting as she brought him physical or mental diseases that he does not want, he cannot control his desire for her and keep asking for more of her to feed their "sickly appetite". His conflicting feelings of attraction and repulsion suggest that he is 'addicted' to the woman. He describes his "love [...] as a fever longing still." He is constantly desiring for the lady's love, he is passionate and obsessed with a lady who he knows is destructive and harmful and yet he cannot get rid of this addiction. Some critics have also suggested that the disease imagery in this sonnet and elsewhere is suggestive of the symptoms of syphilis. This love is horrible in the sense that the lovers cannot stop loving each other or having sex despite the fact that it is harmful. In the last few lines, "for I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright, who art as black as hell, as dark as night", love is horrible in the sense that he feels so much love for somebody but discovers that this "somebody" is actually evil and corrupt. He is also convinced that his illicit attraction towards the dark lady will damn him since "desire is death".

Examine how the theme of repentance is presented in Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet.

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Repentence has different form or meaning, one repents may ask for forgiveness, he will be willing to compensate and accept the penalty, or one repent is to recognize that he was wrong and so starts changing himself.

In Hamlet, the theme of repentance can be seen in Act III Scene iii, where Claudius prays for the sins and crimes he has committed.

However, Claudius does not truly have the heart to repent, since he knows that he has to follow the course of his actions. "Since I am still possess'd/ Of those effects for which I did the murder,/ My crown, mine own ambition and my queen./ May one be pardon'd and retain the offence?" He has to send Hamlet away to kill him, in order to remove the threat he poses. "My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go." This line is a strong indication that he does not really mean what he has said in his so-called repentance and his prayer.

In "Much Ado About Nothing", Claudio repents for having wrongly accused Hero for being disloyal to him. In Act 5 Scene 1, "Impose me to what penace your invention can lay up my sin" Claudio sees his own sin and now that he repents, he would accept any punishment and when Leonato told him to marry his niece, Claudio said "he did embrace his offer". But since he is too eager to accept Antonio's offer, it leads to doubts about his sincerity to repent.On one hand, the lines "my brother hath a daughter,Almost the copy of my child that's dead,And she alone is heir to both of us" spoken by Leonato in Act 5 Scene 1 would suggest why Claudio is so interested in marrying the "niece", that is similar to conversation between Claudio and Don Pedro in the beginning of the play, Claudio knows that Hero is the heir of Leonato, Claudio's motives of marry Hero can be seen. If he loves Hero this much and truly repent, he may have reservation or hesitate in using remarrying another girl as compensation to his faults. Before remarrying, Claudio jokes about coupledry with Benedick and mock at him, it seems that he is not taking marriage seriously. He even wants to check how the "new bride" looks like before making his vow just in case she looks ugly. All these make us doubt his purpose of consent to Leonato's request, whether he does it out of his true heart, or he wants to retain his honour and being able to remarried, and for the "new bride's" beauty and wealth.

Which of Shakespeare's sonnets do you think would appeal to Benedick and why?

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This might depend on whether we asked him at the beginning or the end of the play. The unreformed Benedick who is cynical about love would have very different preferences from the later, repentant Benedick. If referring to the beginning of Much Ado, Sonnet 20 may be amusing for Benedick. Women’s love is compared as having "shifting change", "false women's fashion" and their eyes are "false in rolling". They are full of pretence and are inconsistent in love. It is like Benedick’s cynical belief about women and marriage in the beginning, that marriage would lead men into having unfaithful wives and grow horns on their heads. Given the bawdiness of the banter between Benedick, Don Pedro and Claudio at the beginning of the play, Benedick would probably not blush at the sonnet's sexual innuendo - although he might feel uncomfortable with a homosexual interpretation of it. Benedick might prefer sonnets which portray friendship between men, such as sonnet 37, rather than those that deal with sexual attraction and desire. In fact, given his contempt for Claudio having "turned orthography" and his preference for people who "speak plain and to the purpose" it is hard to imagine Benedick in the first two acts of the play enjoying the Sonnets at all. Even when he does fall in love and attempts to write poetry, he does so with considerable awkwardness that shows that such exhibition of emotions is not natural to him, saying: "I was not born under a rhyming planet".

However, once he is tricked into falling in love, he rationalizes with himself that marriage is necassary since "the world must be peopled". This is exactly the same point that Shakespeare makes in sonnet 6: "be not self-willed for thou art much too fair/ to be death's conquest and make worms thine heir."

Which aspects of contemporary Hong Kong culture do you think Shakespeare would find familiar?

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This answer makes unsubstantiated generalisations about Hong Kong culture and does not refer to any specific contemporary works. Please help by adding evidence.

Shakespeare may find Hong Kong's contemporary culture of marriage familiar. Nowadays, people are rather casual about relationships, and are less patient to deal with disagreements, when they cannot compromise they just divorce easily. (Do you have evidence of this?) A lot of men and women (especially those of the younger generation)lose interest in their loved ones soon and this is easily seen in literature, movies and reality. Many young people are "giddy", when some of them begin to be devoted in love, they might end up being cuckolded and become the stupid "oysters" described by Bewnedick (Much Ado II iii). Many who have undergone such experiences may become as cynical as Benedick and Beatrice do in the beginning of Much Ado, and lose faith in love.

How and why are love and passion compared with illness in the set texts?

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Discuss the different kinds of relationships between lovers in the set texts?

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Compare and contrast how ambiguity is used in Much Ado About Nothing and in the Sonnets.

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Past Exam Questions

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"Shakespeare sees women as little more than objects for the purpose of fulfilling male desires." To what extent is this true in the set texts? Can you think of a contemporary work which presents women in the same way?

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To a large extent, Shakespeare sees women a little more than objects for fulfilling male desire. Women are mostly as objects for procreation, and to satisfy men's desire for lust as well as wealth.

Shakespeare expresses the view of women as objects and a tool to produce heir for men- men marrying women to carry on the family lane. In sonnet 6, women are described as a vial for men to bear their essence in it, to produce an heir. Marriage is only for the continuality of the family. Also the word vial sounds like vile, which is derogative that woemen are not equal beings with men. Moreover, in sonnet 20, Shakespeare does not mind his patron to have sex with women for procreation, that Mine be thy love, thy love use their treasure. Women here are only valuable as a tool for producing an heir. Shakespeare even convinces a man that if he does not have an heir, he will succumb to death.If his afe unbred, that would be beauty summer's death.Women act as a procreation unit here. Also, Shakespeare says to the men that don’t let the wintry old age to destroy his youth beauty. He should preserve his essence before he died, that is to have children, so that he can pass on their beauty to his children. By doing this, he can ensure life after death as well as immortality. He asks the man to make woman pregnant, that is to bear child(ren) for him. Or else he will be ‘self-killed’. From here, we see that Shakespeare sees women as a machine t produce an heir.

Shakepeare also sees women as objects for satisfying men's sexual / lustful desires. In sonnet 128, Shakespeare describes his desires for the woman who plays the harpsichord, in which there are underlying implications of her performing sexual acts with men. the man envies the jacks and chips who can make love with the woman and want to switch places with them. He fantasizes having sex with the woman as the metaphor about the lip standing is so paradoxical- the sonnet talks about how tempting a woman can be and she makes him want to ‘kiss her lips", which could also be a suggestion for fellatio. But he doesn't present lust in a simplistic fashion, but with an emotional turmoil. In sonnet 147, he felt his love/lust for the lady as a fever, which triggered him to be frantic- mad and act like madmen. He was so charmed by the lady that he was desperate to declare he saw thee fair and thought thee bright/Who art as dark as hell, as black as night. He was so obsessed with the feelings of love and lust for sex. He then fantasizes kissing the woman in the same tender, uncontrolled manner than she uses when she plays the instrument. Here, again, Shakespeare mentions his desire to kiss this woman, and he sees woman as objects just to satisfy his desire. Shakespeare does portray views of a deeper, spiritual love, but that kind of love is not for a woman. In sonnet 20, he suggests his affections for a young man, and nature has given him "one thing"- the male penis- which is to Shakespeare's purpose nothing, and that the young man should reserve his spiritual love for Shakespeare, while women are only for him to satsify his sexual desires.

