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Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha and William Shakespeare’s English History Plays

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    Vili Maunula

    Critical Survey, a quarterly journal focusing on renaissance and modern literature and culture, has its latest issue exploring the topic of Shakespeare and Japan.

    Among the eight articles is “Shadowing Shakespeare: Akira Kurosawa’s Kagemusha (1980) and William Shakespeare’s English History Plays (c. 1591–98)”, an article by Meiji University associate professor Alex Watson. If the subject sounds interesting, you can find the article here, although access requires payment.

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    PeterT

    I have just read this essay and found it excellent. Watson makes a strong case for the film’s concept and political philosophy being strongly influenced by Shakespeare, also helps to rescue it from the generally low esteem it is held by critics. It’s always been a favourite of mine.

    In passing, I’ve never really bought the idea of The Bad Sleep Well being modelled on Hamlet, thus making it AK’s third Shakespeare adaptation. What do people think?

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    BMWRider

    Thankfully I still have access to the academic servers at my school, I will read it later.

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    Vili Maunula

    PeterT: In passing, I’ve never really bought the idea of The Bad Sleep Well being modelled on Hamlet, thus making it AK’s third Shakespeare adaptation. What do people think?

    I wouldn’t call it a Hamlet adaptation either, although many seem to like that label. It probably was influenced by Hamlet, and there certainly are many contact points between the two works, but I would say that insisting on approaching the film through Hamlet does it a disservice.

    It is neither a copy nor a reflection, but maybe it is an echo. Ran, after all, wasn’t going to be a Lear adaptation either, that came later in the process. I’m sure Kurosawa was aware of the parallels between The Bad Sleep Well and Hamlet; after all, according to Richie it was Kurosawa’s favourite Shakespeare play alongside Macbeth. But he chose not to fully engage with Shakespeare there.

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