Legitimising Misogyny: Representations of Women in Three Shakespeare Films
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The plays of William Shakespeare have long been considered a source of cultural and educational interest by both academics and filmmakers, and the practice of adapting Shakespeare’s works to film has existed for almost as long as film itself. The name “Shakespeare” evokes ideals of cultural legitimacy and importance, and Shakespeare film as a genre is always caught up in questions of fidelity and legitimacy. In adapting Shakespeare to the screen, filmmakers also adapt, whether deliberately or not, the various cultural beliefs that his work is steeped in. Early modern ideas about gender, race and class are reproduced in modern film through the adaptation of Shakespeare, often excused or unexamined in the name of fidelity. This thesis discusses Shakespeare’s three plays Hamlet, Richard III and The Taming of the Shrew, all of which deal in some way with gender roles and the place and power of women, whether that power is sexual, political or verbal. I also examine three film adaptations of the plays: Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, Ian McKellen and Richard Loncraine’s Richard III, and Gil Junger’s 10 Things I Hate About You. All three films serve as examples of the way the misogyny present in Shakespeare’s works is reproduced and sometimes magnified through adaptation to the screen. The reproduction of early modern gender hierarchies is naturalised in a number of ways across the three films, including the use of star power, the invocation of Shakespeare as a cultural authority, and specific filmic techniques such as flashback and the cutting and editing of film and screenplay. I argue that in all three films, the faithful adaptation of Shakespearean ideas of gender comes at the expense of both the women characters and those women who make up the films’ audience.