Shakespeare is having a moment in the summer of 2017. First, there was ABC's ambitious, if ill-fated, new Shondaland series, Still Star-Crossed, which put a modern-day spin on Romeo & Juliet (or rather, its aftermath).
Then there was the partisan brouhaha that erupted over the Public Theater's staging of a Donald Trump-inspired Julius Caesar in New York's Central Park as part of its annual Shakespeare in the Park summer programming.
Next up is TNT's Will, a dramatized version of the Bard's rise to fame in Elizabethan England that premieres on July 10. The show is created and produced by Craig Pearce, who also co-wrote the 1996 film version of Romeo + Juliet that catapulted Leonardo DiCaprio to superstardom.
So why is Shakespeare so hot right now? Pearce points to the political climate of today — not just in the United States, but around the world.
"There are so many parallels between the Elizabethan world back then and the world today," Pearce, an Australian who currently resides in Great Britain, tells TVGuide.com. "The plays remind us what that world was like. It was a very tumultuous world politically. It was a world divided along fundamentalist, religious lines. People were killing each other over which brand of god they believed in."
But it's not just the politics that are drawing modern audiences in. Will, which stars newcomer Laurie Davidson as the titular playwright, takes what we know of Shakespeare's rise to fame and fills in the blanks in order to create a compelling drama about a young writer eager to make it big. Regardless of the present-day political or cultural climate, Shakespeare's stories will always find an audience because they speak to the core of human nature.
"The bottom line is that these are fantastic characters, and you can take their storylines and use them in a modern way," Still Star-Crossed writer Heather Mitchell told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of that show's premiere earlier this summer.
Though Will is more about the life of the author himself rather than an adaptation of his works, Pearce notes that the stories Shakespeare was spinning already had a sense of timelessness, even during the era in which they were originally performed.
"Even though Shakespeare was writing about times past ... he did that because it was illegal to write about contemporary political things in [his] time," Pearce notes. "But of course the audience aren't stupid. ... Even though [Julius Caesar] might be set in ancient Rome, everyone knows that these are ideas that are incredibly current in that society. So, it was an incredibly dangerous place as well, because the ideas that were being spoken about had the power to change society. And a society was being formed right before the very eyes of the audience on that stage."
This isn't the first time the Bard has experienced a resurgence of sorts. Shakespeare's renaissance for a previous generation came in the form of the aforementioned Romeo & Juliet, whose adaptation Pearce says was partially inspired by the emergence of rap in mainstream culture at the time.
"Rap music was taking the world by storm," he recalls. "Language was becoming really, really current and important. Music wasn't just about melody and feeling and energy. ... Some of it was very political and some of it was just cultural. But language and ways of speaking was an exciting thing back then for the first time in a long time. ... That's why we wanted to keep the Shakespearean text, because we wanted to keep the words and say, OK, the words are important. We're going to form a context around the words."
Now, with so much political discourse taking place on Twitter, what better time to revisit dramatic works that use rhyming couplets to criticize the establishment?
The Public's Julius Caesar did explicitly reference Donald Trump, and almost every adaptation of Shakespeare's works has a political slant, regardless of whether that's the producers' intention. ("We try to hold a mirror up to nature. It's what Shakespeare was doing, it's what we're doing," Artistic Director Oskar Eustis told the audience on opening night.) For better or worse, we're living in an era in which nearly all forms of entertainment are viewed through a political lens.
"Today, what's happening is this clash of cultures, and this very unsettled period we're in politically," Pearce says. "Political ideas are so rich and so current in Shakespeare's plays. He's never far away. His plays are always being done. It's just, he becomes more relevant or a little less relevant. He never becomes irrelevant."
Will premieres Monday, July 10 at 9/8c on TNT.