Covering Shakespeare!

As a fan of the Bard, I’m very excited to read about the Hogarth Shakespeare programme, launching in 2016  to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death.

Similarly to the Canongate Myth series, contemporary authors will be commissioned to create ‘cover versions’ of many of William Shakespeare’s most beloved plays. To reinvent the plays as prose, as it were.

The idea is that these retellings will appeal to modern and emerging readers (and presumably encourage them to then try out the glorious originals).

Illustration based on a 1623 engraving by Martin Droeshout. (Paul Gonzales / Los Angeles Times)

No stranger to cover versions, Jeanette Winterson (BAFTA aware winner and OBE) has already been approached and decided to re-imagine ‘The Winter’s Tale’. She has already participated in the Canongate myth series (Weight) and last year released The Daylight Gate – retelling the case of the 17th Century Pendle Witches – in the new Hammer Horror fiction series – so I’m feeling pretty confident that she’ll be well versed in respecting the original, while confidently putting her own spin on it!

As Winterson notes:

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.
And I love cover versions.

A second award winning author has also been appraoched and Anne Tyler (Pulitzer prize-winner) will be revamping The Taming of the Shrew. ‘I don’t know which I’m looking forward to more: delving into the mysteries of shrewish Kate or finding out what all the other writers do with their Shakespeare characters’.

Now, I don’t think that there is a need to change Shakespeare to make his works accessible. I think that once you learn how to read them, the plays are fantastic and relevant. A person need look no further than Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet or the recent Joss Whedon version of Much Ado About Nothing to prove that even in an up to date setting, the language of the plays is sublime. 

However, where updates and changes have occurred, I usually quite enjoy – Ten things I hate about you and the rapping English teacher jumps to mind or indeed Ian McKellen’s rapped sonnet or the ambitious 15 minute Shakespeare plays, the gender swapping Tempest with Helen Mirren as Prospero, Hamlet in Klingon (yes, really) – I consider myself pretty open minded!

So, really, I guess the purpose of this post was just to say – Yippee!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s