Ranking Julia Stiles Shakespeare Movies

AI-generated sketch of Julia Stiles in Shakespearean costume
She’s giving Kate vibes in this AI-generated sketch.

I love this idea for a list, courtesy ScreenRant – Top Julia Stiles Shakespeare Movies. Of course, she only made 3, so it’s a very short list – Hamlet, O (Othello), and 10 Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew). The math geek in me wants to say that only leaves 6 possible combinations, but who are we kidding – nobody’s making O their number 1. I love that I can just italicize a single letter like that as a title.

I like to remind people, though, that Ms. Stiles may have been having a bit of fun with us during her Shakespeare period.

She portrayed Ophelia to Ethan Hawke’s Hamlet in 2000 … but she also starred in Down to You with Freddie Prinze Jr. the same year. Is that a Shakespeare adaptation? Well, no. But she does play a character named Imogen – who shares a name with a character from Cymbeline. Which Ethan Hawke also starred in, in 2014! But we’ll call that one a coincidence, the girl’s not from the future.

Then, in 2004, she starred in The Prince and Me. Oh, and she was named the same as a Shakespeare character? Not this time. She just played the love interest to the Prince of Denmark. And they fall in love bonding over Shakespeare sonnets.

I’m a little tempted to stage a Julia Stiles movie marathon just to see how many Shakespeare references we can spot in the strangest places.

College Geeklet Stories: In Defense of Emilia

Welcome back to another Geeklet College story! Unfortunately, I’m nearing the end of my first-ever college Shakespeare class, but I hope to take another one once it’s offered. My college runs Shakespeare in two parts: the first part of his life and the comedies, and the second is the end of his life and the tragedies. I’m in the second half of the class, but the first part isn’t being offered for next semester, so I have to wait. This class sparked my interest in women and gender studies in literature, so I signed up for a WGSS class for next semester. I don’t know if I’ll minor in it yet, but since I liked this class so much, I figured, why not?

We’ve now read Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear. All besides Romeo and Juliet were new reads for me, and I greatly enjoyed them. Lear was pretty hard for me to understand, and I would argue that this is the most complicated read so far, but I still think I understood it well. I think I’ve seen so many interpretations of Romeo and Juliet that I’ve kind of become desensitized to it. Rereading it yet again didn’t do anything for me, though I did find the conversation about whether or not Romeo and Juliet were actually in love interesting (no, they weren’t, and I will argue that for as long as possible).

The play that falls just behind Macbeth for me is Othello. The content of Othello was pretty horrific with the sheer amount of racism and misogyny, but to me, the analysis of the characters was fascinating. I wrote my second essay for the class on the Goldilocks’ rule of gender in Othello. You have Desdemona, the ideal woman for men at the time. Bianca, who is the unideal woman, and finally, Emilia, who is “just right” in a sense.

I wish Emilia were talked about more because there is so much depth to her character and her relationship with Desdemona and Iago that is barely touched upon, from what I can find. I mean, Iago is awful to Emilia, and she still does what he asks of her. There seems to be a mutual lack of love between them, though, whereas, with Desdemona and Othello, Desdemona still loves Othello despite how awful he is to her. I found it really interesting that so many of the relationships that Shakespeare writes are filled with unconditional and frankly insane love, but Iago and Emilia really don’t seem to love each other at all. They’re just doing what’s “required” of them in a marriage. 

When you search the relationship between Iago and Emilia, the results typically say that she loves him because she does what he asks. I would argue against that. I can’t find a single part of the play where Emilia shows that she loves Iago but rather is simply obedient to him. The issue of associating obedience with love is an entirely different issue, and I thought in this century, we stopped associating doing whatever your partner wants with love.

I think Emilia fell victim to what marriage was in the 17th century. Women were expected to get married not only for social acceptance but to be financially stable. Love came second. So, I believe Emilia is really just going about her job as a wife at the time.

Her “Are you a man?” speech is what made me so interested in Lady Macbeth. Emilia’s speech on female sexuality was similar. “Their wives have sense like them. They see, and smell, And have their palates both for sweet and sour, As husbands have.” I remember reading this for the first time and saying, “Woah.” I feel like a female character openly admitting that women should be able to cheat on their husbands is so out of pocket for that time, but the way she worded it made so much sense as well. It’s almost as if she cheated herself, but I don’t have enough evidence for that theory.

The depiction of female friendships was also very interesting to me. Emilia asks to be laid next to Desdemona when she dies, which speaks to how close the two women are. Even in the scene where Emilia confides in her about how women should cheat, they appear to be extremely close. Those were a few examples, and though it wasn’t mentioned much, their friendship. However, men get in the way of their friendship when Iago asks Emilia to take Desdemona’s handkerchief. And though she loves Desdemona, she has to do what her husband asks of her, even though it’s not necessarily right. Today, the belief lies in choosing friends over who you’re dating, but Othello flips it and emphasizes choosing your partner over your friends. 

I would love to learn more about Emilia because so much is unknown about her. I often see retellings of Lear, Hamlet, or Macbeth, but someone has to write their own creative interpretation of Emilia for my own sake. Maybe I’ll do that at some point. Who knows.

Woops, Wrong Falstaff. A Geeklet Story.

