To see how all this may apply to Shakespeare adaptations on film, we first need to explore what genre conventions consist of, the areas where films resemble each other in certain ways, given that filmmakers, audiences and reviewers do share a kind of community of expectation concerning the distinct film genre identities that have developed and which prevail in the world of film. Film genre conventions may be considered under four main headings: Plot elements, Themes, Film techniques and Iconography. By recognizing the conventions that give a film genre its identity, a viewer is provided with a pathway into that genre, an approximate guide to what to expect in approaching and ‘reading’ the film. Makers of the most popular, ‘mainstream’ Shakespeare film adaptations have certainly attended to the need to communicate effectively with a popular cinema audience, manipulating genre conventions in order to grab the attention of the viewer, and having engaged it, working to sustain that attention. After briefly exploring what the major genre conventions are, I illustrate below in each case how some Shakespeare adaptations have deployed these film codes.
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