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Alan Forrest Hickman


Adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays has been part of his legacy from the beginning, as works by artists such as Nahum Tate, Henry Purcell, and John Dryden can attest. Shakespeare’s Sonnets, too, have been put to many uses over the years. They have been set to music, they have been quoted by politicians, they have been used as wedding vows, and they have appeared on greeting cards. For many, they represent the ultimate statement on love. In the four hundred years since Shakespeare’s death, they have found their way into a variety of media, including music, drama, books, television, and film. Whereas the plays have long been acknowledged as a rich source of inspiration—both serious and parodic—by artists and auteurs, ranging in kind from novelist James Joyce to dramatist Tom Stoppard to comedian Ben Elton, the poems have received less scrutiny in this regard. However, they represent a gold mine of untold riches, especially in terms of biography, which has yet to be sufficiently tapped. In this paper I take a look at the various uses the sonnets have been put to, primarily in books, television, and film, and come to some conclusions regarding their success in remediation.