Old Favorites: Shakespearean Reduxes

We’re focusing on newer books, movies, and television shows for 2019, but that doesn’t mean we’re entirely ignoring old favorites! After all, what’s that saying–what’s old may just become new again (or something like that)?

Nobody really knows when William Shakespeare was born, but April 23 is commonly accepted as his birthday due to his baptism date. That makes today his 455th birthday (maybe, probably).

Now I like Shakespeare as much as the next former English major, even though I kind of hold him responsible for breaking my left ankle five years ago–that’s a long story, but he’s as guilty as, well, any number of his murderous characters.

My personal favorite Shakespeare plays include Othello, King Lear, Hamlet, Richard III, The Tempest, and Twelfth Night.

As much as I enjoy the Bard of Avon, I also enjoy a good Shakespeare retelling. I’m not usually a fan of reworkings of pre-existing content. Anyone who has ever had to listen to me complain about the amount of sequels and remakes that flood the movie market every year knows this. But Shakespeare himself was reworking well-known stories, so there seems something so fitting in borrowing his plots and characters and reworking them for different times and places.

If you want to celebrate Shakespeare with any number of his classic plays or filmed versions of them, go for it! We have plenty of that in our system. But we also have some more unusual ways to celebrate his work. . . .

Want a Pulitzer-Prize winning version of King Lear set on an Iowa farm? Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres should do the trick.

A Thousand Acres

Prefer your King Lear adaptations slightly more hilarious but still depressing because, well, it’s King Lear? Christopher Moore’s Fool is the story from the jester’s point of view.


Not really into Lear? That’s fine. How about a version of Hamlet set on a rural Wisconsin dog farm? (Spoiler: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is my personal favorite redux of a Shakespearean play.)*

*Ebook also available on Libby.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

If you prefer your Shakespearean adaptations a lot more loosely inspired and with a lot more zombies, Warm Bodies has you covered, with its tale of R and Julie.

Warm Bodies

Prefer a movie? Try 10 Things I Hate About You, the 1990s high school version of The Taming of the Shrew.

10 Things I Hate About You

If that’s too 90s for you, what about Maqbool, a Bombay mafia version of MacBeth?


Another recent and ongoing effort is the Hogarth Shakespeare project. This series pairs famous contemporary writers with a classic Shakespearean play to make their own. So, if the idea of Margaret Atwood turning her attention to The Tempest, Nordic Noir writer Jo Nesbø retelling MacBeth, Tracy Chevalier attempting Othello, or Anne Tyler re-interpreting The Taming of the Shrew intrigues you, this might be right up your alley.*

*Some of these titles are also available as ebooks and audiobooks on Libby.


Less interested in a retelling and more intrigued by a story about the author himself? Try The Spy of Venice, which envisions a young Shakespeare himself as a 16th century spy.

The Spy of Venice

What’s your favorite Shakespeare play? What’s your favorite Shakespearean redux? Did Shakespeare break your ankle? Tell us in the comments! As always, please follow this link to our online library catalog to find more information on any of these items or to place holds.

Author: berryvillelibrary

"Our library, our future"

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