Fact or Fiction? A Shakespeare expert takes on TNT’s “Will”

“The course of true love never did run smooth,” as William Shakespeare famously wrote in his legendary comedy “A Midsummer Night’s True.”  That truth is as applicable to an audience’s reception of a new television series as it is to the human heart, with the latter playing an important role in shaping the opinions of the former.

As TNT is discovering with the introduction of its new series “Will,” sometimes taking a bold creative swing with interpreting literary history doesn’t win over the groundlings.

“Will,” airing Mondays at 9 p.m., stars Laurie Davidson as William Shakespeare and filters the story of his young adulthood, about which relatively little is known, through a rock-and-roll perspex, transforming the world of 16th-Century London theater into a punk-rock stage.

Created by screenwriter Craig Pearce, “Will” came to TNT with its own bit of whirlwind history as a title was under consideration at HBO before landing straight-to-series order at Pivot, a millennial-targeted network that has since been shuttered.

For all the sound and fury leading up to its recent series premiere, “Will” drew a same-day audience of 633,000 total viewers, a total that slipped to 477,000 viewers in its second hour. The drama’s ratings fortunes may improve once a week’s worth of DVR viewing date is factored in, but unfortunately these numbers mean “Will” has earned the dubious title of the lowest-rated TNT drama series premiere ever.

Perhaps has been lost in the translation between Pearce’s interpretation of the Bard and the American viewer. Sure, that’s possible. But just in case, Salon consulted Shakespearean scholar Paul Edmondson, to get his take on the series.

Edmondson, the Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival and the head of research for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, viewed the same four episodes that were made available to critics and to his credit, was more fair in his…

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