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Shakespeare retellings are varied and numerous. And is it any wonder? 400 years after the death of the infamous bard and the world is still obsessed with his plays, as any high-school English student can attest to. But with so many modern-penned stories sold off as ‘Shakespeare retold’, how can you find the one that’s right for you? We’ve got the info on some of the best-received retellings, to help you find those which “art more lovely and more temperate.”
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio
As a Shakespeare nerd and a lover of suspense, I am so into this novel. A friend of mine described it as The Secret History, but with Shakespeare…what could be better?! Thanks for sending me this, @flatiron_books! #IfWeWereVillains #CurrentlyReading #Shakespeare #Bookstagram #Bibliophile #IGReads #FictionMatters
Now, this novel isn’t technically classed as one of the Shakespeare retellings per se but instead focuses on an elite group of Shakespearean actors who attend Dellecher Classical Conservatory, during the 1990s. The group perform scenes from a selection of the bard’s most infamous plays – including ‘Romeo and Juliet‘, ‘Julius Caesar‘, and ‘Macbeth‘ – and the events from within these plays begin to also play out in their everyday lives. The group also converse in lines purged directly from a multitude of Shakespearean plays, transformed to make sense when used amongst modern dialect and in a contemporary setting. A unique and thrilling twist on some of the most infamous of Shakespeare’s histories and tragedies.
Rose and Poe by Jack Todd
Rose and Poe was a glorious retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest. I read the original and this more modern-day re-imagining back-to-back, and it really enhanced my reading of the latter. I saw subtle similarities in character and phrase I might have otherwise missed and it added another element to this already astounding tale. Each individual had a distinct voice and a realness to their character, but none more so than the immediately lovable Poe. His differences in his simple mind and gigantic stature made him both an intriguing perspective to read from and enhanced the the reader's understanding of this world's definition of 'normal' and 'other'. 'Normal' went hand-in-hand with 'accepted' and Poe feels the sway of a collected society gather against him after his traumatic encounter with his beloved child-hood friend, Miranda. His reduced mental acuity and understanding of the situation that follows also makes this a heart-breaking account. Society's treatment of Poe, as well as his now-outcast mother, made this a poingnant and tearful read. Often because of the similarities to our own present society. How often do we see differences shunned and a lack of understanding as the root cause for so much tragedy? This satirical edge brought home the unjustness of the events that followed. The traumatic proceedings culminated into making the later part of this novel have aspects similar to that of a legal thriller, which combined seamlessly into the more fantastical previous elements. All facets of this story had a reason for existing there and intermingled to bring this powerful and thought-provoking story to life. This not only did its Shakespearean predecessor justice, but is a profound story in its own right. . . #bibliophile #bookstagram #bookstagramfeature #bookishfeatures #igbooks #igreads #instabook #instareads #bookdragon #booknerd #booknerdigan #bookworm #bookgeek #bookgram #booklove #booklover #booklion #booklife #bookish #amreading #bookpic #bookporn #bookphoto #bookphotography #booksbooksbooks #shakespeare #thetempest #roseandpoe #shakespeareretelling #bookreview
This was a glorious retelling of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest‘. Todd tells the story of the side-characters from the original and reworks them into the fantastical setting of Belle Coeur County. Despite a difference in plot, a change of place, and an often slight alteration of name, the characters continue to share the same defining characteristics as their Shakespearean counterparts. This not only did its predecessor justice, but is a profound story in its own right.
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
Pulitzer Prize winner and American master, Anne Tyler, gives ‘The Taming of the Shrew‘ her own style of witty make-over. One of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies is transformed into a contemporary romance, complete with a feminist protagonist in the form of Kate Battista. Through the almost simplistic style of story-telling, the reader is invited to read-between-the-lines about the deceptive complexities of the notions of female worth and the identity of the female gender that this novel actual discusses.
YOLO Juliet by Brett Wright
As the title suggests, this is ‘Romeo and Juliet‘ told entirely in social media and text interaction. Instead of transforming the original tale, as many of the other Shakespeare retellings do, this is the same story plotted into an entirely new format. This hilarious style of narrative makes the sometimes incomprehensible Shakespearean writing accessible to all ages and all level of reader. This is just one title in a series of many, and is the perfect introduction for children and those unused to the original story-lines.
