MONITOR: THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER--EVEN AHAB

HESTER PRYNNE LIVED down her scarlet letter. The same can hardly be said of the makers of the latest screen adaptation of The Scarlet Letter, who are taking heat for the happy ending tacked on to Nathaniel Hawthorne's immortal bummer--only the latest misadventure in a centuries-old tradition of slapping a smiley face on downbeat classics.

SHAKESPEARE: Today audiences like their Shakespeare straight up. But theatergoers centuries earlier preferred "improved" versions, including Romeo and Juliet with a non-Kervorkian resolution. Among Shakespeare's self-appointed co-writers was the now forgotten Nahum Tate (1652-1715), who cut and pasted his way through Coriolanus, Richard II and, most...

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