William Shakespeare’s birthday is on April 23, and here at Bookish we’re getting ready to celebrate. The Bard’s birthday wouldn’t be complete without spending an evening with some of his classic plays. For readers looking to view them with fresh eyes, we’ve rounded up Shakespeare retellings that recast and reimagine some of our favorite plays.
If you love King Lear and are looking for a twist on the beloved classic, we bet you’ll enjoy We That Are Young by Preti Taneja. This retelling takes the Bard’s tale to modern-day India where the fate of a massive, family-owned company hangs in the balance. Unsurprisingly, more than one family member is eager to take the place of the aging founder, and Shakespearean drama ensues. For readers looking for even more King Lear fun, we recommend checking out Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer-winning novel A Thousand Acres.
E.K. Johnston’s young adult novel reimagines Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. The small town of Palermo Heights is known for its talented cheerleading team. Hermione Winters is preparing to take her place as captain her senior year and she arrives at their summer cheer camp with ambitious plans of taking the team to the next level. Then one night, she’s drugged and sexually assaulted. In the aftermath of the attack, Hermione realizes that one of her six male teammates could be responsible. This is a powerful story about society’s stigmas around sexual assault, the power of female friendship, and the necessity of creating a support system for survivors.
Toni Morrison is a legend, and boasts a Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Prize among her many literary accomplishments. In Desdemona, she puts her own spin on Shakespeare’s Othello, and gives readers insight into the life of Othello’s wife whose name the play bears. Readers of the Shakespearean original know that the story doesn’t end well for Desdemona, and they are likely to feel that loss more acutely after getting to know her better in Morrison’s work. If you want to experience Othello as you never have before, try reading both together.
Have you ever wished that Shakespeare wrote more sequels? You’re in luck. Miranda in Milan is Katharine Duckett’s sequel to The Tempest. The book follows Prospero’s daughter Miranda, who was engaged to Ferdinand at the end of the play. But the marriage continues to be delayed and Miranda finds herself falling for a witch named Dorothea. Meanwhile, her father breaks his vow of abandoning magic. A quick reread of The Tempest isn’t required here, but it’s certain to take your reading experience to the next level.
Feed your Shakespeare addiction with the Hogarth Shakespeare series. This project offers bestselling novelists the opportunity to retell Shakespeaere’s classics. Since it launched in 2015, seven books have been added to the series including Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed (based on The Tempest), Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl (based on The Taming of the Shrew), and Jo Nesbø’s Macbeth (based on Macbeth). The next installment will be Gillian Flynn’s retelling of Hamlet in 2021, meaning you have enough time to read the other reimaginings first!