New Boy by Tracey Chevalier
Thanks so much to @crownpublishing for this free copy of New Boy, by Tracy Chevalier. * Othello has always been, for me, the most disturbing and compelling of Shakespeare's tragedies. Shakespeare ingeniously explores the light and dark parts of human nature, and he probes that painful recess of racism which has been imbedded not just into behaviour, but deeper still into our language. * Chevalier's brilliant reworking of the Othello plot is well aware of these nuances. Setting her story in an all-white suburban school in Washington D.C. during the 1970s – the era of enforced school desegregation – gives it a relevant contemporary slant, while still conforming to the plot and characterisations of the play. This was the era in which 'Black is Beautiful' became a slogan and rallying cry, but it is not at all difficult for an Iago manipulator to play on insecurity and underlying distrust on both sides. * Even those young readers wholly unaware of the Othello storyline will be drawn into this sickeningly suspenseful plot. I couldn't put it down, even as I dreaded the tragic denouement and the destruction of a 'noble' young man. * Full review on Goodreads. * #newboy #tracychevalier #hogarthshakespeare #shakespeareretelling #othello #racism #tragedy #ya #yaliterature #reading #readeveryday #booksandcoffee #bookstagramfeature #booklove
This transports the original ‘Othello‘ to a 1970’s suburban Washington schoolyard. Much as in the original, this diverse cast of characters deal with the issues of prejudice and degradation and it speaks volumes with regards to the issues of race in contemporary politics and society. Despite taking place over the course of just one day, this is a complex, powerful and moving piece of literature.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
‘The Winter’s Tale‘ but with high-school cheerleaders. The book, whose title was purged directly from the original play, portrays the brutal reality of slut-shaming and victim-blaming that often comes after sexual assault. What initially appears as a fluffy young adult novel, soon turns into a remarkably powerful and harrowing insight into contemporary rape culture.
Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel
The blurb for Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel reads, "Indiana Jones meets Romeo and Juliet", and that is such an accurate assessment! This book combines dinasours, a mysterious legend, fueding rivals, and forbidden love into one exciting journey into the historical Badlands. . . #book #books #booksbooksbooks #bibliophile #bookstagram #bookstagramfeature #bookishfeatures #igbooks #igreads #instabook #instareads #bookdragon #booknerd #booknerdigan #bookworm #bookgeek #bookgram #booklove #booklover #booklion #booklife #bookish #amreading #bookpic #bookporn #bookphoto #bookphotography #ireadya #everyhiddenthing #kennethoppel
‘Romeo and Juliet‘ meets ‘Indiana Jones’ meets dinosaurs. Samuel and Rachel are divided by their father’s hatred for each other and united by their shared love of palaeontology. When both families travel to the infamous Badlands in the hopes of discovering a dinosaur skeleton of legendary status and mythic proportions, their warring degenerates. Their hatred becomes more entrenched and their tactics to undermine each other becomes more devious than ever before. The infamous Montague and Capulet family war is revived!
Requiem of the Rose King by Aya Kanno
‘Requiem of the Rose King’ is a Japanese historical fiction/drama manga roughly based on the plays ‘Richard III‘ and ‘Henry VI‘. This series of Shakespeare retellings follows the character of Richard III during the tumultuous Wars of the Roses period in English history.
This is a retelling of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth‘ and focuses on his daughter as both the protagonist and title character. Macbath’s daughter, Albia, has no concept of who her father truly is and has, instead, been raised by three wild sisters in the heart of Wychelm Wood. This keeps the supernatural elements and eerie atmosphere of the original, but also alleviates them with with the addition of romance.
Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson
HERE WE GO! The next title in the #hogarthshakespeare project: A retelling of 'The Merchant of Venice' by award winning Howard Jacobson. It's in a colour you can't miss! Classic versus Modern – where do you stand? #shylockismyname #morethanjustapoundofflesh #caughtinfluro #shakespeares400thanniversay @penguinrandomhouseau
As part of the Hogarth series, this is one of the most well-received Shakespeare retellings. This imaginatively transforms ‘The Merchant of Venice‘ and sees the original character of Shylock juxtaposed against his present-day counterpart, in the character of art dealer and conflicted father Simon Strulovitch. This is a complex and clever retelling that will test its readers but reward them with the wisdom it imparts.