10 Times TV Took On Shakespeare

Shakespeare adaptations abound in film but, on TV, show runners are often less interested in putting their own take on Romeo and Juliet or The Taming of the Shrew than seeing what their characters would do with the iconic roles. So teenage lovers (or potential steadies, at least) are cast opposite each other in the great romances. Someone who had never considered the dramatic arts suddenly finds they have a gift for acting. And in the process the entire audience gets a little lesson in Shakespeare.

1. Gilmore Girls, Season 2, Episode 9 Run Away, Little Boy

Though Rory and Paris’ team decided to go with a traditional take on Romeo and Juliet, viewers do catch glimpse of their classmates’ more creative takes on their Shakespeare scenes, like a sword fight conducted with cell phones.

2. Boy Meets World, Season 5, Episode 19 Eric Hollywood

Eric, the perpetually dopey big brother, finds he has a gift for the stage when he’s cast as Romeo in his college production. His success ultimately leads him away from stage acting and onto the set of a sitcom, but he never would have been discovered without a few choice Shakespeare monologues. Of course, this wasn’t the only time Boy Meets World tackled Shakespeare. The show staged Hamlet in its first season. 

3. The Fosters, Season 3, Episode 19 The Show

Brandon is inspired by the seriously forbidden love in his own life (his adopted sister, Callie) to write a full scale musical based on Romeo and Juliet for his senior project. Banned from school after fellow students argue that it glorifies suicide, the production is moved to his friend’s warehouse a better venue for all parties to look at each other longingly.

4. Wishbone, Season 1, Episode 4 Rosie, Oh!, Rosie, Oh!

The classics-loving dog looks adorable in his ruff as he woos his Juliet.

5. Animaniacs, Season 1, Episode 29 Draculee Draculaa

The animated show often did small scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, like Hamlet — breaking them down for a younger audience, but never forgetting the actual lines — giving kids a little culture with their after-school cartoons.

6. Hey Arnold, Season 3, Episode 59 School Play

Elementary school takes on Romeo and Juliet aren’t normally this fraught, but when the opportunity to kiss your crush, without actually revealing your true feelings, is on the line, a potential Juliet can get ruthless.

7. The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Season 2, Episode 22 Out Darn Spotlight

Teachers are often looking for ways to engage their students in the Bard’s work, and for the educators teaching Jimmy Neutron, that means setting Macbeth in space. Never has a work of Shakespeare had so many alien witches and space pirates.

8. Degrassi: The New Generation, Season 2, Episode 18 Dressed In Black

If something has ever happened in a modern high school, it’s happened on an episode of Degrassi. Because the Degrassi kids must rebel at every turn, they try to expose The Taming of The Shrew as a lacking piece of art, but acting through a scene ultimately helps them understand their own issues more clearly. Which, of course, is the purpose of art.

9. The Simpsons, Season 13, Episode 14 Tales From The Public Domain

The Simpson’s take on Hamlet is fairly faithful to the source material, but reveals the little known fact that there’s a through line from the play to Ghostbusters (well, at least, they both have ghosts).

10. My So-Called Life, Season 1, Episode 12 Self-Esteem

Though Sonnet 130 is read in the classroom rather than performed in a school auditorium, it still provides a pivotal bit of insight for the ever brooding Jordan and his relationship with Angela.