By Teresa Naval
We’ve all read our fair share of Shakespeare and friends in high school. Some of us can still recite Act 5 of Romeo and Juliet. Cool. Some of us didn’t like any of it, and that’s okay. These works represented times and places different from ours, which is why they can be alienating or daunting or, yes, boring (and, let’s be real, the Western literary canon isn’t the word of God, anyway). But what if these works did reflect the ~now~, with all its hashtags and personal branding and house parties? Check out some web series that find the common ground between A Very Long Time Ago in the Western World, and, well, today.
Bright Summer Night
Bright Summer Night currently only has one episode, but we can already tell things will go down at this midsummer night’s house party. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the show’s source material, tackles themes like collective identity, escapism, sexuality, and love, all of which are always present in a wild night out. Puck and company are clad in fairy wings, ready to wreak havoc under Christmas lights and cheap décor.
The Misselthwaite Archives
An adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, The Misselthwaite Archives follows Mary Lennox, an orphan sent to live in the countryside. In this version, Mary is not a ten year-old spoiled brat, but is instead an angst-ridden teen sending videos to her therapist Dr. Burnett. And it works. Sophie Giberson as Mary delivers her lines so effortlessly, and an older Mary allows for a deeper examination of grief and frustration. Watching Mary snark and sass is like catching up with an old friend and hating on life together.
Nothing Much To Do
In Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice tells Benedick in disguise that Benedick is”a very dull fool.” In Nothing Much To Do, Beatrice spills on her vlog: “Benedick. He’s a total dick.”
Shakespeare’s comedy about misunderstanding and gender roles finds the right place in a group of teenagers constantly preoccupied with performing different identities and wearing masks. The players in Nothing Much To Do feel like real teenagers with real vlogs. The videos aren’t as meticulously edited as the others on this list, but that’s why Nothing Much To Do is so charming.
What happens when the characters of Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet live in a small Southern town? Lots of things—some tragic, some comedic, a lot of Beatrice throwing shade at Benedick. With only 12 episodes, Shakes could have ended a little less abruptly (and a little less sadly), but the run time was long enough to become emotionally invested in this wayward group of friends.
Season 2 follows the Weird Sisters of Macbeth fame.
The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy
Meet Wendy, advice columnist. Meet Peter, perpetual man-child. The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy has both fairies (real fairies!) and shady corporations (Jas Hook’s JHMedia). Its references to the source material are tongue-in-cheek and very clever, and it examines every young person’s greatest fear – does growing up mean selling out?
Jules and Monty
This list wouldn’t be complete with at least one Romeo and Juliet adaptation. In fair University of Verona, where we lay our scene, frat wars run rampant, and casually dropping lines in iambic pentameter is a thing. Mark (Mercutio) says “Come, come, thou art as hot a Jack in thy mood as any in Italy” while drunk, and it’s fantastic. And the finale? Still tragic, still a bit improbable, but open-ended and fits the new setting.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was one of the first to usher in the the book-to-vlog movement, and it created a universe where different Jane Austen characters interact with one another (check out their adaptation of Emma, too). Lizzie puts on costumes and uses props to illustrate the colorful people she meets in her life. It takes us 60 episodes until we even see Mr. Darcy. Totally worth the wait, though.
Photo from Hypable