The primary feature of the periodizing mode is that it takes the story and characters of a Shakespeare play and transports them wholesale into the cultural trappings and social dynamic of a distinctly recognizable historical period. An approach familiar in stage productions for many years, this mode only really took off in film adaptations as the Shakespeare film revival of the 1990s got under way. Directors of ‘updating’ theatre productions had long employed special costuming, sets, props, lighting and sound effects to ‘periodize’ them into evocative cultural or political settings aimed at making the drama more alive and relevant to a modern popular audience. Such productions frequently used these techniques to evoke and critically allude to the way people are manipulated and put under pressure in the cultures of modern political regimes or business empires; the modern analogues, as modern directors might see it, of the machiavellian structures of courtly and mercantile power prevailing in Shakespeare’s time. In Hamlet the prince instructs Polonius to see that the visiting players ‘be well used’, warning him that ‘After your / death, you were better have a bad epitaph than their ill / report while you live’ (2.2.503–6).
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