| AandE

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Publisher sends Shakespeare's plays out for a modern-day rewrite

Tribune-Review File - William Shakespeare
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Tribune-Review File</em></div>William Shakespeare
Arvid Stridh - Author Jo Nesbo
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Arvid Stridh</em></div>Author Jo Nesbo
Diana Walker - Author Anne Tyler
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Diana Walker</em></div>Author Anne Tyler
ASSOCIATED PRESS - Jeanette Winterson poses for a portrait in her New York hotel room April 11, 1997. The 37-year-old British author was in town to promote her new novel, 'Gut Symmetries.'
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>ASSOCIATED PRESS</em></div>Jeanette Winterson poses for a portrait in her New York hotel room April 11, 1997. The 37-year-old British author was in town to promote her new novel, 'Gut Symmetries.'
AP - Novelist Haruki Murakami of Japan makes a speech after receiving the Jerusalem's award during the International Book Fair in Jerusalem, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Novelist Haruki Murakami of Japan makes a speech after receiving the Jerusalem's award during the International Book Fair in Jerusalem, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009.

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Hector Tobar
Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, 5:21 p.m.

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Anne Tyler has never liked “The Taming of the Shrew.”

“I have no favorite moments in this play,” Tyler said. “I first read it in college and disliked it intensely, and I can't say my attitude toward it softened any when I read it again just recently.”

Very soon, Tyler is going to get a chance to reimagine and make sense of “The Taming of the Shrew.” She's writing a novel based on the play as part of a project by the publishing house Hogarth to commission novels based on all 37 of Shakespeare's plays.

Shakespeare lived and died four centuries ago and has since been adapted into all sorts of media that didn't exist when he was alive, including film, television and radio. Joss Whedon's acclaimed film “Much Ado About Nothing,” released earlier this summer — was shot at his Santa Monica home with actors in modern dress. Last month, Ian Doescher released a book that retells the “Star Wars” saga in Shakespearean verse.

Asking novelists to adapt Shakespeare's oeuvre — with complete artistic freedom, the publishers say — is a tribute to the Bard's enduring power and influence. It's also a chance to bring his classic language into a modern setting. A “Julius Caesar” set in an African republic, perhaps. Or “The Tempest” set on another planet.

“Shakespeare and his range of work seem to have defined these seminal human experiences, be it war, marriage, friendship, the creative act,” said Hogarth publisher Molly Stern. “He got to the essence of how we live.”

The British writer Jeanette Winterson will adapt Shakespeare's play “The Winter's Tale” for the Hogarth Shakespeare series. Stern said the publishing house is finalizing deals with other authors. And because English is a language that's circled the world since Shakespeare's time, the editors are reaching out to a global range of writers.

“We want to reference the literary world as it exists now,” Stern said. If it can find the right authors for all 37, Stern said, the house will publish them all.

On social media, lovers of Shakespeare and literature are speculating about which author would be best matched to their favorite plays. Perhaps the Norwegian novelist Jo Nesbo could write a “Macbeth.” Or maybe Haruki Murakami could take on “A Midsummer Night's Dream.”

As for “The Taming of the Shrew,” it's a play many readers over the centuries have found troubling and downright misogynistic. It begins with a feisty Katherine telling one man she will “comb your noddle with a three-legged stool and paint your face and use you like a fool.” But by the play's end, she's literally under her husband's heel.

“I am ashamed that women are so simple, to offer war where they should kneel for peace, or seek for rule, supremacy and sway, when they are bound to serve, love and obey,” Kate says.

Tyler does not find “the Shrew” to be a good role model. “What can possibly be going on in Katherine's mind?” she asked in an email interview. “Or in Shakespeare's, for that matter?”

So why, then, does Tyler want to write a novel based on the play?

“Since my greatest joy in writing novels has been the deepening understanding of my characters in ways I'd never predicted, it seemed to me that ‘The Taming of the Shrew' was the natural choice,” she said.

“Mainly, I'm just interested to see what on earth will come out of my mouth,” she added.

The first Hogarth Shakespeare volume is scheduled to be published in 2016, the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death. A skeptic might see crass commercialism at work. But commenting in the Guardian, the writer and critic Bidisha saw great possibilities. “It's an opportunity to discover what the timeless geniuses of now make of a timeless genius of then,” she wrote.

Hector Tobar is a staff writerfor the Los Angeles Times.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Books

  1. Stanton Heights poet Collins works to keep his words full of meaning
  2. Interest in people brings diversity to Pitt professor’s award-winning poetry
  3. Reissue of book of album covers by Andy Warhol shows many sides of his art
  4. Film critic revisits a lifetime at the movies
  5. Review: Karolina Waclawiak’s novel ‘The Invaders’ continues her fascination with being on the outside
  6. Review: Gayle Lunds’ ‘The Assassins’ has fast pace, many twists