Many actors throughout history have dabbled with their own interpretations of the work of great playwright William Shakespeare. The stage plays of old continue to grace the theatres of the present while also appearing as on-screen adaptions and influences to modern projects. Shakespeare’s characters are so human, so complex, that any actor can become the role required.
Highly acclaimed actors who have performed as Shakespeare’s characters in the past include Sir Ian McKellen, Viola Davis, Leonardo DiCaprio, James Earl Jones, Dame Maggie Smith, Christopher Plummer, Sir Patrick Stewart, and Dame Judi Dench. The last decade alone has shone the limelight on many stars who would be perfect for 2021 Shakespearean performances.
10 Jude Law – Iago (Othello)
Iago is the main antagonist in Shakespeare’s Othello. His character is one that is vindictive, jealous, cunning, duplicitous, and confident. Jude Law, most recently having played a young Dumbledore, can act just as cruel as he can warm, having performed as the tyrannical King Vortigern in King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword (2017), who shares similarities in character to Iago.
9 Robert Sheehan – Puck (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Puck is known for being a mischief-maker who doesn’t have cruel intentions but ultimately loves to create chaos. He takes pride in his tricks and gags, from pretending to be a stool and tumbling old women to turning Bottom’s head into that of a donkey.
Robert Sheehan’s current role as Klaus Hargreeves in The Umbrella Academy shows Sheehan is capable of performing roles involving loveable chaos.
8 Idris Elba – Othello (Othello)
Othello is valiant and honorable, yet also a man of dread, knowing that success and defeat come together. His character is one who is easily manipulated as his confidence is shadowed by insecurity. Idris Elba’s powerful demeanor and layered approach have proven his exceptional range. Prior projects Elba has been involved in include Luther (2010), The Dark Tower (2017), and Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (2013).
7 Olivia Colman/Helena Bonham Carter – Lady Macbeth (Macbeth)
Olivia Colman is known for her impressive performances in The Crown (2016), Broadchurch (2013), The Father (2020). Concerning the character of Lady Macbeth, Colman’s many roles have shown she can be any combination of sweet, eccentric, unsuspecting, stern, sarcastic, and gentle, with the ability to let any careful control free the moment she chooses.
As well as Olivia Colman, Helena Bonham Carter is another incredible actress who would be able to take on the role of Lady Macbeth. Many of Carter’s roles take on the whimsy, whacky, and wonderful, and it’s no secret that these roles have a playground of character to immerse and discover. Lady Macbeth is another complex woman Carter would excel at bringing to the screen.
6 David Tennant – Macbeth (Macbeth)
David Tennant is no stranger to Shakespeare, having performed as Hamlet in Hamlet, Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors, Touchstone in As You Like It, and Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing. And Tennant’s incredible range would be a thrilling addition to the actors who have taken on the role of Macbeth in Macbeth. Macbeth’s character, once proud and brave, becomes one manipulated and heavy with guilt as he struggles with his conscience.
5 Gugu Mbatha-Raw – Rosalind (As You Like It)
Rosalind is one of Shakespeare’s most powerful female leads. She is strong-willed, a leader, resourceful, bold, and imaginative. She disguises herself as a man named Ganymede, knowing and learning of the ways masculinity can be manipulated and the reality of women in her time. Gugu Mbatha-Raw has taken strong female roles in the past such as Belle in Belle (2013), and Jennifer in Misbehaviours (2020).
4 Millie Bobby Brown/Lana Condor – Juliet (Romeo & Juliet)
The role of Juliet has been tackled by many actors, each placing their own spin on the well-known character. Juliet is seen by most as a character of impulsivity, tragedy, defiance, and romance. Millie Bobby Brown has brought life, mischief, intelligence, and confidence to her roles, something that is hidden within the heroine of Juliet Capulet, whose bold actions and enamourment could do with a fresh and inspired take. Lana Condor is also a brilliant choice for the role, having stolen viewer’s hearts with her sweet and confident portrayal in the To All The Boys films. Whether they played the role in a film loosely inspired by the play, or on stage, both actresses could be a Juliet of modern times influence.
3 Naomi Scott – Portia (The Merchant Of Venice)
Portia is a wealthy and powerful figurehead in The Merchant of Venice, responsible for the duty given to her by her father yet manipulating the system with her initiative. She is calculating, enjoys plotting, and is defiant to the restraints placed on her due to gender, having to dress as a male in the courtroom to speak with freedom and judgment. Naomi Scott’s role as Jasmine in the live-action Aladdin shows her capacity to bring Portia to life.
2 Timothée Chalamet – Horatio (Hamlet)
Timothée Chalamet has been a circulating name in the film industry, leaving a memorable impression as Elio in Call Me By Your Name (2017), and following his success with roles in Lady Bird (2017), Little Women (2019), and Dune (2021).
Horatio is a complex character in Hamlet; one who is loyal, intelligent, loving, and trusted, a confidant and friend to Hamlet. It is their relationship that a softer side to Hamlet is revealed. Chalamet could also be cast as Romeo from Romeo and Juliet.
1 Zendaya – Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing)
Zendaya’s previous roles have shown exceptional range, surfacing the human qualities that make each of her characters so unique. The role of Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing has been performed by many talented and brilliant actresses, including Catherine Tate and Emma Thompson. Beatrice is a witty, intelligent, independent, and defiant personality whose journey with love and attraction is one compared to that of Hero and the expectations of the times.
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