n Shakespeare in Southern Africa - Box office poison?

Volume 25, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-582X



Few areas of scholarship have grown as rapidly in recent years as the study of Shakespearean cinema. A multitude of scholars have explored Shakespearean films from different perspectives, examining the field from the first pioneering efforts to the present day. The discourse is constantly being redefined. Jack Jorgens (1991), who so succinctly theorised the degrees of distance of the films from their source plays, was scathing in his dismissal of the early silent versions. Judith Buchanan (2011), following Robert Hamilton Ball (1968), has redressed this, clearly demonstrating the value of these films. Anthony Davies (1988) contrasted theatrical and cinematic space, and dwelt upon the ways in which they influenced each other. Russell Jackson (2007), with his experience of working on Branagh's screen versions, has examined several key twentieth century productions as articulations of the originals, taking their reception into consideration. No-one has gone further than Richard Burt (1999 and 2002) in exploring the penumbra of Shakespeare derivations. Emma French (2006) has produced an important examination of the marketing of Shakespeare in Hollywood. Kenneth Rothwell (2004), Marcus Pitcaithly (2011) and Daniel Rosenthal (2007), to name but three, have catalogued the large numbers of such films in considerable detail. Important as these and many other books and articles examining the presence of William Shakespeare in the cinema are, however, the areas which have received the least scholarly attention are those which have the most profound effect upon whether or not audiences have any opportunity to see films based upon the plays of Shakespeare in the first place. As Deborah Allison rightly points out, the choice of films that audiences get the opportunity to see "lies less in the range of films that are produced than in the business practices of the distribution and exhibition sectors. These practices have received far less public scrutiny ... yet they are critical in shaping the choice of films available for public consumption." (Allison 81)

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