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It’s Time For A Shakespeare-Themed Hitman Game

Last week, I went to see our local university's production of Much Ado About Nothing. Growing up, my school had a tradition that, every year, the seventh grade class would put on an abridged production of Romeo and Juliet. Incidentally, I’ve seen more bad Shakespeare than anyone should have to. But, when you see good Shakespeare, like this production was, it's amazing how approachable the plays become. Monologues that sound incomprehensible coming out of the mouth of a 13-year-old are suddenly clear as day if the person reciting them understands the language and knows how to sell it.

We saw Twelfth Night at the school last fall, too, and the more Shakespeare you watch or read, the more you realize how dependent The Bard was on tropes (many of which he created). In his comedies, characters are always wearing disguises, getting mistaken for other characters, and sneaking around eavesdropping. His tragedies, meanwhile, tend to feature doomed heroes making decisions which are fated to lead to their death or the death of the people they love. Interestingly, disguises, sneaking, and death are key ingredients in every Hitman game.

Despite Shakespeare's massive cultural footprint in the theater, literature, and the movies, there have been astonishingly few games based on his work (though Zephyr, the Spyro: Ripto's Rage level that contains a Romeo and Juliet subplot, is a minor exception). Shakespeare translates well to drama, but less well to an action-oriented medium like video games, it seems. That could all change with IO Interactive on the case. As perfect as the Hitman developer is for the James Bond series, it might be an even better fit for Shakespeare.

Picture this: you are an unknown actor attempting to enter the theater scene in Elizabethan London. Before an important audition, one of Shakespeare's rival playwrights kidnaps your family and threatens to kill them unless you assassinate William Shakespeare. Because this is a Hitman game, there are multiple ways to accomplish this task. You can rehearse and nail the audition, gaining access to the playhouse. You can disguise yourself as an actor who is already cast. Or you can simply sneak your way into the playhouse, aiming to stay undetected. You can even track down the rival playwright and assassinate them instead.

Shakespeare constantly played with gender. Women frequently disguised themselves as men and vice versa (though all the roles, at the time, were played by men, which adds a whole other layer to it). So, in an unsubtly named Macdeath level, you would be able to assume the clothes of anyone, not just other men, as in the Hitman games. No gender-restricted clothing here.

The Bard's comedies are full of scenes where characters hide on stage as another character unknowingly falls for their prank. In some scenes, the characters being spied on know they're being spied on and use that knowledge to prank the spies. Much Ado About Crushing would incorporate this into the gameplay. Your character could talk loudly to another character to plant a lie in a third character's mind. And, like Hitman, eavesdropping would be crucial for gaining clues.

And, of course, the best part of the setting is the sheer number of objects a theater provides for murder. A prop sword could be replaced with a real one, recently sharpened. You could drop sandbags from the rafters, or loosen the bolt on a spotlight. You could leave an open flame near the curtain. You could rig one of the chairs in the audience so that it closes on its occupant with anaconda force. (I realize that some of these examples are assuming that the theaters of Shaekspeare's day had all the same things we had today, and that's because they did). You could sprinkle a little poison on the craft service table for a bit of indiscriminate murder, or just push the bald bastard into the Thames. The possibilities are endless.

If corporations are going to keep ceaselessly mining iconic brands, the Bard has a deep back catalog and it's free to use. You could do more than just one game, an ambitious company could create the first WSCU (William Shakespeare Cinematic Universe). After all, you can't spell William Shakespeare without IP.

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