Essay plan – Modern Shakespeare vs traditional

Concept: Modern Shakespeare vs traditional 

I decided to investigate the topic of where the line should be drawn between adapting and re-imagining Shakespeare’s plays for modern audiences and sticking to the traditional ways of performing Shakespeare. After recent media attention and coverage I thought it would be interesting to use the incident of Emma Rice having to step down from the position as Director at the Globe Theatre for apparently taking her modern ideas and takes on Shakespeare’s plays too far. There was a lot of controversy around this subject and whether this was right to do and whether her modern ideas were the only reason for her resignation from the Globe or whether she was discriminated for her gender; as well as whether Shakespeare’s works should in fact be adapted to being made relatable and relevant to current audiences instead of being conserved like historic artefacts. Undoubtedly this has been a debate amongst theatre enthusiasts for several years and also caused a splurge of media attention when Sheridan Smith stared in the adaptation of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. As a young actor and a lover of Shakespeare’s works, whom has seen and appreciates both traditional productions and modern takes of his plays, the recent publicity around the news of Rice’s step down provoke a lot of questions as to why this was seen as necessary and whether it was the right thing to do to preserve the classical nature of Shakespearean theatre.

Possible areas to cover 

  • Why people feel the need to change it? Is it even necessary?
  • Emma Rice losing position at the globe for modern ideas
  • Different levels of modernising: Changing language/setting/context/relationships etc.
  • Use examples of adaptations I have seen and comment on how far they pushed the boundaries and what worked and didn’t work. (E.g. LAMDA futuristic midsummers, RSC all female Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado with David Tenant, The Shakespeare retold BBC series, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet)
  • What the pros and cons of modernising Shakespeare plays?
  • Whether changing Shakespeare plays to make it accessible for modern audiences is actually helping or just distancing them from being able to connect to it?

Primary sources

  • Interview a director (Karen at theatre royal/Lynn Whitehead/other contacts)
  • Interview theatre audience members for opinions and responses
  • Own opinions/knowledge
  • Survey – survey monkey

Link to my survey and results


Trailer for Emma Rice’s Midsummer’s at the Globe


Public response on Emma Rice and views on reviving Shakespearean plays 

Research articles and reading referenes

Emma Rice Articles     –  extra reading – extra reading -ER – ER

The general debate on modernising Shakespeare—youll-fin/

David Crystal Essay – ‘To Modernise or not to Modernise: There is no Question’

History of how performances of Shakespeare have changed over time

Other modernised productions


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