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Playwrights rewriting some of Shakespeare's works for modern times

Dr. Ruben Espinosa
Posted at 3:37 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 21:30:10-04

TEMPE, AZ — Over the decades, the works of William Shakespeare have been reinvented over and over — a way to connect audiences to writing 400 years in our past.

Many times, however, those plays and sonnets can be filled with antiquated language or plot lines ill-advised for today's modern audiences.

“How the language might not hit with the current audience and what changes can be made so that it has a different effect on a contemporary audience, I think that’s important,” said Arizona State University associate professor Dr. Ruben Espinosa.

Dr. Espinosa and others from the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance studies, are tweaking some of Shakespeare's greatest works to make them more relatable to today's audiences.

“Anybody who comes at Shakespeare for the first time would say it’s incredibly difficult, I think if they say it’s easy, it’s understandable, they’re probably lying,” said Dr. Espinosa with a chuckle.

Dozens of playwrights are now charged with clearing the fog of confusion for readers, while also tackling major issues in the prefaces of each play, such as inappropriate jokes or tales of the “times” clouded in some of society's worst instincts.

“Plays like "(The) Taming of the Shrew," where there’s explicit sexism, misogyny, and acts of domestic violence, right, one needs to be careful in the way that one addresses that,” Dr. Espinosa said.

More than half of the selected playwrights doing the revisions are women — and more than half are writers of color.

“I can also see how Shakespear is an unbelievable vehicle to having these, I think, very important conversations,” said Dr. Espinosa.

More on the “Play on Shakespeare” series, here.