Publisher sends Shakespeare's plays out for a modern-day rewrite
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.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Stanton Heights poet Collins works to keep his words full of meaning
- Interest in people brings diversity to Pitt professor’s award-winning poetry
- Reissue of book of album covers by Andy Warhol shows many sides of his art
- Film critic revisits a lifetime at the movies
- Review: Karolina Waclawiak’s novel ‘The Invaders’ continues her fascination with being on the outside
- Review: Gayle Lunds’ ‘The Assassins’ has fast pace, many twists