Apart from the sonnets, Shakespeare also expressed his view towards women as tools to satisfy men's desires for monetary riches. In Much Ado About Nothing, Claudio revealed his love towards Hero to Benedick and Don Pedro in the beginning of the play. But Claudio used materialistic term like "jewel" to describe how precious Hero is to him, from which sparked a possibly cynical response from Benedick: "...and a case to put her into?" which showed how objectified Hero becomes. Though no background or history of Claudio and Hero's relationship is given, Claudio is obviously charmed by Hero's beauty as he refers her as "the sweetest lady" he has ever saw and "how fair young Hero is". Unlike Claudio, Hero does not get the opportunity to express her feelings regarding this relationship like Claudio does. In fact, the audience does not get the chance to hear anything said by Hero till the engagement in Act 2. The arrangement furthur suggests the unequal status between men and women and that women are only used as tools by men. He cynically asked Don Pedro "Hath Leonarto any son, my Lord??" showed his eagerness to ensure that Hero is Leonarto's sole heir, which suggests that he is using Hero to gain access to riches, marrying Hero in order to inherit Leonato's properties. On the other hand, Leonato had misunderstood that Don Pedro would like to propose to Hero. He hurriedly reminded Hero what to answer. Leonato wanted to marry for status as Don Pedro is the prince, and to carry and continue the family name by procreation. Also, Don John is victimizing Hero in his plan of revenge to Claudio. It is because Claudio was the one who caused all the disgrace of Don John, losing his brother's trust, etc. Besides, Borachio made use of Margaret, who fell in love with Borachio, to deceive Claudio and Don Pedro that Hero was unfaithful. Again Margaret is used as a tool to help Borachio and Don John to achieve their vile plan. Moreover, Benedick expressed his concern that "the world must be peopled", thus implying procreation with Beatrice is needed. One may argue that Shakespeare does not necessarily agree with the views of his character and he could even be scorning this kind of view, but there is a possiblity that he himself sees women from this viewpoint too.

The movie "40 Days and 40 Nights", starring Josh Hartnett, also makes suggestions of woman as sexual objects for some men. After a broken relationship, Matt began several casual relationships, none of which healed his pain. He then decided to swear off sex for 40 days in an attempt to find spiritual cleanliness. However, this period without sex turns out to be unbearable for him, and there are scenes in which he has hallucinations of momen on the street naked or even a fantasy scene of himself flying gleefully over a sea of women's breasts (any objectivication of women?). During this period, Matt's had to apologize to his new girlfriend Erica for making her "suffer" from his abstinence. The film ended with Matt and Erica finally being able to be together and staying in a room for so long that people began to bet whether they will literally die from having too much sex. This happy ending, plus sex, shows that although ideas like abstinence for spiritual peace is attempted, it is painful and difficult, and the idea of fulfilling one's sexual desires is much more welcome.

How would you defend Shakespeare against the charge that his writing is at times sexually offensive? Is it acceptable to cause offence in order to communicate a serious message, and can you think of a contemporary work which does so?

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"Shakespeare seems to think that shame is a stronger emotion than love." Do you agree? What does contemporary culture have to say about this?

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Yes, because in the Sonnets, he reveals that he cannot get it out of his mind and in his work, Much Ado about Nothing, his characters are also greatly affected by the emotion "shame".

For example, in Much Ado about Nothing, Claudio falls in love with Hero and sees her as "the sweetest lady ever looked on". His love for her seems deep, yet it is instantly gone once he discovers that she cheats on him before marriage. It is because he is ashamed of Hero doing such a shameful thing -- losing her innocence by having an affair with another man. And it may affect his reputation as a promising army officer if he marries her.

Moreover, Leonato thinks that shame is a stronger emotion than love. After Claudio insults Hero publicly, she is heartbroken and helpless. But as her father, he does not defend her, instead, he also joins in accusing Hero of her "shameful" behavior. He condemns Hero and tells her that she better not live anymore as she has shamed him and her whole family. Now he feels so ashamed that he wishes she were only a poor child he had adopted so that he could excuse himself of such shameful crime (being the father of a girl who has shamed everyone). He also wants to end her life as to take away the shame and guilt.

On the other hand, in the Sonnets, shame also seems to be a stronger emotion than love.

In Sonnet 147, Shakespeare is deeply bothered by the fact that his lover cheated on him. He loves her very much but he finds it wrong to desire such an unfaithful woman. "For I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright, who art as dark as hell, as black as night." He stresses how unacceptable her infidelity was and he could never forget about it.

My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)

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My Best Friend's Wedding on Wikipedia

My Best Friend's Wedding on IMDB

Similarities with Shakespeare

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Like Much Ado About Nothing, the plot of My Best Friend's Wedding is centred around a failed attempt to sabotage a wedding which is motivated by jealousy. The story focuses on Julianne (Julia Roberts) whose ex-boyfriend is preparing to marry another woman. She travels to Chicago intent on sabotaging Michael's wedding to the perky Kimberly Wallace (Diaz). When all of her ploys fail she concocts her own fake engagement to gay friend George (Rupert Everett). Julianne's schemes become more and more devious and cruel; she manages to convince Michael that Kimberly is attempting to steer him into a career decision that he doesn't want to take.

When even this fails, Julianne finally confesses that she is in love with Michael, but it is truly not meant to be. Unlike Much Ado About Nothing, the film has an ending in which everyone is forgiven, and Jules contentedly dances with George at Michael's wedding reception. The plot is thus notable for the fact that, unlike in most romantic comedies, the heroine and hero do not end up together, and the main character is the "bad guy."

Meet the Parents (2000)

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A male nurse (Greg Focker) intends to propose to his girlfriend (Pam Byrnes). But before he can even ask, he goes to visit Pam's parents' house for the weekend to ask Pam's father (Jack Byrnes) for his daughter's hand in marriage. Little does Greg know, he will have to endure a troublesome cat, Pam's ex-boyfriend, all of Pam's relatives, and her intrusive father, Jack Byrnes, a retired CIA operative who wonders if Greg is good enough for Pam and is constantly suspicious of Greg's morals and background. Jack uses mind games, lie detector tests, and constant questions to push Greg over the edge. Greg will have to overcome Jack's interrogations and tests to finally persuade Jack to allow him to marry his daughter.

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IMDB Article

Meeting the parents on wikipedia

The official

Yahoo movie page

Similarities with Shakespeare

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Jack Byrnes (De Niro) plays an intrusive father who is suspicious of his daughter's boyfriend and tries to discourage her from having a relationship with him. He uses closed-circuit television cameras, a lie detector and his CIA contacts in order to probe into Greg's background and motives are portrayed as absurdly overbearing, yet ultimately he is forced to recognise that he has been foolish and has misjudged Greg. In many ways he is reminiscent of Polonius who tells Ophelia not to continue her relationship with Hamlet and who then spies on Hamlet to determine the cause of his 'madness'.

Differences with Shakespeare

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Jack in the movie and Polonius in Hamlet discourage their daughters to love their lovers. Though the method they use, spying, is similar, however in the end, there is difference between them. In Hamlet, Polonius stays firm on his decision that Ophelia shouldn't love Hamlet, he commands her not to talk to Hamlet anymore. In the movie, although Jack is reluctant to accept her boyfriend, after her daughter's confrontation, he reflects on himself. Because of his love to her daughter, he give in, and is willing to accept this boy. Jack is not as firm as Polonius. Possibly the difference lies in the fact that Polonius does not love Ophelia as much as Jack loves Pam. Polonius uses Ophelia as a tool for spying on Hamlet. Ophelia, "in her duty and obedience", gives Polonius Hamlet's letter and Polonius reads it out to Claudius and Gertrude. "At such a time I'll loose my daughter to him."-- By using the word "loose", there is a suggestion that Ophelia is merely Polonius' property.

On the other hand, the responses of their daughters are very different too. For Ophelia, she is very willing to obey what her father told her to do. And that she does try to avoid Hamlet, she is willing to be use as a tool to spy on Hamlet. In contrast, for Jack's daughter, she has her own thought, she loves that man, and she confronts with her father, questioning his irritating spying action, questioning whether he loves her. Compare to Ophelia, Jack's daughter is more ready to express her feeling, she will not blindly obey what her father has told her. This may be a result of a change in culture. Modern women are not expected to be as submissive.

She's the Man (2006)

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She's the Man is a splendid and hilarious US comedy. The film, directed by Andy Fickman in 2006, is based on William Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night (or What You Will). The main character is Viola Hastings (Amanda Bynes), who disguises herself as a schoolboy and takes her brother's place in his school soccer team. Viola tries very hard to prove girls are just as capable as boys in doing a lot of things.

