ShakespeareFrom Mediabistro’s GalleyCat comes the intriguing news that Hogarth Press, an imprint of Random House, has commissioned a series of novelizations of Shakespeare’s plays, to be written by well-known authors.

As the article explains:

“The project will open with Anne Tyler rewriting The Taming of the Shrew and Jeanette Winterson retelling The Winter’s Tale. The program will open in 2016, marking the 400th anniversary of the great author’s passing.”

I must admit, I am intrigued. If they get through the whole cannon of plays and market these with matched cover art and decent promotion, and of course assuming the novels are good, they actually could be commissioning a really unique contribution to the literary scene.

I have mixed feelings about using modernized retellings to replace the actual, original thing; but as a supplement, I see works like these as having great value. I personally will be quite curious to read them.


  1. Andy, using the themes and general ideas of Shakespeare’s play isn’t new. Just think of Bernstein’s WEST SIDE STORY as a retelling of “Romeo and Juliet.”

    What they are doing here, however, is closer to a movie tie-in novel where the writer will follow the play’s plot, use the same characters, etc.

    I don’t envy the authors who do this, but I admire their arrogant belief that they can do Shakespeare justice.

  2. I wasn’t actually thinking of retellings like ‘West Side Story’. There are plenty of examples of writers mining Shakespeare for ideas and themes. Or even Shakespeare mining the works of his predecessors.

    I could have sworn that I’ve run across prose versions of Shakespeare’s plays before, usually in YA fiction, but nothing comes immediately to mind. No matter. It’s not something I would attempt myself. I don’t think my writing ability extends much past okay fan fiction and the kind of writing earning an English Lit. degree required (several decades ago).

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