"To build or not to build"

LEGO® Shakespeare™ and the Question of Creativity


  • Sarah Hatchuel University of Le Havre
  • Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin University Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3


This essay aims to explore the cultural stakes underlying the fleeting and almost incongruous Shakespearean presence in The LEGO Movie (2014), analyze the meeting of "LEGO" and "Shakespeare" in the cinematic and digital worlds, and suggest that at the heart of the connection between Shakespeare and LEGO lies the question of originality and creativity. "LEGO Shakespeare" evinces interesting modes of articulation between art and industry, production and consumption, high-brow culture and low-brow culture and invites us to study how Shakespeare is digested into and interacts with multi-layered cultural artifacts. It will be this essay's contention that Shakespeare's unexpected manifestation in The LEGO Movie is a symptom of LEGO's official re-appropriation of more playful and grass-roots productions. These creations stem from users who become "prosumers" in the participatory culture of Web 2.0 and who interact with both the LEGO world and Shakespeare's canon in a cross-over that turns the playwright into a figure that oscillates between spectrality and materiality.

Author Biographies

Sarah Hatchuel, University of Le Havre

Sarah Hatchuel is Professor of English Literature and Film at the University of Le Havre (France), President of the Société Française Shakespeare and head of the "Groupe de recherché Identités et Cultures." She has written extensively on adaptations of Shakespeare's plays (Shakespeare and the Cleopatra/Caesar Intertext: Sequel, Conflation, Remake, 2011; Shakespeare, from Stage to Screen, 2004; A Companion to the Shakespearean Films of Kenneth Branagh, 2000) and on TV series (Lost: Fiction vitale, 2013; Rêves et séries américaines: la fabrique d'autres mondes, 2015). She is general editor of the Shakespeare on Screen collection (with Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin) and of the online journal TV/Series.

Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin, University Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3

Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin is Professor in Shakespeare studies at the University Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, Vice President of the Société Française Shakespeare, and Director of the "Institut de Recherche sur la Renaissance, l'âge Classique et les Lumières" (IRCL, UMR 5186 CNRS). She is co-editor-in-chief of the international journal Cahiers Élisabéthains and co-director (with Patricia Dorval) of the Shakespeare on Screen in Francophonia Database (shakscreen.org). She has published The Unruly Tongue in Early Modern England: Three Treatises (2012) and is the author of Shakespeare's Insults: A Pragmatic Dictionary (2016). She is co-editor, with Sarah Hatchuel, of the Shakespeare on Screen series.