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She's the Man on wikipage

She's the Man on IMDB


Dream Works(us)

Official site(nl)

Official site(ru)

Similarities with Shakespeare

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Although there is no cross dressing in Much Ado about Nothing nor in Hamlet, the movie She’s the Man shares similar themes which we can make comparisons with.

She's the Man not only reflects the general appeal of the original Shakespearean plot of Twelfth Night, but also reflects the change in female role in contemporary society, with feminism being one of the main themes in the movie. In Shakespearean time, only males can take up important posts in the courts, therefore, Viola in Twelfth Night disguises as an eunuch to serve and get closer to the Duke and the Countess Olivia. In Hamlet and The Sonnets, females are seen as objects. They are used for reproduction of heirs. But in Much Ado about Nothing, women are portrayed as bright and intelligent. They have their own feelings and they stand firm for their own beliefs. For example, Beatrice stands firm about her cynical view towards love, while Hero believes in her true love. We can contrast these with how Viola Hastings stands firm with her beliefs in her own abilities and rights and strive for her own goals. It also shows that nowadays females are clever, independent and are aware of their own human rights and living values.

We can also compare Viola Hastings' fights to overcome prejudice and to prove herself as equal to the boys with Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. Beatrice was once in love with Benedick but he was not sincere and their relationship ended. After that, Beatrice catches every chance to compete with him using clever insults, showing that she is equally witty in tongue as he is. She refuses to marry because she has not discovered the perfect, equal partner who respects her and will be faithful to her. She is unwilling to forgo her liberty to marriage nor to any man, nor submitting to the will of a controlling husband. When her cousin Hero is falsely accused of being unfaithful to Claudio, Beatrice burns with rage, stands up for Hero and rebels against the unequal status of women in Renaissance society. “O that I were a man for his sake! Or that I had any friend would be a man for my sake!” she passionately exclaims. “I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving” (IV.i.312–318). Both Viola Hastings and Beatrice are women who have strong characters.

Another theme we can compare with our set texts is disguise. Some characters in literary works put on disguises to achieve their own goals. Viola Hastings in She’s the Man disguises herself as her brother Sebestian Hastings in order to get into his school soccer team to show off her skills and prove her ability to win over boys. In Hamlet, we have Hamlet disguising himself into a mad man in order to reduce his Uncle Claudius’ suspicion towards his vengeance and to spy on him. As in Much Ado, Barochio makes use of Margaret’s disguise as Hero to accuse her with her unfaithfulness.

Other disguises may bring comical effects and amusement. For example in Much Ado about Nothing, there is a masquerade ball where different characters put on disguise and make interesting conversations with one another. Some of them may not know who they are talking to, especially when they make their speeches ironic and ridiculous, but the audience is aware of who the characters are really speaking to. For example, Beatrice talking to the disguised Benedick about Benedick and reveals her secret admiration and a possible sexual desire for him, "I would he had boarded me", and all the while she has been denying her interest in relationships.

Love is also a big theme for most movies and Shakespeare’s work. We can compare the love in the subconscious mind in characters in different works. In She’s the Man, Duke actually liked Viola Hasting since he met her in the kissing booth. But he refuses to admit it, because he thinks she has cheated him about her identity, and that she is not as special and sexually appealing as the unapproachable but gorgeous Olivia. At last he reinforces his own feeling for her when he thinks back about their time being roomies, then meets her up in the Debenture party. Similarly, In Much Ado, both Beatrice and Benedict deny their feelings towards each other even at their wedding, they always use their words to attack each other but it is because they love having witty conversations with each other. In Act III scene i of Hamlet, Hamlet also pretends that 'he loved her not'(III.i.122). This indirectly led to the tragedy of Ophelia’s death. Love also cause misunderstandings when people get jealous with their loved ones. Claudio of Much Ado being so madly in love, is deceived by his own eyes and made to believe the false accusation on Hero, and out of jealousy he humiliated her by saying "Not to knit my soul to an approved wanton"(IV.i.44). Duke, in both She’s the Man and Twelfth Night, thinks that Viola stole his lover and betrayed him. But in the end, the couples reconciles and reunites.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

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The Devil Wears Prada is a glamorous movie adapted from a novel bearing the same title and is recently produced by David Frankel, starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. The plot is about a young woman Andy Shas, who is bright and good-natured, and has a strong character. She knows nothing of the fashion industry, has never read the RUNWAY magazine, and doesn't know who Miranda Priestley is when she goes to her job interview at RUNWAY. She only sees working in RUNWAY as a stepping stone to another position in the field of journalism. She shows that she has no fashion sense and is immediately scorned by her colleagues. The ridiculously demanding fashion editor, Miranda Priestley, nevertheless hires her as the second assistant. No matter how much Miranda tries to force Andy to quit, Andy still digs in to please her because she thinks it is unfair for her to leave when she has done so much to prove her own ability. She still believes she can do it. Because of her lovely personality, Andy got help from one of the magazine's fashion editors, Nigel, who is apparently an expert on Miranda and fashion. Miranda starts to favor Andy more than her first assistant Emily, and even asked Andy to take Emily's place. But with Andy's new appearance and the demands placed on her, she starts to lose her friends, family and her beloved boyfriend, Nate, whom she fell loyal to for the past 16 years. Andy experiences a series of events which teaches her about the dark side of human nature and leaves her feeling frustrated. She is lucky enough to be inspired by Miranda's words, and realizes that she has her own right to choose the path of her life, just that has to give up some of the glamour in front of her. She finally escapes from following Miranda’s half tragic routine.

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The Devil Wears Prada (Novel)

The Devil Wears Prada (Film)

The Devil Wears Prada on IMDB

The Devil Wears Prada on yahoo

Official Site

Similarities with Shakespeare

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Some of Shakespeare's work and the movie The Devil Wears Prada share similar touches about feminism. In The Devil Wears Prada, Miranda, Emily and Andy all try hard to strive for success. In the same time, the world is still generally stereotyped that females need to make a balance between their career family, and they should give up their dreams for their family if there is such a need. Andy once said in a scene, that if Miranda is a man, she will be praised greatly by the mass public because she is a tough and brilliant woman and her achievements are so outstanding. It shows that even in the 21st Century, the society is still male dominant and females are expected to be working at home or should take up lower positions. Miranda reminds Andy several few times that they have their own choices for which path to choose in their life. She adores Andy and knows it will be better for this innocent girl to get away from the path she has once taken. The right of choosing ones' path in life can also be seen as feminist, because women in the past do not have much choices besides getting married or being nuns. Like Hero in Much Ado About Nothing, Hero is expected to obey whatever her father tells her, whoever he wants her to marry. Leonato expresses that he will prepare Hero for the Prince's possible courtship, "I will acquaint my daughter withal,/that she may be the better prepared for an answer,/if peradventure this be true." In Hamlet, Ophelia also has to obey his father even she is upset about the idea of spying her beloved man. She has to lie for him, as she answers Hamlet's question "Where's your father" with "At home, my lord" (III.i) even though she knows he is hiding nearby and listening to every word (and probably watching their every move as well).

The Devil Wears Prada also reveals dark side of human nature in workplace, including jealousy, selfishness and betrayal. In the beginning, Emily always shifts the workload to Andy and teases her about her shortcomings. She never tries to help Andy to correct her errors even though they become colleagues, and she very much enjoys seeing Andy being blamed by Miranda. When Andy gets Miranda's accomplishments and appreciation, Emily is jealous, she tells her colleagues to shut up when they praised Andy for looking good. She also gets angry with Andy because Andy eats carb but she can get nice figure, and Andy does not get shouted at as often as she does. She ask Andy to go away when Andy visits her in the hospital, she thinks Andy has taken over her and thinks Miranda is unfair to her. In the next morning that Andy has slept with her dreamboat, Christian Thompson, she finds him trying to use nasty tricks to get rid of Miranda and takes her place in RUNWAY magazine. Even Nigel, having been Miranda's closest friend and assistant for ages, secretly contacts other companies to get a job with a higher status in the fashion field. In Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing,we have Don Pedro and Barochio misbehaving and showing the wickedness of human nature. They also enjoy seeing people gets into trouble like Emily does. Claudius in Hamlet also shows the ill nature in human world, such as being green with envy for Hamlet Senior: for his wife and his crown. Claudius, not being pleased with what he already owns, tries to kill another person (Hamlet) to avoid being revenged on, and makes use of other people to achieve his goals (spying).

