Shakespeare’s plays are no stranger to adaptations. A selection of novelists have been given an exciting opportunity to pick one of Shakespeare’s plays and turn it into an updated, re-imagined novel. The project, known as the Hogarth Shakespeare series, is a celebration of the prolific playwright and comes just in time for the 400th anniversary of his death (2016). The project features award-winning and acclaimed authors who will transform Shakespeare’s work to prose, utilizing his plots, themes, symbols, and motifs in a contemporary setting, while staying, “true to the spirit of the original plays,” according to the publisher’s website.
Jeanette Winterson, Whitbread Award-winner and author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, is the first to have her re-imagined play-turned-novel published. Her version of The Winter’s Tale, entitled The Gap of Time, was released today. In choosing the play, Winterson said: “All of us have talismanic texts that we have carried around and that carry us around. I have worked with The Winter’s Tale in many disguises for many years. This is a brilliant opportunity to work with it in its own right.” Winterson, like the other talented authors lucky enough to be asked to re-imagine a Shakespeare play, highlight how timeless his work is.
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Other authors commissioned by Hogarth “to write prose ‘retellings’ of Shakespeare’s plays,” include:
- Anne Tyler: The Pulitzer Prize winner sets The Taming of the Shrew in her hometown of Baltimore;
- Tracy Chevalier: Reworking the tragic story of Othello;
- Margaret Atwood: Places the fantastical The Tempest in a prison;
- Gillian Flynn: The author of the best-selling mystery, Gone Girl, will take on another revenge-based, murder mystery with her adaptation of Hamlet;
- Jo Nesbo: Tackling the morally-conflicted, dark story of Macbeth;
- Edward St. Aubyn: Revamping the disastrous drama of King Lear.
All of the authors found something relatable, either to their own life or to their thematic writing preferences, in the plays they chose. Howard Jacobson, who is not the only Man Booker award winner on this list, commented to the New York Times that while he has changed aspects of The Merchant of Venice to make it a modern tale, as well as a novel, he would “never dream of cleaning up Shakespeare.” This sentiment seems to be the general consensus of all of authors working on the project who are thrilled to reimagine Shakespeare’s work while paying respect to each story’s genius.
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