I have been writing about Shakespeare on this site for literally my children’s entire lives. If you go back far enough you’ll find the sonnet I wrote for my daughter when she was born. Over the years whenever my love for my children crossed over with my love for Shakespeare, “geeklet stories” were born. The kids are off to college now so the precocious nature of the stories has waned quite a bit, but my desire to share them with the world never will.

Last week I’m driving my daughter home from college when she says, “Next week they’re showing Falstaff at school.”


“See it,” I say, barely letting her finish the sentence. “That’s the other name for Orson Welles’ Chimes At Midnight, arguably one of the best Shakespeare adaptations ever put to film. Just last week I was talking about it with a coworker who asked for recommendations about Shakespeare movies and I told him that one. The fun thing is that he’s not a Shakespeare fan, he’s a movie fan, so it’s a good test because when you like a Shakespeare movie because it’s a movie, without even knowing the Shakespeare, you’ve got something special. Absolutely make sure you get the opportunity to see it if they’re showing it.”

“Did he like it?”

“He loved it. Came back into the office raving about it. You kids have seen parts of it, it’s the one with that famous I know thee not, old man speech I’ve shown you. One of my favorite Shakespeare scenes of all time.”

While I was babbling she was looking at her phone, as teenagers tend to do when their parents talk. “It says here it’s by a guy named Verdi.”

Sad face. “Oh. That’s the opera. Entirely different thing, ignore everything I just said.”

I know it’s not “entirely” a different thing, it’s still about the same Shakespeare character, and I did explain that.

Operation Othello

You never know where you’ll find some Shakespeare. I saw the trailer for the new Air movie about Nike, which prominently features people talking *about* Michael Jordan but no actual Michael Jordan. So off I went to IMDB, curious to see who would be playing him. I found it interesting that the actor in that role is listed seventh, behind the actor playing his father, Julius Tennon, who doesn’t even have a headshot. So I clicked to learn more about Julius Tennon and found …

Operation Othello is “a futuristic adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello set in the world of an elite naval special forces unit.”

Oh? Tell me more!

Othello Vintage Poster

Tennon has multiple acting credits dating back to the 1980s, not sure why he doesn’t have a headshot on file (there are plenty of photos). In fact, he’s got a production coming with Viola Davis, JuVee Productions, and this is their project. Debuting at Cannes in 2019 as a “VR series,” and I’m even more curious now about what that means:

“We believe Immersive Media is an integral part of the future of storytelling and presents a unique opportunity to bring a voice to the voiceless. As an ‘empathy machine,’ we’re excited to see how VR can allow viewers to be intimately present with powerful characters across the broad spectrum of humanity.”

“As an avid Shakespeare lover who has been lucky enough to witness and perform his profound words on stage,” Chieffo says, “I was inspired to present the original text in a way that is accessible and exhilarating to a modern audience.”

IMDB calls it a TV Movie. I’m wondering if they adapted it into something more traditional for wider release because the press release seems to imply it’s something more like a game. I don’t think we have a good name yet for immersive movies where you put on the headset and “experience” the story, but really the story is still the same no matter what you do.

Review : David Zwirner’s Othello with Chris Ofili

My mom loved a good yard sale. Whenever she saw something with the word Shakespeare on it she’d snatch it up, rarely even knowing what it was, and bring it to me the next time we saw each other. “You probably already have it,” she’d say, “but I got it for a quatta.” (That’d be twenty five cents outside of New England :)) Inevitably it was a collection of the sonnets or a small bound copy of a single play, something that I did already have several of. And each time I’d say to her, “Shakespeare isn’t like other books. It’s not just about the words with each book, it’s about how a particular book chooses to present the words.”

I was reminded of that story when two books from David Zwirner Books arrived. I now have new copies of Othello and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As far as the Shakespeare goes? It’s the same words we all know and love. Well organized and presented, plenty of whitespace, line numbers down the left, glossary on the right. It’s a nice, easy read – and I can’t say that about every book, I’ve seen some real doozies of a teeny tiny font that I could maybe read comfortably twenty years ago.

Then it dawned on me, that’s not what these books are about. David Zwirner is an art gallery. Each of these books showcases the work of a particular artist, using a particular Shakespeare play as inspiration. They are little artworks in their own right. Why have just one image inspired by a play, when you can make a whole series? And if you’ve got a whole series of images inspired by a play, why not decorate the play with those images?

This makes for an interesting challenge for me, because I know nothing about art. I can say what I like and don’t like, but I’d hate to say something stupid or worse, offensive.

So let’s start with Chris Ofili’s Othello. There’s a clear statement being made here right from the opening essay, referring to Othello as a problem play (“doubly so,” even) and referring to it, several times, as a “white fantasy of blackness.” I don’t know how to speak to this, and I don’t want to cloud my description of the book with my opinions. As the saying goes, I understand that I will never understand.

The artwork is all stark white line drawings on solid black background. Each representation is Othello’s expressive face, with a glimpse at what he is thinking. Sometimes he looks happy, sometimes angry, sometimes sad.

I would love to just get all the images from the book and display them here, and we could discuss which images goes with which scene. Or animate them like a flipbook to watch what happens in Othello’s mind as the action plays out. I think that would look kind of cool, actually.

Stay tuned for part two where we look at A Midsummer Night’s Dream!