We can also compare the movie with The Sonnet #20, the theme is Artificial Beauty. He writes "A woman's face with nature's own hand painted"(L3), and "A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted. With shifting change as is false women's fashion" (L4, 5) Shakespeare is praising a male who has the beauty and gentleness which resemble features of a woman, but not the inconstancy and falseness of a woman. He says that women's faces are "painted" because they put make up to look better than they originally does. They also make use of fashion to pretend they are pretty. These can be compared with the people in the movie. People who work in the RUNWAY magazine look down on people who are unfashionable. All of them are conscious of their own appearances. They change into brand-named fashion and put on heavy makeup to please Miranda and to show off to other people. When Andy refers “fashion” as “stuff”, Miranda is so on her nerves because she thinks fashion is a part of everyone in the world, not only for people who walk on the runways. Andy is so proud when she has her madeover by Nigel. She shows off her Chanel boots to Emily, and becomes obsessed with fashion when she finds out how influential she can be when she is wearing them.

Similarities with Shakespeare

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Wedding Crashers (2005)

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John Beckwith and Jeremy Grey, are good friends, they always use fake identity claiming that they are gentlemen of high social status, and sneak into weddings and flirt with many women and have sex with them. Their friendship is being test when John finds his true love, Claire Cleary. John and Jeremy have arguments. But they finally realize how foolish they were to sneak into weddings or funerals just to take advantage of women. At last they become true friends, this time they truely understand how to respect each other and how to love a woman.

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Wedding Crashers on IMDB

on movieweb

Wedding Crashers on wikipedia

The official site

Wedding Crashers on yahoo movie

Similarities with Shakespeare

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This movie can be compared with Much Ado About Nothing. Friendship is portrayed as being easily affected by love relationships. In Much Ado About Nothing, Claudio, Benedick and Don Pedro are more than servants and lord, they are more like companions of one another. In the beginning of the play, they chat with each other about marriage and swear to each other that they are speaking out of their true hearts. Don Pedro even helps Claudio to propose to Hero. Claudio is misled by Don John to believe that Don Pedro has betrayed him. As soon as the facts were discovered, they return to their good relationship while Claudio wins the heart of Hero and plans to marry her. At this time, Don John comes in and , Margaret in disguise of Hero, "talks" to Don John's servant. Claudio and Don Pedro are led to believe that Hero is dishonored and treats her cruelly at the marriage. The friendship between Claudio, Benedick and Don Pedro are put under testing. Benedick, out of the love for Beatrice, is convinced and follows her will to "kill Claudio" (even though in the end he has not). He goes up to Claudio and Don Pedro saying "farewell" to them and he even condemns Claudio for killing an innocent lady. At that moment, the atmosphere is very tense, it seems that their friendship seems to be the last thing on their minds. As soon as Claudio finds out the truth, the three's relationship returns to the previous stage where they end up again as close friends.

Similarly, John and Jeremy are good friends. They planned together to sneak into weddings, they chat with each other. They have always been successful in sneaking into weddings, flirting with women. They co-operate with each other very well. But in their last co-operation, John finds his true love, and this time he would like Jeremy to helps him, but then Jeremy is afraid that their identity will be revealed, therefore he strongly opposes to John's idea to chase after Claire. Due to this argument, they depart with each other. Then they discover that they care about each other very much. They actually miss each other deep inside. During that period, Jeremy finds his true love, whereas John loses Claire due to the reveal of the fake identity. John is angry at Jeremy, who is occupied by his relationship and forgets to help John to explain what has actually happened to Claire. Their relationships goes bad from this point, this is similar to Claudio misunderstands that Don Pedro is wooing Hero for himself and not keeping his promise to him. John gets drunk all the time and loses contact with Jeremy, he even starts to sneak into funerals, but when he sees people crying for their loved ones, he feels very sorry for them. And he realizes that he should treasure what he has. At last he hurries to Jeremy's wedding and be his best man, meanwhile successfully gaining Claire back. They return to their closer friend relationships and the story has a happy ending.

27 Dresses (2008)

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The film is about a single woman Jane who always selflessly plans weddings for her friends and has served as bridesmaid 27 times. She meets Kelvin at one of these weddings; she starts to reflect and thinks over her life after meeting him. Later, her sister Casey returns to the town, and falls in love with Jane’s boss George. But Jane reveals Casey’s true character as a manipulative pretender, in the thought of saving George from marriage and herself. In the end of the movie, she marries to the cynical reporter Kelvin, and finally turns up to be a bribe she has longed for.

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The Official Site

27 Dresses on IMDB

27 Dresses on Wikipedia

Movie scene - Youtube

Similarities with Shakespeare

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[1] The development of love between Jane and Kelvin in “27 Dresses” is similar with the couple - Benedick and Beatrice in “Much Ado about Nothing”. The love relationships of both couples start off with arguments and disapproval, however, their dislike for one another puts them in a position that could see through the characters of others, and build the potential love step by step, lastly, matching up themselves with the one that they dislike at the beginning and feeling admiration for their partner after understanding more about him/her.

[2] The characterization of the leading male figures – Kelvin and Benedick in both works are similar. They present themselves as someone who “doesn’t believe in marriage”, however, they both end up falling in love with someone who they appear to dislike at first. In “27 Dresses”, Kelvin is described by Jane as someone who actually “believes in love and marriage” but just pretends to be a “cynic”; however he claims he just tries to “point out the hypocrisy of the spectacle”. Presented as a man with no romance at first, he ends up being a romantic one as finds his true love – Jane. Similarly, in “Much Ado About Nothing”, Benedick declares to his friends that he “will live a bachelor” because he believes that women render men foolish in their behaviors, and turn them into sighters. Later, he is described as “Prince’s jester/very dull fool” by Beatrice in the masquerade party, and a fool with no fancy. Presented as a melancholic man with no romance, he ends up falling in love with Beatrice “no more than reason”, he “plays the noble beast in love”.

Difference with Shakespeare

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The difference of the two works is the correctness of the accusations of the female characters. In the movie, Jane accuses her sister Casey in her engagement party that she tells lies to George and hides her true character to him, and pretends to be the type of girl he likes. Later, Jane as well makes a right revelation and saves George from Casey’s lies and to prevent him to “suffer” from marriage. But the result is an unpleasant one as she neglects her sister’s feelings and honor. In “Much Ado About Nothing”, Hero is accused wrongly by her husband-to-be Claudio and the princes of being unfaithful. However, Don John’s plan fails to “dishonor” and “disparage” Hero, as the truth is revealed by Dogberry afterwards. And the result is a pleasing one as Hero restores her honor and is married to Claudio in the end of play.

The Hours (2002)

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The movie is about the lives of three women living in different times but are interconnected by a novel, Mrs. Dalloway, written by Virginia Woolf. The three women are Virginia Woolf in 1923 England who is writing the novel, Laura Brown in 1951 Los Angeles who is reading the novel and Clarissa Vaughan in 2001 New York who is living the character Mrs. Dalloway. These characters all suffer, to a certain extent, depression. Another prominent character in the movie is Richard Brown, son of Laura Brown and former lover of Clarissa Vaughan who is an AIDS patient.

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WikiQuotes from The Hours

The Hours on IMDB

Similarities with Shakespeare

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The movie deals with suicide and can be compared with Hamlet. Hamlet often refers to death and suicide in his speeches/ soliloquies throughout the play. Hamlet's soliloquy in Act 3 Scene 1: "To be or not to be", shows his philosophical debate of whether to continue to live to face troubles or choosing to commit suicide and venture into an unknown after-death terrain. Eventually he says, "thus conscience makes cowards of us all". Hamlet does not have the courage to kill himself.

In the hours, we witness the suicides of Virginia Woolf and Richard Brown and we also see Laura Brown struggling with whether to kill herself.

Virginia Woolf: “What happens when we die?” asks Woolf's niece “We return to the place that we came from,” Woolf speculates. Her niece replies, “I don’t remember where I came from.” “Nor do I.”—Woolf’s answer is comparable to Hamlet’s “But that the dread of something after death,/ The undiscovered country, from those bourn/ No traveler returns, puzzles the will,/ And makes us rather bear those ills we have/ Than fly to others that we know not of?” (III. i). Both Woolf and Hamlet contemplate upon death, as suicidal thoughts are common in people with clinical depression. Both of them suggest the unknown life after death or whether there is a life at all. For Woolf, she decides in the end to embrace death. She leaves behind these words for her husband, “To look life in the face. Always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it. To love it for what it is, and then, to put it away.” She seems to be done with life and wishes no more to understand life further and thus ends her suffering by drowning herself. For Hamlet, he believes that “conscience does make cowards of us all” (III. i) and is his reason for not committing suicide. While he is miserable with life and has suicidal thoughts all the time, he does not appear to be able to kill himself with “a bare bodkin” (III. i). His inability to channel his thoughts into actions is obvious with his recurrent thoughts of death and suicide which remain, mere thoughts.

