Deny thy father, yet seek to please him?: subversive Shakespeare and the authoritative desire of Shakespearean teen films

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University of Alabama Libraries

This dissertation examines questions of authority in teen adaptations of Shakespeare. Drawing on the fields of Shakespeare studies, film studies, and cultural studies, I focus on four Shakespeare film adaptations ‒ Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, Gil Junger's 10 Things I Hate About You, Tim Blake Nelson's O, and Michael Almereyda's Hamlet ‒ and maintain that discussions of these films must be grounded in discussions of Shakespeare's plays and of the teen film genre. By comparing Shakespeare's plays to other early modern texts, examining early modern cultural practices, and considering the plays' critical and theatrical histories, I argue that Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Othello, and Hamlet present radical challenges to particular structures of authority in early modern England, including marriage, gender roles, racial and cultural difference, and tyranny; these plays seek a future in which traditional forms of authority are questioned, reworked, and reformed. In contrast, teen films, according to scholars of the genre, promote and uphold hegemonic values, typically represented in the form of patriarchal control. Authority operates on different levels, as the films themselves reflect the values of the adult generation and as the young characters within the films express a desire for more, not less, authority in their lives. Using these studies, I argue that Shakespearean teen films frequently present restrictive views of teen autonomy. Rather than challenge, subvert, or rebel against received social structures, these films depict young characters who yearn for parental or social acceptance; similarly, the films themselves limit challenges to authority by presenting a return to order. In comedy, this restoration appears as protagonists learn to navigate social expectations, thus winning approval from peers and adults alike; in tragedy, the police restore authority by arriving to survey the scene and punish wrongdoers, or the media anesthetizes the tragedy by reporting it as just another story on the evening news. In this dissertation, I do not privilege Shakespeare's plays over contemporary films, but rather attempt to demonstrate how Shakespearean teen films adapt and interpret their source texts within a particular set of generic and historical conventions.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
British and Irish literature, Film studies, Literature