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The Edinburgh Companion to Shakespeare and the Arts$
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Mark Thornton Burnett and Adrian Streete

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780748635238

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748635238.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 22 September 2021

Shakespeare and Silent Film

Shakespeare and Silent Film

(p.467) 25 Shakespeare and Silent Film
The Edinburgh Companion to Shakespeare and the Arts

Judith Buchanan

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter asks for a reappraisal of Shakespeare in his silent film appearances. Beginning with King John, it reports that the films of the period are distinctive for encouraging moments of communion and stimulating imaginative effort. It is suggested that a landmark juncture was the point at which practitioners abandoned the stage to embrace new-found confidence in the cinematic medium. Herbert Beerbohm Tree's own reflections on the production process suggest he was genuinely entranced with the American film industry. The approach of the King John film was in tune with the industry's filmmaking impulses in relation to adaptation more generally in the pioneering years. Shakespeare films had not previously tended to attract artistic plaudits specifically from cineastes. 1916/17 was a significant coming-of-age moment for silent Shakespearean cinema. For some Shakespearen, silent cinema showcased actors engaged in frantic and undignified gesturing and then had the gall to call that ‘Shakespeare’.

Keywords:   silent film, Shakespeare, King John, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, American film industry, silent Shakespearean cinema

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