Richard Brown: Richard Brown fails to find his purpose in life and believes that he has stayed alive for Clarissa Vaughan: "I've stayed alive for you", "I think I'm staying alive just to satisfy you." He commits suicide because he does not want to face life anymore. "But I still have to face the hours, don't I? I mean, the hours after the party, and the hours after that..." Richard Brown does not want to face any more challenges in life and does not want to wait for death to come naturally upon him as an AIDS patient. The future for him is bleak, and it seems that Hamlet's words “How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable/ Seem to me all the uses of this world!” (I. ii) very much ring true in Brown's life.

Laura Brown: Laura Brown is the wife of a war-veteran, has a young boy and is pregnant. Laura is suffering from depression. Bounded by the social expectations of being the ‘perfect’ wife, she would have to make the perfect cake for her husband’s birthday and plan the best surprise for him. She actually throws away the first cake because it is not good enough. She appears to be very composed, yet inside of her are thoughts of running away from the family and thoughts of suicide. She believes that her husband “deserves” a good family after the war, and so she creates one. Yet this comes out to be forced. She has a very awkward relationship with her son, Richard, who describes her as a “monster” later in his life. In one scene, it is shown that Laura cries alone in the bathroom while lying to her husband that she is brushing her teeth. The stifling need to abide to social norms push her deeper into depression. She finds it hard to fulfill her role as wife and mother and really cannot fit in the family. Similarly, Hamlet finds it hard to fulfill his son as a son, as he is unable to kill Claudius and avenge his father's death as requested.

The Lion King (1996)

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Disney's The Lion King is very closely based on the plot of Hamlet, although it has also drawn comparisons with Bambi. In the story, Simba, the son of the King Musafa, goes into exile when his jealous uncle, Scar, tricks him into believing that he was responsible for his father's death. Simba is befriended by a warthog and a meerkat who persuade him that he should adopt a 'no worries' attitude and enjoy life instead of facing his responsibility to his pride. By chance, he is reunited with his childhood friend Nala, who persuades him that he has to return to Pride Rock and confront Scar.

At the end of the film, Simba and Scar fight and Scar falls off a cliff before being finished off by a pack of hyenas whom he has tried to blame for his failings as king.

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Wikipedia Review

Online Script

Similarities with Shakespeare

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Themes: revenge; hesitation; family conflict; power; responsibility

Simba - Hamlet Musafa - Old Hamlet Scar - Claudius Sarabi - Gertrude Nala - Ophelia Timon and Pumbaa - Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

Contrasts: the happy resolution, with Simba and Nala displaying their cub and thus completing the 'circle of life'; Simba in exile simply neglecting/ denying his responsibility rather than being tormented by his failure to act. Nala as a far more forceful character than Ophelia, demanding that Simba return and do his duty; the climactic fight scene being a direct power struggle between Simba and Scar, whereas Claudius uses a proxy and attempts to secretly poison Hamlet.

The Lion King, though very much based on Hamlet, has many different elements that we can make comparisons with Shakespeare’s work.

The characters in the Lion King are all animals, and the story is set in an untamed natural environment. The movie makes excellent use of imagery, for example rain, dawn and dust are used to symbolize hope or evilness, and from time to time act as foreshadowing. For example, when Mufasa's still ruling, the area of Pride Rock is always under the sunlight, suggesting a bright and optimistic future, however, after Scar has usurped the throne and let in the hyenas, Pride Rock is washed in dark grey tones of colour. When Simba steps up to be the King, the natural order is re-installed and therefore the setting resumes to the bright and sunny scenes as in the beginning of the story.

Ophelia is obedient and passive. She accepts all the things that happen to her. She does everything her father tells her to, and accepts all the theories that her father imposes on her. She even rejects the one she loves just because her father tells her not to be with him. On the other hand, Nala is very adventurous and naughty. She knows that Simba is going to bring her somewhere they are forbidden to go to, but she helps him to lie, saying that they want to go near the water pole. When the animals suffer from Scar's tyrannical rule, Nala goes to seek help, and tries to fight against the tyrant. She believes in justice and one's ability, instead of believing in destiny and fate.

We can also make comparisons with the villains in the Lion King with those in Much Ado about Nothing. Both Don John and Scar has an unpleasant image. Don John is presented as cold and mischievous. While Scar is dark in color, skinny, with long black nails and green evil eyes. Both of them are jealous of their brothers’ power and other people’s happiness. They put on disguises and pretend to be friendly and caring to those who are weak and innocent and secretly scheme to destroy people they dislike. Both of them failed once and succeeded the second time. Barochio and Conrad are comparable with Scar's hyena henchmen: Shenzi, Banzai and Ed. They are all the villains’ servants, which serve as supporting characters in the villains' plots. At the end of the story, Barochio and the hyenas know that they are being used by their masters whom they once looked up to and treated as friends. Barochio testifies Don John’s bad deed and the hyenas killed Scar. The hyenas also help to bring the good ending without having Simba to kill his uncle, as Simba tells his uncle "I am not like you”, it further shapes his good nature. But unlike Borachio, the hyenas probably do not feel sorry about what they have done and they kill Scar only because they are betrayed by him.

We can compare Gertrude and Sarabi. Gertrude did not know that Claudius killed the Old Hamlet, and she married the murderer. In The Lion King, although Sarabi does not know that Scar is the cause of Musafa's death, she has no respect for Scar. Sarabi stands up to Scar and demands that they should leave Pride Rock in order to survive. On the other hand, Gertrude treats Claudius as her new king, and becomes his queen. We can see a difference in their characters too. Gertrude is more passive and obedient, whilst Sarabi is only loyal to Mufasa and tough.

The Banquet (2006)

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Apart from the Chinese setting and the character's names, this film sticks very close to the plot of Hamlet. The Banquet is set in ancient China during the period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms, where Prince Wun Luan escapes away from the Kingdom, where his father married his lover- Wan, who is now Empress Wan. When the Emperor dies all of a sudden and his younger bother Li takes the throne, Wan is forced to marry Li to protect Wu Luan and to seal her own position in the court. Li is clever and arranges murder secretly to kill Wu Luan, but fails. When Emperor Li decides to hold a Banquet, as soon as he thought that Wu Luan was dead, Wu Luan and Wan decides that it is time to strike back.

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Official site of The Banquet

IMDB article

Wikipedia Article

Review and video stream of theatre trailer

Similarities and contrasts with Shakespeare

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Both Hamlet and The Banquet are tragedies set in collapsing dynasties; both are stories based on a prince revenging for his father's death. The uncles in the two stories murder their brothers in order to gain power to be the king and out of the lust for the queen. Despite sharing a lot of similarities, there are also a number of issues with which we can contrast.

Hamlet and Wu Luan both seek revenge for their fathers, who were murdered with poison in the ear by their uncles. Both uncles marry the former queen; however, the two queens behave differently. In Hamlet, Gertrude marries Claudius to protect her status. But Empress Wan in The Banquet marries the Emperor to fulfill her vanity, ambition ,greed, she also does so to protech Wu Luan's life.

Hamlet and Wu Luan are both forced to accept duties which they have been given since birth. However, both of them are not used to such duties as they were both brought up on art and music and not accustomed to political wranglings within the court. On learning about their fathers’ death, they tried to escape from their duties by different means. Wu Luan indulges in song and dance to distract his own attention, and always puts on a mask to conceal his real emotions. Hamlet on the other hand, detaches himself from the royal court and his role by indulging in philosophy.

Both Claudius and Li attempts to kill their stepsons to protect their status. They do so by sending them away from the country and ordering them to be executed on the way. Hamlet discovers the letter which Claudius issued to send him to death; he alters it and sends his childhood friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to death instead. In The Banquet, Wu Luan is saved by the Prime Minster’s son under Queen Wan's threaten.

The characters of the two Kings are also differently portrayed. Claudius uses underhand methods to get rid of his enemies. For example, he arranges secret assassinations to eliminate his opponents to hide his maliciousness and protect his crown and status; while Emperor Li in The Banquet , eliminates his opponents publicly. When he demands Wu Luan to be exiled, he admits to his Queen that he cannot endure people who threaten him, as Emperor Li says, he "never liked masks". In the play within the play where the princes try to trap their uncles, the Kings show different reactions. Claudius' reactions have shown the audience and the court that he is up to something, he feels guilty and knows that Hamlet has already discovered the truth to the murder of his father. He runs off shouting "Give me some light. Away!" (III.ii). Contrary to that, Emperor Li is calm and rational; though shocked, walks slowly to the stage and praises the actors for their performances. He then calmly makes use of a 'reasonable' excuse, that the prince shall be traded as a hostage for the prince of a neighboring kingdom ,to send the prince away.

