ShakespeareCommentary by Pete du Pont
January 14, 1997
Host intro: If you were to comb the movies over the past couple of years, it would be easy to spot the number one script writer. Pete du Pont of the National Center for Policy Analysis says Tinseltown is onto something.
The bad news: one third of major colleges no longer require students to read Shakespeare.
The good news: in Hollywood, Shakespeare rules.
In the past few years, we've had Othello, Mel Gibson's Hamlet, Ian McKellan's imaginative interpretation of Richard III, Al Pacino's meditation on the same play in Looking for Richard, Kenneth Branagh's robust Much Ado about Nothing and his splendid Henry V, and even a Romeo and Juliet in a modern gang setting. Now there's an enchanting Twelfthnight in which Helena Bonham Carter and Imogen Stubbs will steal your heart, and Branagh's four-hour Hamlet that presents Shakespeare's best-known play in its rarely seen uncut glory.
Moviegoers ignore screens filled exploding buildings and smirking sex to sit at the cinematic feet of the prototype dead white male.
And why not? Who ever captured love and longing, bitter jealousy, vaulting ambition, fierce loyalty, implacable hatred, even national pride better than Shakespeare?
In the hands of great actors, plays read with vague comprehension in high school come to singing life. The homework assignment of long ago is suddenly riveting, in-your-face entertainment.
Shakespeare is making box office cash registers ring. The collapse of western civilization has been postponed.
Those are my ideas. And at the NCPA, we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont, and I'll see you tomorrow.
Host out: Coming up Wednesday, Pete du Pont's looking over his shoulder at conspiracy theories.