On April 23 the 400th year of Shakespeare’s birth and death are celebrated. Although there is still controversy over authorship of Shakespearean writing there is little doubt about the great art of Shakespeare and its lasting effect on culture, including film today. On April 23, The Guiness World Records presents Shakespearean world records which include Shakespeare as the “Most filmed author… Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets have been adapted into 420 feature film and TV-movie versions.”
Shakespeare produced brilliant art as a product of his time. Shakespearean art was developed in a singular period of great dramatic literature which flourished under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth and her allowing public expression of Renaissance artistry and Reformation ideas during her reign. Shakespeare and other great Elizabethan playwrights produced great sweeping histories, tragedies, and comedies, during this period. Actors were respected members of society during the reign of Elizabeth. Playwrights and actors flourished during the Elizabethan period. Great and skilled literature for the mind, for the ear, and for performance was produced.
During this period, William Shakespeare wrote in unrhymed blank verse with the iambic pentameter rhythm, as that of the beating heart. He followed Thomas Kyd, who had established this writing style as a hallmark of the period in The Spanish Tragedy. Shakespeare also borrowed from earlier fiction, histories, myths, and playwriting techniques. He contributed few new playwriting elements, but he brought them to greater aesthetic heights. Like the Greek writers and playwrights, who were studied and celebrated during the Renaissance, he wrote with great breadth and depth, as he dealt with great philosophical issues, universal themes, and complexities of his characters, who portrayed human emotion with intensity.
Shakespeare also brought to great heights of expressions some of the best of both the Renaissance and Reformation, the two great movements of his day that Queen Elizabeth allowed to co-exist under her leadership. Shakespeare’s theater, the Globe, was situated across the Thames from London, on the “wrong side” of the river. Queen Elizabeth conceived this compromise arrangement to please the Puritans. As a result, all strata of society were represented in Shakespearean plays, as they related to all classes and persuasions of people. Thus, his work has had broad and universal appeal as well as depth in terms of philosophical issues and complexity of characters. His writing has been rich in terms of thought but in terms of appeal to the ear with the most skillful use of poetic, literary devices of the time.
As great art was enjoyed during Shakespeare’s day as a result of both Renaissance artistry and Reformation ideas, today we can also celebrate and enjoy another Renaissance of artistry and Reformation of content that we see working together in modern film. In recent years, we have been seeing increasingly improving movies in terms of artistry and content as the best mainstream and independent studios, directors, and actors have produced increasingly redemptive movies that have been top box office movies in theaters with staying power.
These redemptive movies have basically told stories of people serving others and often rescuing them from dangerous, harmful and/or evil conditions for what is good, beautiful and eternal. Redemptive movies (while being authentic, honest and believable) entertain with stories that are edifying, enlightening and enriching that reinforce universal ideas of unconditional love and morality. They don’t entertain viewers with what is degrading, devaluing or destructive. Such movies have also increasing included the best artistic quality, including cinematography, writing, directing, acting, and more. They are entertaining, thought-provoking, and picturize role-modeling characters.
Recent years have been marked by an increasing number of best practice redemptive movies with top box office draw and staying power for all ages produced by mainstream and independent studios, directors, and actors. Box office and home video records have also indicated a growing popular interest in family values/redemptive movies. There has been a growing acceleration in production of best practice redemptive movies by independent and Hollywood studios and companies. Thankfully, we have been witnessing another Renaissance of artistry and Reformation of content that today is delivered on multiple platforms to the world through modern technologies. This global picture of what has been developing in recent years is much to celebrate.