Li shows his true love for Empress Wan for putting his full trust in her and gives her most things she wants. Empress Wan hints in a number of lines that she wants to kill him; she even whispers in his ear that “I want your life tonight”at the banquet, but he does not suspect her. Even when Empress Wan admits her intention to poison him, he forgives her.

Claudius also is a suspicious person because he knows he is guilty of malicious deeds. Therefore, he is very sensitive to any signs of threat or implication of his murder of his brother. But Emperor Li in The Banquet is not auspicious, he ignores warnings about the date for the banquet, although this can also be seen as the fact that he has nothing to worry or be auspicious about after all the evil deeds that he has done to his brother and Wu Luan.

In the final scene of the two plays, we can also observe the differences between Claudius and Li. As Claudius' deeds were discovered by Hamlet, he still does not admit his wrong doings and ask for protection from the court, he is trying to hang on to the last bit of power, but as the wrong doings of Li are disclosed, he does not seek for any attempt to deny what he has done to his brother in front of Wu Luan, he later commits suicide to retain his glory.

Qing Nu and Ophelia are different in how they present their love towards Wu Luan and Hamlet respectively. In Hamlet, Ophelia is obedient to her father and helps to spy on Hamlet, though loving him. However, Qing Nu has faith in Wu Luen and ignores what the others say to her. But Qing Nu did not disobey her father, she still respects him as Ophelia does, just that she has confidence in what she believes in. This is a big difference comparing to Ophelia. The two of them have different reaction towards the princes' death. Ophelia becomes mad while Qing Nu remains calm. We can see that their love towards the princes is different. We can say that Qing Nu's love towards Wu Luen is greater as she shows immense trust in him, comparing with Qing Nu, Ophelia does not have enough faith in Hamlet. Therefore, there are differences in the two characters.

Comparing Hamlet and The Banquet, the ghost of the emperor in the two films are presented in different ways. In Hamlet, the ghost appears to give supplementary information of the play, to reveal the reason of his death. Also, the ghost expresses anger and enmity towards Claudius and Gertrude. It is portrayed vividly, projected as a character in the play. However, in The Banquet, there is no ghost. Instead, there is blood running out from the holes of the dead emperor's helmet to indicate the existence of the dead man's spirit. Without the ghost appearing, it actually makes the film more realistic and convincing to audience nowadays. The ghost is presented in different ways, and have different effects on the two pieces of work.

The two pieces of work also have different themes. Spying is an important theme in Hamlet; characters spy on one another to protect themselves or to archieve their aims. In the Banquet, Wu Luan uses his mask several times to conceal his face to spy on Emperor Li. Emperor Li also hides himself to eavesdrop on Queen Wan and Wu Luan’s conversation. However, spying is not an important theme of The Banquet, instead, the movie is more concerned about the negative side of human nature, such as jealousy and vanity. Empress Wan beats Ching Nu twice because she envies Ching Nu who seems to have Wu Luan’s love. Wu Luan, being protected by the Queen all the time, make the King jealous and jealousy has been one of the reasons for his exile. Like Claudius in Hamlet, the more Queen Wan gets her ways, the more she wants, and she ends up hurting a lot of people andas a consequence, she causes her own death.

Shakespeare Retold: Much Ado About Nothing

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This programme is partly adapted and inspired from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. The story is set in a modern environment and in modern English to make it easier to follow the content and jokes. Beatrice and Benedick are two presenters and ex-lovers who are reunited to present the regional news programme, while Claudio and Hero, the weather forecaster are colleagues and later on become an engaged couple. This adaptation and changing of background setting are great ways to introduce Shakespeare to the new generation, since it turns something they are not familiar with or interested in into something similar to their daily life.

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The BBC official website of the programme Includes a synopsis, reviews, interviews with the cast and video clips.

discussion board for the programme


Added review of the film

Questions and Comments

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1. How does the TV studio setting contribute to the plot?

The TV studio setting fits the plot and help shape different characters. Benedick and Beatrice are witty and verbally talented; it is beyond doubt that they are suitable for being news anchors for the same TV network. As in the beginning of the story, Beatrice and her colleague do not stick to the script. This enables the characters more space to express themselves through the presentation of programmes. As they are having a fight on-screen, it adds to the comical tension between the two. Bendick and Beatrice's cooperation also provides them with lots of opportunities to be in contact: to verbally attack each other to create hilarious scenes, and to redevelop their past romance.

Hero and Claudio are both sentimental, shy and innocent people. With Hero being the weather girl, and Claud being an assisting anchorman, their assigned positions are in line with their characters. As all the characters work in the same TV network company, where parties are commonly held, it is natural that romance is easily sparked off.

Also, the setting helps to emphasize the theme of spying and deception in Much Ado about Nothing. There are many off-screen scenes that we see from the camera and CCTV, implying that the characters are actually spied on. In the off-screen scenes, the characters talk privately in the studio, for example, Hero asking Beatrice to be her bridesmaid, and Benedick hides himself when he overhears Hero, Leonard and Keith's conversation. The characters captured by the cameras think they are safe from spying. In fact, it is the opposite. Through this setting, we can see what the characters truly think as their secrets are disclosed by the cameras.

Spying also acts as prologues to villains' evil plans, as Don is the anchorman, he can see from the cameras and spies on the other characters. Don's desire to take revenge becomes greater when he knows more from the cameras. Don accumulates his enmity and it finally reaches his bottom line and leads to his vengeance.

2. How is the character of Hero different in this version compared with the original play?

As a career woman and a reporter, Hero in this modern version appears to be more tough and calm; she is alert to her surroundings and knows what she has to do to protect herself. When she is being shamed by Claude, she fights back, asking for explanations rather than standing there, taking it and fainting like Shakespeare's Hero does. She even goes and confronts Don to reveal the truth. When she recovers and on being proposed the second time by Claud, she is able to make a clearer judgment about Claude's love for her. She is able to resist temptation which shows the rational side of her. In comparison, the Hero in Shakespeare's play is more passive, passionate and self sacrificing; she is too obsessed with Claudio and her feelings win over her reason. In the original play, Hero hardly speaks and obey whatever her father says. We can see that there is a big difference between the two Heros. The Hero in the modern version portrays a tough woman image, instead of the original Hero, the personality of modern Hero is more convincing to the society nowadays.

The different portrayal of the character also reveals the difference in roles of women in the past and present; Hero, in the original script has to pretend to be dead to save her family's honor, whereas, for this modern version of Hero, she fight back for herself.

3. Which other elements of the play have been left out or drastically altered, and what might this reveal about the director's view of how believable they would be in a modern setting?

Other elements of the original play have been left out or drastically altered, so as to fit the new setting and to make the story more realistic in the eyes of the audience.

For example, instead of Leonato and Hero pretending and making up the fake death of Hero, it is retold into Hero confronting Don for his tricks which eventually leads to a fight where Hero gets pushed and consequently bangs her head. This is more convincing than Claudio being deceived and asked to marry a second daughter who resembles Hero. Also, the alteration makes things more touching because in the original play Leonato and Hero cheat Claudio and trick him into marrying her another time. Whereas in this version, Hero defends for herself and evokes empathy from people; after she awakes and sees Claudio, she does not blame him, but smiles in tears and hugs him, she shows her true will to forgive and forget.

Hero’s rejection of Claude’s second proposal also makes her appears in the story more rational. No matter how much a girl likes the boy, it is unlikely that nowadays young women will give in so easily after being hurt in this way. Hero is calm and rational enough to explain to Claude that he just says the same thing as Don does and acts recklessly. This probably also has to do with the Elizabethan culture, when girls are supposed to marry at a young age. Moreover, Claudio in the play destroys Hero’s honour, therefore he has to marry her to compensate and Hero has to regain her honour through marriage.

Besides, Keith's role (parallel to Don Pedro) is relatively less important in this film. In the original play, Don Pedro plays an important part in joining the couples and also helps emphasizing the theme of class difference. However, his importance is greatly reduced in the modern version. This is appropriate because the theme of class difference may be insignificant nowadays, so eliminating this element makes the film more realistic and convincing.

