Team D: Team Project

In our first re-enactment of Act 3: Scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, we focused on the dramatic aspects of the situation – despite the play’s comedic nature. Our actors produced serious tones and facial expressions, rarely looking directly at the camera, but instead gazing melodramatically off camera. Rather than a vibrant outdoor setting, our setting was an echoing, grey stairwell, which helped create many unique shots that dramatize Shakespeare’s text. We used several camera shots that hide the character’s facial expressions from view to invoke more curiosity and suspense, while also using close-ups for the sake of less ambiguous facets. The combination of echoing with our melancholy and urgent music emphasizes the subtly suspenseful mood in our depiction of the scene, while the piece at the finale of this film conveys Beatrice’s shock and underlying happiness at discovering Benedick’s romantic interest in her.

In our second re-enactment of Act 3: Scene 1, we chose to take a comedic approach in order to stay true to the nature of the play. Intending this depiction to be less ambivalent than the previous, our group maintained simplicity with straightforward shots, focusing more on dialogue than cinematography. As we also aimed to modernize the piece, we resolved to film in a nearby Denny’s restaurant, which proved to be difficult in its own regard. The loud music, clanging of cutlery, and other conversations took its toll on the sound quality, but in the end this leant to the comedic outcome. Minor ‘slip-ups,’ such as the scripts behind the menus or actors looking directly at the camera, demonstrated an accidental aura of slapstick comedy that we believe actually enhances the film. The scene’s overall light-hearted nature was brought forth through farcical tone, overtly dramatized segments, and cheerful music.

Kirsten Cordingley: Notes Reflection

When annotating a play-text, we are able to focus on a specific line, phrase, or word before heading to the next, while when taking notes for a film, we are writing about a moment that is already passing. That is, unless we choose to frequently pause the movie. In this way, note taking for texts and movies requires a break amidst the action, but I personally find that annotating texts is less jarring than pausing films to take notes.

While watching films for this class, I start with a focus on the characters. Since films interpret Shakespeare’s text differently, often the actors and actresses will not portray a Shakespearean character as I imagined them when reading the text. I will often open up a different tab on my laptop with the cast list, so that I know who’s who in the film, which is especially helpful if I’m not very familiar with the text. As the plot unfolds, I will make character charts to show how people relate to each other. For example, drawing arrows and hearts to indicate who is in love and who is related.


I note differences in the film in relation to the text, and often have the play opened, whether in book form or online, while watching. Considering what the director changes or highlights helps to understand the message or moments they try to emphasize. For example, in Throne of Blood there is only one witch character, rather than the three Weird Sisters that are in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. However, while I do take note of Shakespeare’s text when watching films adapted from his plays, I also stay aware that these films are fullsizerender-2an independent and unique creation. I pay attention to camera angles, editing, music, and acting. While doing my film review, I made notes along the way regarding anything that stuck out to me regarding these elements. For example, I took note of the music and animation choices used with the character Prospero in Taymor’s The Tempest.

When annotating play-texts, I find it helpful to summarize the footnotes in the margins beside the word or lines it applies to. This way I can reread the lines without having to look down at the footnotes. I underline things that stand out to me as important, and put question marks beside things that I don’t fully understand, often to bring them up to a classmate or professor later on. I also put a star beside passages or lines if I believe them to be significant in meaning, or applicable to a particular argument or analysis I am forming in an assignment or essay. I add notes in the margins to summarize events or explain things like symbolism. If I am close reading a passage for a paper, I will go through the passage after having read it a few times already and count the syllables in each line to see whether there is any significance in the line length. For example, in my close reading paper of the Chorus that opens Act 4 in Henry V, I noticed that Shakespeare strays from iambic pentameter in a particular line, which helped me to note his emphasis on a certain point. Similarly, I will go through and look at the ends of each line for any sort of rhyming, because often words are rhymed to point the readers attention to a particular detail.


The main problem I have when watching a film or reading a text for class is getting too engrossed in the story and forgetting to annotate or make notes. In this case, to ensure that I am successful with helping myself with assignments, or future exams, I have to go back and slowly read or watch while annotating. I heavily connect how well I comprehend the text or movie to how successful my annotating and note taking were. If I have a well-formed discussion about the movie or play, or write a well-formed paper, then I know I have succeeded in taking concise and helpful notes. Whereas, if I feel I did not understand the text or movie, or have trouble picking out any meaning, I know I have to go back and annotate and note take more, paying attention to things that I didn’t the first time.

