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Rewriting scripts

Apart from writing an original script from scratch, you may be asked to rewrite part of an existing play. Usually, you are given an alternative ending or set of events to base your rewrite on. For instance, Shakespeare wrote a play called Julius Caesar, which chronicles the downfall of Caesar and his assassination by the conspirators. A typical rewrite instruction for this play might be to rewrite the play as if the assassination attempt on Julius Caesar had failed, instead of succeeding like it did in real life and in the play.

Now, there are some rules you have to follow when you rewrite someone else’s script. First of all, it’s usually going to be a famous author, so show them some respect. Don’t rewrite their script into an idiotic piece of drivel! Put some effort into it and make sure that you do the author credit. So this means if you’re rewriting a Shakespearean tragedy, don’t turn it into a comedy! Changing the genre of the play when you rewrite it isn’t usually a good idea. If you’re very creative and a good writer, it may be possible to change the genre, but it’s a difficult task to do well.

Now, although you’re rewriting the play assuming a different set of circumstances, you still have to maintain some continuity of the characters. This means that you change someone who was a criminal in the original into a hero (however you may be able to make an ‘evil’ character redeem themselves through some heroic act in your new version). However, you can use the different events or circumstances to bring about changes in your characters that don’t occur in the original version.

For instance, one of Caesar’s main conspirators is Brutus. Initially he gets the support of the people of Rome for killing Caesar, but another conspirator, Marc Antony, turns the people against him. Eventually, after some mighty battles, Brutus kills himself by falling on his own sword. When you do your rewrite, you have a chance to come up with a significantly different, but plausible, ending.

One option could involve having the conspirators thrown in jail and awaiting execution for the attempted assassination. In jail, the conspirators might express a range of reactions, such as cowardly panic, determined resolve, or regret. Just before the execution, you could have Caesar, still recovering from his wounds, make a decision to spare the conspirators and release them.

Your script could then focus on how the conspirators react to being released. Some might continue their plotting to assassinate Caesar. But others, such as Brutus, could have a change of heart after seeing that their leader could forgive them for such a crime. Your script could climax with Brutus defending Caesar to the death from another assassination attempt. This way, you’d be able to investigate several plausible, alternative character developments, and also have a different climax to the original.

Another general thing to think about as you rewrite is to make sure that you keep to the setting and culture of the play. And this runs both ways - for a very serious, stark play it would not be a good idea to introduce magic and ghosts. However, many of Shakespeare’s plays, such as Macbeth, have ghosts or magic (often in the form of witches) in them. If you don’t put any of this into a rewrite of Macbeth, it may not be convincing. Also, try to avoid copying other people’s alternative versions. If you’ve seen an alternative play or movie remake, there’s always the chance that your teacher has too. Use your own creativity!

Rewriting scripts

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