Bloody Men (Wendy Cope)

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Link to the poem:

The poem “Bloody Men” is written in modern english language that can be easily understood by us. It is narrated probably by a woman, just like one is talking to her friends or warning us – female readers, about how terrible it is to date a wrong man and miss several other perfect boyfriends. The poet emphasis her bitterness and grief by using the word "bloody" to describe men and car. The action of “waiting for bus” is the metaphor of “waiting for love”, it is a common phenomenon that either the boy never arrive, or they show up coincidently.

Witty similie is used right at the first line, men are compared to buses, if you are not careful enough, you may miss the bus you need to get to your destination and have to wait for longer and longer. And to my understanding, the “destination” seems to be marriage and happy life after marriage.

The first stanza of the poem is written in run-on-line, with dash and not even commas, it shows the haste of the coming and going of possibilities.

It is suggested that men move on quickly, when you feel they kind of want to approach you; after the words “offering you a ride”, there is a fullstop, it is like you stop and think, and “trying to read the destinations” – trying read their minds. But then “you haven't much time to decide”, once you hesitate, boys might lose interest in you.

The fullstop in the first line of fourth stanza symbolize the end of relationship. As it is suggested, “If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.” And if you keep standing and waiting and do not take action, boys will still continue to come and go, different boys with different character and characteristics are compared to different vehicles : cars, taxis, lorries; and you just watch if you do not take any step to get involved. The use of pauses (including fullstop and commas and run-on-line) soften the tone of her speech, and shows the flow of emotion of the female narrator, though grief, still goes on and on waiting for the right men to come.

Stay (2005)

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The film "Stay" is directed by Marc Foster in 2005. Sam, a psychiatrist, is taking care of a case of a depressed and suicidal college student, Henry Letham. After Henry tells Sam his plan of committing suicide on his 21th birthday, Sam decides to save his patient. However, during the process, Sam comes across strange phenomenons which disturbs him a lot, for example seeing people who are supposed to be dead already, the things around him seem to repeat themselves etc. He, who is supposed to help Henry to distinguish the reality and illusion, is lost as well.

The world is merely an illusion. "You can't stay between the living and the dead".

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A wikipedia article on the film "Stay" Very detailed and comprehensive article on the film, including connections to Hamlet.


Stay Official Website

Stay - Rotten Tomatoes You can see people's discussions on the film "Stay" here.

Similarities with Shakespeare

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The film can be compared to "Hamlet". "Suicide" serves as an crucial element throughout the plot.

In Act III Scene 1, Hamlet's soliloquy "to be, or not to be" shows his inside debate of whether to kill himself or not. At the end, by concluding "thus conscience makes cowards of us all", he dares not to commit suicide.

The thought of "Suicide" lives in both Henry Letham and Sam's girlfriend, Lila. "Suicide" ties both of them with Sam as well; Sam manages to save Lila in the past, but he fails to save Henry.

The story is in fact based on the soliloquy of Hamlet "to be, or not to be".

Moreover, the film actually includes lines from Hamlet. For instance, Athena, who is supposed to cast Ophelia, says her favourite line in Hamlet, "O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams".

The 'play within play' in Stay is taken from Act II Scene 2 of Hamlet. "Denmark's a prison" to Hamlet, as the world is a prison to Henry Letham. (Note that Letham is actually an anagram of Hamlet.) Henry finds himself trapped and caught between living and dying. Hamlet feels guilty for not being able to kill Claudius and is mad with himself, as seen in his soliloquy in Act II Scene 2. He attacks himself with lines like “O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!” and “Am I a coward?” and calls himself a “bloody, bawdy villain!/ Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindles villain!” and “an ass”. Henry is also guilty, but he is guilty of accidentally killing his parents and his girlfriend in the car accident. This can be seen with his scribbling of "forgive me" all over the walls of his room, and his firm belief that he is going to hell.

The Departed (2006)

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The Departed is an American gangster movie directed by Martin Scorsese. It is actually a remake of the renowned 2002 Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs. It has won four Academy Awards at the 79th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and an Academy Award for Best Director win for Scorsese.

The film is about the Irish Mob boss Francis "Frank" Costello (Nicholson) plants Colin Sullivan (Damon) as an informant within the Massachusetts State Police. Simultaneously, the police assign undercover cop Billy Costigan(Leonardo DiCaprio) to infiltrate Costello's crew. When both sides realize the situation, each man attempts to discover the other's true identity before their cover is blown.

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Wikipedia "The Departed"[1]

Similarities with Shakespeare

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When comparing this gangster movie to "Richard III",there is the frequent use of murder and violence to achieve certain goals. In "The Departed", a great deal of brutal killings go on as the gang led by Costello and the police try hard to find out who the insider is. At last, both the insiders, Colin and Billy as well as the mafia head Costello, the police captain Queenan and numerous agents are killed. Similarly, in "Richard III", the power-thirsty Richard tries to gain power and seize the throne with the use of violence mercilessly. He first assigns two assassins to assassinate Clarence who has been arrested in the Tower of London. Richard also kills the Queen's kindred, Rivers and Grey so as to avoid obstacles on his way to the throne. Not only does Richard murder his enemies, he also kills his allies. For instance, Hastings and Buckingham, because they are blocking his way. On top of that, he puts an end to the two innocent Princes' lives with the assistance of Tyrell. We can see clearly how much blood Richard has shed and how ruthless and crafty Richard is in fulfilling his ambitious desire.

Se7en (1995)

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"Se7en" is a crime movie directed by David Fincher. It is about two homicide detectives, David Mills (Brad Pitt) and Lt. William Somerset (Morgan Freeman), who investigate a series of linked murders. The two gradually discover that the serial killer involved is actually basing his crimes on the Seven Deadly Sins, namely Greed, Gluttony, Sloth, Lust, Pride, Envy and Wrath. It is revealed later that the killer himself ("John Doe") is guilty of "Envy", while Detective Mills falls into the trap of committing the sin of "Wrath".

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Similarities with Shakespeare

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In the film "Se7en", the victims of the murders are all sinners who had done wrong in their lives, while in "Richard III", the victims of Richard's murders were also evil doers in one way or another. For example, Clarence is guilty for Edward's death, Hastings and Rivers are guilty for not trying to save him, and Buckingham, before he rebels, helped Richard with his murders. All these show a corrupted background in both film and play, where no one is just an innocent victim. "John Doe", like Richard, is playing the role of "the scourge of God". However, there is a difference between the motives of "John Doe" and Richard. John Doe's motivation of his murders is to remind and warn people of the Seven Deadly Sins, as well as punishing the sinners. While Richard's ultimate goal is to claim the throne, instead of merely punishing the sinners.

John Doe and Richard are both clever and cold-blooded murderers. Richard uses his cleverness to manipulate others to trust him, and to kill people like Clarence, Rivers and the young princes without giving them a chance to defend themselves. But John Doe doesn't only kill people. He is smart enough to trick detective Mills to get angry with him, so that he will take revenge by shooting him, ending his whole plan with the last sin: Wrath. A few victims like detective Mills were actually given a choice, but all of them couldn't resist the temptation of the deadly sins, and all end up getting killed.

On the whole, both John Doe and Richard are smart villains who kills brutally, though their victims aren't any more innocent than the murderers are.

Casino (1995)

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“The Casino” is a crime-drama film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is based on a non-fiction book “The Casino” by Nicholas Pileggi. Martin Scorsese is nominated for Golden Globe as Best Director - Motion Picture.

“The Casino” is about Sam "Ace" Rothstein, a gambling handicapper who is asked to manage the casino, Tangiers in Las Vegas. Sam's friend, enforcer Nicholas "Nicky" Santoro is asked to protect him and the business, as he is fierce and merciless. Sam’s wife, Ginger, a greedy and immoral woman, often engages in bribery with staff members in the casino in order to cheat. In the film, Las Vegas is portrayed as a immoral city, everyone is money-mad and is prepared to do anything for personal gain.

Wikipedia "The Casino" [2]

Similarities with Shakespeare

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Comparing “The Casino” and “Richard III”, the immoral background portraited makes everything that the characters do understandable. Every characters has done damnable crimes and is immoral. Sam has tried to make the largest profit for the casino Tangiers in every method. He fakes a malfunction of the plane, delaying a Japanese wealthy gambler flight, indirectly forcing him back to the casino for more gambling. Ginger cheats in casinos and has lots of affairs with differert gamblers for money. She has married Sam, suspecting out of money and fame, but not out of real love. Nicky is barbaric and forms his crew for cheating in the casino, though unprofessionally. Eventually, he caught himself banned from all casinos in Las Vegas. The expectingly righteous and justice Commissioner Pat Webb has also blackmailed Sam for rehiring his sister’s husband.