Jordin Cummings: Film Review

In this fantastical version of “Romeo + Juliet” Baz Luhrmann keeps the text almost exact but sets the movie in a version of modern days. It is a version of modern days due to the weird mix up Luhrmann has going on. There is slo-motion, increases in time, weird outfits for the Montagues, plus an introduction to a crazy party with pressed pills. This blog post will discuss how Luhrmann adapts the visuals to the text to create a very interesting take on “Romeo and Juliet”.

In Act II Scene II, Luhrmann chooses to shoot the balcony scene in a pool-house. Luhrmann cuts a lot of text in this scene and instead shoots a close up kissing scene with uplifting music. This creates a more sexually charged atmosphere due to the lack of talking and added silky touching. It is clear these teens share a higher level of intimacy even though they just met at a party for what basically amounts to ‘7 minutes in heaven’ but in an elevator. Leonardo DiCaprio shows his take on Romeo as headstrong and carefree when he goes about shouting lines even though they could get caught. Luhrmann gives a true ode to Shakespeare when Claire Danes, Juliet, goes back up to her balcony and DiCaprio climbs the trellis to give her a final kiss.

Nurse in Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” is presented as much more personable and definite comic relief. Moving away from the orchard in Act II Scene V of Shakespeare, Luhrmann chooses to make the setting Nurse’s apartment. This allows the relationship between Juliet and Miriam Margolyes, Nurse, to be presented as far more intimate. Nurse ends up being more of a companion than a keeper. Danes gets right behind Margolyes to give her a massage showing their more personal take on the relationship of these two women. Margolyes is a very comical actor with exaggerated facial expressions and a very stereotypical, overly caring, Latina mama attitude. Margolyes clearly does not believe Nurse to be a prude in any way.

In contrast to Act II, which stays fairly true to Shakespeare’s timeline, Act III has been split up to create more drama around Mercutio’s death. Instead of killing Mercutio right away, DiCaprio spirals out and gets into a game of chicken which causes Tybalt to crash his car. Only after all of this and many shouted and repeated lines does DiCaprio finally shoot Tybalt. This part of the movie is cut with part of what is Act III Scene II in the play where Danes gives a bit of a monologue professing love for Romeo. This interjection of joy makes the shooting of Tybalt by Romeo more intense since Juliet’s love just killed her cousin. The music is biblical and epic or brooding and almost silent making Act III far less comical and considerably more dark than Act II.

In the end I cannot tell if I love or hate this movie. It reminds me of “Idiocracy” crossed with the part in “Back to the Future” where they actually go to the future meets “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. It is definitely weird. Not to mention the use of Shakespeare’s text in a modern setting is also odd. At the same time, Luhrmann manages to stay kind of true to Shakespeare in a really weird way. The use of such young actors and Nurse being so approachable, as well as Friar Laurence being so cool with his huge back tattoo of a cross, adds an appeal to my more contemporary tastes. It is one of those movies you would have to watch at least twice to know how you really feel.


Works Cited

Romeo + Juliet. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, and Miriam Margolyes, Twentieth Century Fox, 1996.

Luhrmann, Baz. “Romeo + Juliet (3/5) Movie CLIP – 1,000 Times Goodnight (1996) HD.” Youtube, uploaded by Movieclips, 9 October 2015,

Kirsten Cordingley: Film Review

In Julie Taymor’s The Tempest (2010), Shakespeare’s dialogue is adhered to very accurately, while the visual components of the movie created by the actors, directors, and editors, are sometimes encapsulating, but at times gaudy. I find that the actors and actresses represent Shakespeare’s characters very precisely and animatedly. However, the visual effects and music feel misplaced in relation to Shakespeare’s text and their bizarre nature often distracts from the storyline.

While Ben Whishaw’s acting conveys Ariel’s nymph-like personality well, I find Ariel is portrayed in a dizzying manner in terms of the effects. The computer animated attempts to make Ariel into a spirit are rather over the top and silly, making it hard to take Ariel as being eerie. The overused double image of Ariel that trails behind him as he floats around is very unrealistic. While a spirit should be inhuman in some way, the visual effects seem to be a result of trying too hard to make him into something fantastical.

