Originality in itself presents a problem. Before something completely original is understood, it needs to gain acceptance by an audience. By the time audiences understand and embrace a concept, it is not new any more.
Various bandwagons are therefore evident in the world of literature, music and entertainment in general. Some of the most famous examples of a platform from which various spin-offs were created are Shakespeare’s plays Hamlet and Othello. In fact, the themes, premises and scenarios of most of Shakespeare’s plays are to be found in other intellectual creations since they were written, and continue to be promulgated to this day. Everybody is aware, for example, that West Side Story is a re-hash of the Romeo and Juliet story. Yet it is not paradoxical to say that the two are original.
"Just as Tony and Maria, our Romeo and Juliet, set themselves apart from the other kids by their love, so we have tried to set them even further apart by their language, their songs, their movement. Wherever possible in the show, we have tried to heighten emotion or to articulate inarticulate adolescence through music, song or dance," Arthur Laurents said about the development of characters in West Side Story. (New York Herald Tribune, August 4, 1957) The statement is possibly as far removed from William Shakespeare’s original idea for a play as it is likely to be. The concept of adolescence as a pressure group did not exist in Shakespeare’s time: people were adults and ‘marriageable’ as soon as they reached puberty. The ideas are similar, but the audience ‘readings’ are necessarily totally different.
This kind of work, that so clearly takes on the themes and premises of another, is called derivative. To base a play or movie on a pre-existing work is to translate, fictionalise, dramatise, condense or abridge a work, altering so that it