Later in our Shakespeare on Tor.com essay series, Emily Asher-Perrin will tell you about a high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that was engineered to get teens excited about Shakespeare. It did not work. It also wasn’t the only scheme of its kind: There’s always some well-meaning drama teacher—or movie director—who wants to make Shakespeare speak to the youth of today. Whether that involves playing up the sex, drugs, and violence that characterize various works; dropping Shakespearean verse into a modern setting; or building something entirely new off the framework of a play—many have tried.
In the best of these adaptations, Shakespeare’s work serves as a jumping-off point for meditations on race, sexuality, and gender roles, with films that embrace diversity in more meaningful ways than just colorblind casting or genderswapping, and instead try to get to core truths about the human condition. (Often with outrageous musical numbers.)