A specific example of the effects associated with Ariel’s character in The Tempest occurs ten minutes into the movie when Ariel tells Prospero of the torment he inflicted on the ship. A flashback shows Ariel, who is now as large as the ship and covered in flames, poking the ship with fire while strange theatrical metal-type music is playing. The scene is completely overpowering, taking away from the actual situation. Even as Ariel is telling Prospero about the fire he inflicted on the ship, there is the same electric guitar music in the background of their speech, which doesn’t match the situation accurately.

In Act 3: Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s play, shortly after the magical feast appears before Alonso and the other men, Shakespeare writes, “Thunder and lightning. Enter ARIEL, like a harpy; claps his wings upon the table; and, with a quaint device, the banquet vanishe”. Google defines harpy as, “a rapacious monster described as having a woman’s head and body and a bird’s wings and claws.” While Ariel is a male in both the text and movie, the movie’s interpretation does reasonably well to depict him as a harpy by making him into a crow-like creature that is completely black. Although the effects in this scene are again overbearing, he is definitely creepy and threatening, which conveys the fright and suddenness of the situation.

In Act 4: Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s text, a “masque” is performed by the spirits that involves conversation, dancing, and singing. The masque is a representation of marriage, and meant to be entertaining for Miranda and Ferdinand. However, in the movie it is an extremely brief scene of hardly a minute consisting of constellations, brief white images of humans and doves, swirling patterns and numbers, and eerie music. These images and the music do not portray the celebratory marriage ritual that occurs in Shakespeare’s text. I think it would have been more satisfactory to leave this scene out entirely rather than have a quick rendition of it, because it didn’t represent the images or purpose provoked by Shakespeare’s text. Rather, the meaning was entirely different and therefore confusing.

In Act 5: Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s text, Miranda and Ferdinand are found playing chess by Prospero, and Alonso is happily reunited with his son. The scene occurs in the same manner in the movie and there is a very effective shot of Miranda looking down at the multitude of new humans. The camera starts with a close-up on her face and zooms out to a long shot of her speaking, revealing Ferdinand, her mother, and the four other men. In both text and on screen, Miranda says how “the beauteous mankind” amazes her. The shot is very effective in conveying her amazement and innocence in this situation.

Image result for the tempest movie miranda

The acting and adherence to Shakespeare’s dialogue make Taymor’s The Tempest an accurate depiction of Shakespeare’s text, highlighting the romance, eeriness, and comedy in the storyline. The editing in the movie is also sufficient, being neither too choppy or staying on the same shot for too long, but the computer generated imagery and music are very poorly done and distract from these better qualities.

The Tempest (2010) can be watched here:

 Works Cited

Google Search. Harpy. 14 October 2016. Web.

Shakespeare, William. “The Tempest.”                Accessed 14 October 2016.




Act 5 Scene 1 Jennifer Pelham


In English 311 this semester I have watched Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 Hamlet and read the Robert S. Miola edition of the play while I watched.  In the text, Hamlet watches the Grave-maker treat the skulls of the dead playfully, tossing them about instead of mournfully preparing them for the graves (5.1.87-98). Hamlet talks about one of the skulls and questions whether it might have once been a lawyer. He then contemplates how the proposed lawyer comes to be in such a state of powerlessness in death, being unable to take any action against the careless gravedigger or claim ownership of anything except his grave.

In Branagh’s film, Branagh, playing Hamlet, delivers these lines as if he is sort of amused at the same time as being confused that death makes life seem so meaningless. He doesn’t seem angry but more like he is accepting that it doesn’t matter that much what a person is or does during life because death comes for everyone and it means that in the end you have nothing. Perhaps this is also a statement on revenge and love meaning nothing as Hamlet tries so hard to take revenge on Claudius for his evil deeds against Hamlet’s beloved parents and in the end almost everyone is taken by an undiscriminating death. The way Branagh plays with the word ‘recognizance’ makes it sound like he is laughing at the lawyer for working so hard to achieve what he had during life because it doesn’t matter to anyone after his death, least of all the grave-digger playing with his skull. Hamlet seems to be laughing at the absurdity and meaninglessness of life in general.