Calabasas High School

Opinion: How William Shakespeare became the king of teen romance movies

From “Romeo and Juliet” to “As You Like It,” William Shakespeare has created some of the greatest recognized written works. The Bard, as he is referred, is known for the dramatic, farcical and tragic stories.

Love, power, and betrayal are all reoccurring themes that can be seen in his work. Those words can also describe any teen movies. Many plays written by Shakespeare have been turned into teen rom-coms.

“She’s the Man,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” and “Get over It” are just a few examples.

Now, why have some of the greatest written works existing to this day become cheesy teen love stories?

Some can call it lazy writing and others will call it giving mass appeal to a staple in literature. Drama as tragic and pronounced as that of Shakespeare and his farcical situations belong in a high school setting.

In “She’s the Man,” Amanda Bynes character Viola poses as her brother Sebastian at his new boarding school, so she can continue to play soccer, while he is in London.

In Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” the play which “She’s the Man” is based upon, Viola takes the place of her brother on board after being separated during a shipwreck. The setting of the story is updated, and the characters modernized. The plot, however, remains pretty much the same.

The cross-dressing, secret romances and misunderstandings from “Twelfth Night” are key elements to “She’s the Man.” The key plot points are taken from Shakespeare’s plays and written into a high school setting to be more adaptable to a young, modern audience.

If you look at Shakespeare’s plays you see the role power can play. Generally, power is a corrupting and evil force in his works, used by buffoonish characters. Monarch or high-class families will often abuse their power and authority in his plays.

In “The Taming of the Shrew” Gremio and Hortensio uses their influence and riches in order to get rid of Katherine and win her sister Bianca.

In “10 Things I Hate About You,” Joey (a combination of Gremio and Hortensio) uses his popularity and money in order to get rid of Kat and pursue her sister Bianca. Power comes from the status of both versions of Gremio and Hortensio.

Bianca would not be interested in Gremio and Hortensio/Joey if he were not popular, and he would not have gotten to Bianca if Joey/Gremio and Hortensio did not wield their power to get to her. However, they create their own demise with a lack of awareness and the moronic behavior they exhibit due to their untamable lusting for Bianca.

Power is a key element in high school stories. Think of the most popular girl in school trope or the untouchable cool kids. The world has changed. There are no more powerful monarchs, but these structures still exist in high school.

In Shakespeare’s plays, most of the female characters exist and function within the constraints of marriage and their wifely duties. This idea does not really play into modern world. Women have more rights than they did in the 1500s and can exist as more than a wife, sister, or daughter in literature.

The teen movie adaptation is a way of updating the female characters and giving them a larger identity. Again, in “10 Things I Hate About You” Kat Stratford is an outspoken feminist. She is defined for her love for education, music and individuality.

Her equal Katherine in “The Taming of the Shrew” is as well-woman who is viewed as a shrew for her superior intellect compared to the men around her. Her mate Petruchio is a match for her mind, but she submits to him and becomes his wife, a role she had originally rioted against. The fear of being a horrendous shrew gets to her and forces her to be domestic.

In “10 Things I Hate About You,” Kat Stratford may end up in a relationship with her mate Patrick but she does this on her own terms without compromising herself as an intellectual woman and continuing to chase the education she desires at Sarah Lawrence College.

In his modern teen adaptations, Shakespeare’s plays become less dramatic and more simplistic, but the same key points remain. The tales as well become more feminist, in the sense that the female characters become more complex.

Overall, Shakespeare’s dramas have lasted hundreds of years and the situations have become relatable for a teen audience. All these adaptations have dethroned John Hughes and made Shakespeare the king of teen romance movies.