Similarly, every characters in “Richard III” did immoral crimes. Richard has killed his own brother Clarence and King Edward IV in clearing his path to the throne. Margaret who curses the characters in the play, has also murdered a child. They seek power in every way.

However, the endings of the play and movie are different. Richard is killed the justice, God-like, King-to-be Richmond, proving a bright and peaceful future for England. In “The Casino”, Nicky is beaten to death by gangster. He witnessed his brother’s brutal death before he was killled. It seems that it is very bleak that peace will be restored in Las Vagas.

Dancer in the Dark (2000)

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Dancer in the Dark is a musical directed by Lars von Trier. It is about a blind woman named Selma who tries her best to save money for her blind son to have an eye operation in an appropriate age. She works even in night shifts in a factory just to earn more. To pass the hard times, she spends her time day-dreaming and turns sounds she hear into rhythmic beats. Her savings are then stolen by her property owner, Bill. In order to get back what she has been saving and give her son an operation in the age before, she kills Bill. Selma is caught by the police while she was having her musical class. In the court, she is sentenced to a death penalty. In the prison, it is so quiet that Selma cannot even day-dream. She objects to re-appeal so that she does not have to be hanged. It is because she does not want to use the money she has been saving for Gene, her son. When Selma has to be hanged finally, she feels afraid for the first time. The prison guard creates sounds so that Selma can be in a day-dream and would not feel the fear. Selma is hanged and her son can see at last.

Selma considers her son her meaning of living and she is totally responsible for him.

Similarities with Shakespeare

Theme of Deception

Much Ado About Nothing

In Much Ado About Nothing, Don Pedro created a scenario that Benedick and Beatrice are actually hiding their passion for each other. He wants Benedick and Beatrice to "know" this so that they would marry. In Dancer in the Dark, non-existing scenes are created by Selma so that pain can be forgotten. Don Pedro deceits so that he can enjoy a good show of his people. Selma creates a world for herself not only for enjoyment but for herself to relieve pain by letting herself be in a joyful atmosphere. Don Pedro belongs has a high social status and Selma is socially inferior due to her blindness and her poverty. Though Don Pedro and Selma are also creating fake situations, they are different in nature due to their social and wealth status. Don Pedro's is out of his want for entertainment but Selma's is out of dark desperation. Selma does not ask for a lot. It is already "enough" for her to "have seen what she chose" and "have seen what she needs". She regards that "too much would be greed".

Richard III

In Richard III, the evil is punished in the end but in Dancer in the Dark, it is the opposite. Richard, having killed a lot of family members and relatives, finally receives his punishment. The ghosts of the dead appear to curse and haunt Richard. The curses came true and Richard "despair(s)and die(s)". He is killed by Richmond in a "bloody battle". On the other hand, Selma in Dancer in the Dark is killed despite that she has been kind to everyone. She has been a giver in the mother-son relationship as well as in the "friendship" with Bill. Although she has Jeff, her admirer, to care for her always, Selma does not allow herself to rely on him or anyone. Selma lives to provide for her son. She saves up in order to afford for an eye operation for her son. To let her son has the opportunity to see, she kills Bill to get back her savings (though under the wish of Bill). This is in contrast with Richard who kills family members for personal desire for power. However, Selma does not get glory in the end like Richmond does. Instead, she gets a death sentence because of killing Bill.

The endings suggest different meanings. Dancer in the Dark may have a message that the people with low social status such as having disabilities and being poor do not get respected or valued in reality especially in America. People can only see what lies on the surface but are not even interested in the sad stories behind the poor. That is why Selma's case does not reveal the truth and gives back justice. Selma has already given up the reality by day-dreaming all the time even in court. In Richard III, the death of Richard depicts history and at the same time satisfies audience with a desirable ending -- the evil gets what he deserves. The fact that all the prophecies come true reflects that people in 16th century usually adopt this believe. Both endings reflect reality.

The Truman Show (1998)

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This is a film about how Truman, who was meant to be an unwanted baby when born, was chosen to be filmed. The executive producer Christof wants to capture the real emotions of a person instead of having actors "making phony expressions". Truman's daily life is broadcasted live to the worldwide. Truman soon realizes that everyone around him are merely actors. His wife Meryl is also arranged for him. Sylvia is actually his true love but she is refrained from contact with him. Truman has to overcome his fear of water (also arranged in the plan of Christof) in order to reach Sylvia.

Similarities with Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing

In both The Truman Show and Much Ado About Nothing, an illusion is designed by a power-holder to achieve certain aims. In The Truman Show, Truman is presented with situations like being at home and being in the workplace. Thousands of cameras are put in place so that the purpose of capturing reactions of him can be achieved. In Much Ado About Nothing, Don Pedro arranges some friendly conversations so that Benedick and Beatrice would be mislead by the wrong information and fall in love with each other. Both works involves deceits to achieve the aims of providing a show.

Inglorious Basterds (2009)

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Inglorious Basterds is a war film directed by Quentin Tarantino. It is about a group of Jewish-American soldiers charged with taking down the Third Reich. The star cast includes Brad Pitt, a Lieutenant who leads a group of 8 Jewish-American soldiers to seek revenge from the Nazis, Melanie Laurent who operates a cinema in Paris and is also scheming against the Nazis. A premier related to Nazi propaganda is to be held in Shosanna's (Laurent) cinema. She comes to realize that a lot of Nazi officials will be gracing the event with their presence including their leader, Adolf Hitler. She sees this as the right opportunity to attack the Nazis who had killed her entire family. She decides to burn down the cinema with nitrate film. Raine's squad mergers with Shosanna to bring a chaotic end to the Nazis.

Similarities with Shakespeare

In Richard III, the role of Richard can be seen as the role of Adolf Hitler played by Martin Wuttke. The story of the movie is similar to that of the latter part of the play meaning the downfall of Richard. We see Richmond preparing a rebellion against Richard's dictatorship and tyranny and how he conspires against him. In the movie, similarly Raine is seen to be in full action to take revenge from the Nazis. Another similarity is seen when Hitler screams and rants in a furious way. In the play, we see Richard who is perplexed and gives wrong orders to Ratcliffe and beats the messengers who bring both good and bad news. We see Richard in a state of panic as he learns about Richmond's rebellion. He not only loses control over other but also himself. Another similarity can be seen in the way Raine gives his speech to the 8 soldiers. He demands them to bring "100 Nazi scalps" each. In the play, although Richmond believes in the power of God, he also shows how badly he wants to overthrow Richard. Speaking of armies, both Raine's and Richmond's armies are of a smaller number when compared to those of Hitler and Richard respectively. However, both Raine and Richmond triumph in the end by disrupting the rule of brutal leaders.

Juno (2007)

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Juno (2007) is a comedy drama directed by Jason Reitman. It is about a 16 year old girl named Juno MacGuff who discovers herself pregnant after having sex with her boyfriend Paulie Bleeker. Juno is upset by Paulie’s uncaring attitude, and decides to give birth and place the baby for adoption.

Juno soon finds Mark and Vanessa Loring in an advertisement and quickly signs an adoption contract with them. Just as when Juno thinks she has found a home for her yet unborn baby, she realizes that Mark doesn’t seem to be prepared to have a baby. Juno leaves the room abruptly while Mark and Vanessa confront each other on the matter of adoption. She decides to give birth and have the baby back with the support of her family, and she reconciles with Paulie Bleeker who comes and visits her after her labor.


Similarities/ contrast with Shakespeare

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Compared with Claudio in Much Ado about Nothing, Paulie Bleeker has become more mature and willing to take up the responsibility as a ‘father’. However, Claudio doesn’t seem to be remorseful about shaming Hero in their wedding ceremony and remains naïve. At the beginning, Claudio takes Hero as a possession like a ‘jewel’ and focuses entirely on her beauty. Later, he seeks for reconciliation with Leonato in the hope of becoming his heir. He also considers himself not ‘sinned’ but in ‘mistaking’. When offered to marry Hero’s identical ‘cousin’, Claudio requests to ‘see [her] face’ in fear that she might be an ‘Ethiope’. This shows that Claudio has not learnt his lesson and remains childish as compared with Paulie Bleeker who becomes more mature because of Juno’s crisis pregnancy.