The Shakespearean Auteur and the Televisual Medium

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In the wake offundamental shifts in television, programming and production have seen television creations which rival—even go beyond—standard cinema in scope, length and character development. This essay takes the distinctive approach of applying auteur theory to the small screen, exploring what understandings of the auteur might mean for a new era of television Shakespeare, and, as its case-study, considers the BBC’s Hollow Crown series. Characterized by a feature-film appearance, a multimillion pound budget, and an all-star cast, the series is exemplary of how television is now made; hence, the essay argues, the series needs to be investigated in relation to the most recent understandings of the medium. Central to this investigation is the way in which producer Sam Mendes’s vision imprintsitself upon each of the series’s four episodes, and the first part of the essay is accordingly concerned with his recognizable style and credentials as the series “showrunner.” However, Mendes’s is not the only auteurial stamp on the series, and the essay is equally concerned with how each of Mendes’s three co-directors places his or her auteurial signature on the Shakespearean source material in such a way as to lend each production a unique character. These individualized creative visions, the essay argues, unfold in concert with Mendes’s conceptualization of the series in its entirety. Ultimately, televisual auteurism is understood as a complex phenomenon that allows for more than one creative approach to be entertained. This journal article is 7094 words.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-485
Number of pages17
JournalShakespeare Bulletin
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sep 2016


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