Shakespeare Goes to Hollywood

Why should other writers have all the fun?

Hi, my name is William Shakespeare, but you can call me Bill. Thanks for taking this meeting. You probably read my plays in college. I know you Hollywood folks have adapted a number of my works, but now I want in on the action. I’m the original scribe! I’ve got a mortgage to pay, and I’m not getting any residuals from King James (he’s dead).

But you’re not here for a history lesson — you’re here to find the next great Shakespeare adaptation. And who can do that better than the Bard himself?

Romeo and Juliet

Let’s start with this all-time classic. It’s been done a million ways, but in the 2021 version, I’m thinking the son of a lefty Bernie-or-Bust family and the daughter of some QAnon believers fall in love. In the end, everyone loses — because just like those star-crossed lovers, partisanship is dead. (But also it’s, like, way more the QAnon family’s fault.)


A power-hungry leader targeting his rivals’ families, whose reign was full of sound and fury? You can probably guess which reality star President will take the title role in this one. With Trump as the mad king, this will be, fittingly, the first Macbeth to love McDonald’s.

Twelfth Night

I want this to be my send-up of social media. Trust me, if Vine had been around when I was writing, all my plays would be seven seconds long. In this modern take, separated twins each become TikTok famous. While everyone keeps filming YouTube prank videos on Malvolio, the viral twins reunite and do a collab. Nobody over the age of 30 will understand this adaptation, and it’s about time that happened!

The Comedy of Errors

I have to admit: I relied heavily on twins in my comedies. But I think this one is ripe for a TLC show. Two sets of twins cause endless chaos in their small town. Tune in right after 90 Day Fiancé!

Richard III_2
Richard III

Looking back, my original version is basically a failed coup. So here’s my pitch: The role of Richard is replaced by the 600-plus people charged so far in the January 6 insurrection. Like Richard, they all lose, but way less gracefully.

The Tempest

This should be a documentary about climate change, first and foremost. The tempest came from us! We all made that storm with our car exhaust and meat farms. And the island is where we’ll end up if we don’t dramatically decrease emissions. You might have already guessed, but in this iteration Prospero is, unfortunately, a climate change denier.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A filmed performance art piece! This is my homage to nature, and what we have left of it. If The Tempest was my pessimistic look at the climate crisis, think of this piece as a hopeful return to the woods. Ultimately, the audience should come away with both a better understanding of — and curiosity for — psilocybin.

King Lear

Succession already did what I was gonna pitch here, so let’s scrap this one.

Timon of Athens

This was, as I wrote it, a tragedy: a man going broke and running off to the woods. But what if Timon was ... a billionaire? Picture this: Jeff Bezos gives away all his money and renounces society by launching himself into space — forever! What could be better? I’m thinking Steve Carrell as Bezos/Timon.

As You Like It

Too Hot to Handle, Love Island and now ... As You Like It! Each season, a group of hot, young singles are sent into the Forest of Arden to find love and perform memorable soliloquies. Netflix is already onboard!


It’s 2021, so Hamlet immediately talks to his therapist about seeing his father’s ghost and finds closure. Nothing else happens.

Eli Grober ’13 is a former staff writer for The Tonight Show. His work appears regularly in The New Yorker, on McSweeney’s and in his weekly humor newsletter, Here’s Something.