Shakespeare in the Movies: Meaning-Making in the Non-Adaptation

  • Eric S. Mallin
Part of the Reproducing Shakespeare book series (RESH)


In this chapter, I consider the interpretive pitfalls and profits of reading Shakespeare through contemporary American movies that do not refer directly or even indirectly to Shakespeare. I call such films “non-adaptations,” and the most celebrated film that belongs in this category is Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972), a modern vision of Hamlet. With its terrifying ghostly father, monstrous son, and tragic self-damnation through criminality, the movie perfectly embodies Shakespearean plot arc and subtexts. I conclude the introduction with a brief meditation on the film work of Stanley Cavell, who first wrote about the Shakespearean non-adaptation. Cavell’s readings are powerful and problematic, and I address some of the complications of attempting this kind of interpretation.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric S. Mallin
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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