Shakespeare by any other word?: Shakespeare’s King Lear and Macbeth reinvented in the films of Akira Kurosawa
Directors world-wide have made countless film adaptations of Shakespeare’s works, so a somewhat heated debate exists in terms of what deserves the label “Shakespearean film,” initiating conversation regarding what constitutes use of the word “Shakespearean.” Without a doubt, and for any given play, Shakespeare borrowed anything from character names to plots, settings, etc.—all the items that form the bulk of his plays. One cannot, however, limit consideration of a signature element to these items, for they exist as stock elements that have repeated and resurfaced over the span of the ages. The language, all inclusively—the diction, puns, measure, etc.—makes Shakespeare’s plays Shakespeare’s. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare writes, “[w]hat’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other word would smell as sweet” (2.2.43-4); however, can this statement metaphorically apply to that which we have come to know as Shakespearean film? In other words, when a filmmaker removes Shakespeare’s language, thereby removing Shakespeare’s signature from the work, would the film “smell as sweet,” so to speak, as Shakespeare’s play, purely on the basis that it names Shakespeare as its source material? My project will look at two of Shakespeare’s plays—Macbeth and King Lear—and Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s corresponding film versions—Throne of Blood and Ran, and will assess what happens to the Shakespearean element of these films when Kurosawa translates the plays not only into another medium, but another language.
Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of English