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Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the differing impact of the transvestite on stage and film. Its primary focus is on Sven Gade’s 1920 silent film Hamlet, starring the Danish film star Asta Nielsen as the prince, and Julie Taymor’s 2010 film The Tempest, with Helen Mirren reimagining Prospero and Prospera. The nine decades between the two films measure the course of several generations of technical and social progress. Further, their exemplary use of cross-dressing and gender-bending serve yet again to show larger historical crossings between Shakespeare’s generation and our own. Gade’s Hamlet serves as a defining historical moment for cross-dressing and gender-bending in filmed Shakespeare. Taymor’s Tempest provides a similar occasion for a contemporary audience—but with two important differences. Because Gade’s Hamlet is silent, visuals necessarily dominate text, whereas in Taymor’s Tempest visuals and text take on an integral balance and mutual reinforcement.

Keywords: Key terms, Shakespeare on film, cross-dressing, gender-bending, transvestite theatre, Sven Gade, Julie Taymor, Asta Nielsen, Helen Mirren

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