A recent major international project will see Shakespeare’s plays reimagined as contemporary tales. Some of today’s bestselling and most celebrated writers are participating in the project.
Jeanette Winterson has started off the project with A Gap in Time, a retelling of The Winter’s Tale. Shakespeare’s original play was the story of Leontes, King of Sicily, whose insane jealousy results in the banishment of his baby daughter and the death of his wife.
Winterson’s story moves from London, a city reeling after the 2008 financial crisis, to a storm-ravaged American city she calls New Bohemia. Her tale is one of childhood friendship, money, status, and technology. On the one hand there is jealousy, and on the other, redemption and the enduring love of a lost child.
Howard Jacobson has taken on the retelling of Merchant of Venice. His novel is aptly titled Shylock is my Name and in his version, Simon Strulovitch struggles to reconcile his daughter Beatrice’s betrayal of her family and heritage, as she gets caught up in Manchester High Society, and into the arms of a footballer notorious for giving a Nazi salute in the field.
The most recent is Anne Tyler’s retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, which the author has stated she has always found appalling “and not just because it’s ‘laughably misogynistic’, but “simply illogical”. She hopes her story makes more sense (“after all, it could hardly make less sense). What she has penned has been described as a “delightful and flowing read about one young woman’s making her way through a world still fraught with weighty expectations for both sexes.” Vinegar Hill releases today (June 21).
And we will be looking forward to Margaret Atwood’s taking on The Tempest. This is an ambitious program that Penguin Random House worldwide launched in the Fall of 2015, under the series title Hogarth Shakespeare. Why don’t you try a title or two? See if you can glimpse the bard between the lines!