Happy Birthday – and death anniversary (death-iversary?), William Shakespeare. Four hundred thirty-three years after you kicked your English bucket, people are still talking about you. Besides Kings, headless Queens, and Jesus, not many people can boast the same feat. You’re in holy territory. And all you did was scribble down a bunch of words and get dudes to dress in drag. Whatta man.
Sir Shakes left us with a mini Mt. Everest of poems, sonnets, and plays. Tragedies and comedies. Love stories. Betrayal stories. War stories. There ain’t a single theme this guy didn’t cover. Even technology and the dual fallbacks and advantages of machines makes its way into his 13th century prose. In case that’s not enough, the guy went along and introduced 30,000 words into the English language. He basically owns every idea you and I have ever had about love, family, grief, guilt, and even intoxication. Cheers to that, the next time you and your girlfriends are recapping a night of mayhem and mistakes over brunchtime Bloody Mary’s.
Of course, another legacy of Shakespeare’s lies in modern film. Teen films, to be exact. Turns out, the genre proved a near-perfect vessel for carrying the high drama of Shakeapearean twists into modern-day AMC theatres. It also provided high school English teachers a rare chance to be totally chill. Who didn’t love the days you’d walk into class and see that giant tv propped up, lights dimmed? Even a book nerd like me was into zoning out to Heath Ledger’s dreamy face.
So to celebrate the Bard – and his nonstop legacy – here are some of the nonstop entertaining teen flicks he inspired.
She’s the Man (2006). Oh, Amanda Bynes. Your parting is such sweet sorrow. Sorta. While her acting career has been more confusing than comedic, I have a sweet spot for this absurdist tale of a girl who dressed as a boy to play soccer for her school’s rival team, and in the meantime, falls in love with her roommate in the boys’ dorm. Pulled straight from the script of Twelfth Night, the movie showed Bynes’ knack for producing screwball laughs and a terribly funny dude impersonation. Not to mention, this is the film that introduced us to Channing Tatum. Mark that as another tally in Shakespeare’s favor.
O (2001). I admit that this movie kind of blends in with all the other early-2000-era movies featuring shots of Josh Hartnett creeping through school hallways at night. But the twist is some seriously messed up mind gaming from Harnett’s character, Hugo, which eventually leads to the death and destruction of everyone around him. A classic tragedy, this movie contained some dark matter that was heavy for any fluff-loving teen to deal with. Thankfully, everyone in this film is a total babe, so even the most intense scenes could be watched with relative ease.
Romeo + Juliet (1996). DiCaprio. Danes. Dreamy pastel tones. And those angel wings? Every lovestruck teen internalized the drama and tragedy of the most famous ill-fated love story of all time, if not through the page, then in 1996, with this movie. And I mean this for better and for worse. Because while I appreciate the stylized version and script that pays loyal tribute to the original work now more than ever, there’s a part of me that still holds a grudge toward director Baz Luhrman for making love-fueled suicide look so damn glamorous. Still, any piece of film that immortalizes Leonardo DiCaprio in his early 20s is pure gold. Nary a nobler brow has been beholden to my television screen. He was the east, the sun, and my 13-year-old self’s steez.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999). On its own, this movie about feuding sisters and the boys who love them scores big points. But as a girl-powered retelling of an antiquated story that was once filled with enough misogyny to fuel the 400 years that preceded it, it’s a knockout. There’s so many reasons to love this movie – breakout roles from both Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon Levitt, the return of Alex Mack’s Larisa Oleynik, Julia Stile’s tabletop dancing to “Hynotize”, and that one scene that every girl will remember as “the best thing ever” – but for me, it was the bittersweet, surprisingly real rendering of young kids falling in first-love. At least, it was real in terms of teen movies. If there’s any movie I never feel guilty for throwing away a Sunday afternoon for when it happens to be on TBS, it’s this one. And in modern speak, that’s like writing a thousand love sonnets in tribute.
top Shakespeare image [via]