If Shakespeare Had the Chance to Write Screenplays

I used to tell my young students a story. There was a king who was killed by his evil and jealous brother so that he could take over the throne. The king’s son, the prince who should be the next king, is deceived by the uncle. Some student would inevitably interrupt me and call out “That’s The Lion King!” Well, yes, it is, but it’s also Hamlet. We would talk about it further. Nala is Ophelia, Timon and Pumbaa are like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and Rafiki is Horatio. Plus ghosts.

Of course, The Lion King is about lions and is both tragic and comedic – and almost everybody dies at the end of Hamlet.

William Shakespeare has been adapted in many ways for the screen. There are a lot of filmed versions of the plays. I think that if he had lived in our age, Will would have written for TV and the movies. He liked being popular, the money is good and I bet he could knock out series episodes easily. Since he’s not here, other writers have adapted his wonderful and copyright-free plots and characters frequently.

I saw the film Forbidden Planet when I was a kid. When I was in college, I realized it was Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Prospero becomes Dr. Morbius and Prospero’s daughter Miranda becomes Altaira. The shipwrecked sailors are replaced by astronauts arriving on the planet.

My teacher in high school made it clear that West Side Story was Romeo and Juliet updated to gangs in New York City but with music and dancing. Would William have been surprised by it? Probably not, but he may have been surprised to see Warm Bodies (2013) where his plot gets the zombie treatment and “Juliet” falls in love with the wrong (dead) boy. Spoiler: reversing Will’s plot, Romeo is brought back to life thanks to her love in this version. Tragedy becomes “comedy” (in the Shakespearean sense).

The 2001 Othello update simply called O replaces warriors and the beautiful Desdemona with prep school students and basketball.

It’s harder to identify The Tempest as a source for HBO’s The White Lotus but Shakespeare does have some influence on this satire of the hospitality industry.

The romantic comedy She’s the Man is based on Twelfth Night. Both follow the confusing love-story plot.

And the film 10 Things I Hate About You is loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and uses many of the play’s character names and a modern spin on the plot. Both center on two very different sisters. Will has the younger Bianca unable to marry until her strong-willed sister, Katherine “the shrew” is wed. In the 1999 film, Bianca can’t date until Kat does. I haven’t seen the film Deliver Us From Eva but I heard it is also based on the Shrew.

“Teen films” in particular seem to use Shakespeare quite a lot. It’s a bit of a stretch but 2004’s Mean Girls borrows some things from Julius Caesar and Macbeth including some of Bard’s language and themes. And it does have Gretchen’s Julius Caesar rant.

Of course, it’s not just Shakespeare that gets used for new screenplays. The teen favorite film Clueless is loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma. I’m not sure Jane would immediately recognize Cher as Emma but the film’s plot parallels the novel’s but with modern twists.

One of my favorite recent takes on classics is the very imaginatively filmed Apple TV+’s Dickinson series which uses elements of Emily Dickinson’s life and lots of her poetry and wildly mixes period piece settings, characters, and costumes with modern music and references. It surprised me and I was quite taken with all 30 episodes.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

I was writing about the book Weekends at Bellevue yesterday and I started to add some information about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but it didn’t really fit into that post. So, I am going to use the notes I made in this post because I think it’s important at this time of year.

SAD is also known as winter depression or winter blues, and it is a mood disorder in which people who have “normal” mental health throughout most of the year, seem to experience depressive symptoms in the winter. (There are actually a smaller number of people who seem to experience it in the summer, spring or autumn.)

Do you experience any severe mood changes when the seasons change?

Maybe you start to sleep too much. Your energy level drops. You crave “comfort foods” and sweet and starchy foods. You feel depressed.

Sure, everyone gets these symptoms, but they usually go away quickly on their own. SAD is when it lasts for weeks, months, or throughout the season.

I am not a therapist, but I’ve been through therapy. So, these are some suggestions I have if you feel some winter blues that I hope might help.

Light therapy with sunlight or bright lights is a standard one. The special lights can be expensive. I recommend getting out into real sunlight. Add to that getting into the natural world – a park, a wooded area, a forest – and you increase the power of the sunlight.

Certainly, if you live in a cold climate now, getting to a sunny beach would be nice – but that’s not always practical.

Let me put in a good word for Vitamin D.  It’s a good vitamin for preventing osteoporosis, depression, prostate cancer, and breast cancer. It even affects diabetes and obesity. It is such an underrated nutrient – probably because it’s free.

Don’t rush out to the store to buy a vitamin D supplement. Your body makes it when sunlight touches your skin. Since no one can make money selling you sunlight, it doesn’t get much promotion. Vitamin D is produced by your skin when exposed to ultraviolet radiation from natural sunlight. Those rays cannot penetrate glass, so sitting on the couch looking out the window or in a car is not going to help. I read that it is nearly impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from your diet. Sunlight exposure is the only reliable way to generate vitamin D in your own body.

Another “official” treatment is ionized-air administration. An air ionizer (or negative ion generator) is a device that uses a high-voltage charge to ionize air molecules. Negative ions, or anions, are particles with one or more extra electrons, conferring a net negative charge to the particle. Ions are de-ionized by seeking earthed conductors, such as walls and ceilings. These negative ions are positive for your mental health.

Do you know where you can surround yourself with these negative ions? Around water. Water generates negative ions. Breaking the surface tension of water, by waves, waterfalls, water over rocks in a stream or evaporation releases negative hydrogen ions into the atmosphere. These negative ions can stick to different free radicals and so are very beneficial for our health. (more on that in a future post) Get thee to some water!

Some studies have shown that carefully timed supplements of the hormone melatonin can help people with SAD.

What’s the takeaway from this post? Get out of the house – especially in winter when the season and cold tells you to stay in.  Get sunlight. Get into nature. Find a place with moving falling water. Bring a friend or loved one. Walk and look at what is around you. Breathe deeply. Take a hike. Feel the cold that tells you are alive.

The worst way to treat those depressive bouts is to do what depression tells you to do – stay home, avoid people, eat junk, drink alcohol, take drugs, smoke, and sleep excessively.  You have to force yourself to do the opposite, and if you do, it will get easier to stay on that path. If you know someone going through SAD, try to get them on the right path.