Shakespeare, Retold

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If you’re looking for a great summer reading challenge, look no further than this fantastic series commissioned by the Hogarth Press. It’s a collection of classic Shakespeare plays retold for the modern day, and written by a group of world-class contemporary authors. The series so far includes novels by Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler, Jeannette Winterson, Tracy Chevalier, and Howard Jacobson.

Shakespeare’s plays have always been the subjects of retellings, adaptations, and re-imaginings. The original stories are so powerful, and these new versions feel fresh and vital. If you feel like taking on an extra challenge, why not read these great new works in tandem with the original plays this summer!

The Gap of Time: The Winter's Tale Retold

Jeanette Winterson’s  ‘cover’ version of Shakespeare’s tale narrates the story of Leo, a disgraced London banker, whose jealousy and anger lead him to destroy his own life and the things he once held dear. Believing his wife MiMi is having an affair with his best friend and former lover Xeno, Leo refuses to acknowledge paternity of his newly born daughter Perdita. Stricken by uncontrollable jealousy and rage, Leo unleashes a chain of events that leave him wishing he could turn back time. Spanning the diverse locations of post-financial-crash London, and the fictional American city of New Bohemia, the novel moves fluidly through time and shows how love and redemption can co-exist with jealousy and revenge.

Hag Seed: The Tempest Retold

Felix is the Artistic Director of the Makeshewig Festival Theater, and is planning an extraordinary production of The Tempest. When he is betrayed by a colleague, Felix loses his job, and enters a self-imposed exile in a rural backwater. With little to occupy his time, Felix’s thoughts frequently turn to the tragic loss of his beloved daughter Miranda, as well as to his increasingly obsessive fantasies of revenge. When he obtains a job running a theater program in a local prison, his dreams and fantasies start to take on a startling reality. Together with the inmates, Felix plots an elaborate new version of Shakespeare’s Tempest that is destined to generate all manner of surprises.

New Boy: Othello Retold

Osei Kokote is the son of a Ghanaian diplomat, and is well practiced at being the new boy in a new school. When he arrives as a sixth grader in a 1970s suburban school, Osei finds himself the only black face in a sea of white. He is quickly taken under the wing of the popular Dee, who is tasked with looking after him, and who takes an especial liking to the new boy. But Dee’s classmate Ian is violently jealous of the budding relationship, and the events of the day quickly assume a tragic turn.

Shylock is My Name: The Merchant of Venice Retold

Howard Jacobson transports Shakespeare’s original character Shylock to modern-day Manchester, where he meets his contemporary counterpart, Simon Strulovitch in a cemetery. Strulovitch is struggling with many of the same questions about Jewish identity, religion, and fatherhood as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Shylock becomes Strulovitch’s house guest and is soon advising the modern man on how to deal with his rebellious daughter, and how to balance his conflicting inner identities.

Vinegar Girl: The Taming of the Shrew Retold

When Kate Battista is ‘expelled’ from college, she finds herself quickly falling into a rut. Between her job at a preschool where she is frequently in trouble with the administration, and her role as housekeeper for her eccentric scientist father and thoughtless younger sister Bunny, Kate feels decidedly trapped. Things only get worse when her father tries to trick her into marrying his young assistant Pyotr, whose US visa is set to expire. Kate is furious when she discovers the plan – but the more she gets to know Pyotr, the more it seems that he might just offer the escape she has been looking for.