By Dennis Abrams
The 19th century gave us Charles and Mary Lamb’s now-classic Tales from Shakespeare; prose versions of Shakespeare’s plays written to make the Bard’s works accessible to children (as well as the entire family). And now, Hogarth Press is commissioning new versions of Shakespeare’s plays “reimagined for a twentieth-century audience,” for a project called The Hogarth Shakespeare, set to launch in 2016.
What makes this project stand out is Hogarth’s use of bestselling novelists from around the world to reshape and retell the Shakespeare play of their choosing into a more “accessible” prose form.
Two authors have already been announced (with further announcements to come). Jeanette Winterson OBE has chosen for her book to reimagine the late romance The Winter’s Tale, a play she has said is close to heart. “All of us have talismanic texts that we have carried around and that carry us around. I have worked with The Winter’s Tale in many disguises for many years. This is a brilliant opportunity to work with it in its own right.”
And Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Anne Tyler has signed on to retell the early comedy, The Taming of the Shrew. “I don’t know which I’m looking forward to more,” she said. “Delving into the mysteries of shrewish Kate or finding out what all the other writers do with their Shakespeare characters.”
Hogarth UK is taking the lead on the project, which was “devised by” Julie Brooke and Becky Hardie, who are joined by Clara Farmer on the publishing team. The Hogarth Shakespeare will be co-published by Hogarth in the US, Knopf Canada, Knaus Verlag in Germany, and Monadori in Spain; and Random House Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India. The novels will be published simultaneously in print, digital and audio formats.
“The opportunity to ask our best living writers to reinterpret Shakespeare’s many worlds has proven irresistible,” said Clara Farmer, publishing director of Hogarth and Chatto & Windus. “The time is ripe for a dedicated series of stand-alone retellings that form a covetable library and a celebration of Shakespeare for years to come.”
And Molly Stern, Senior Vice President (Crown/Hogarth/Broadway Books), was quoted in The Telegraph as saying: “We all know there is no greater genius in all literature than the Bard. I can’t wait to see what alchemy will result from some of the most exciting writers of our own time applying their distinctive storytelling gifts, expertise, and perspective to reimagining his timeless works. I have no doubt new classics await us all.”
Want to get a jump on Shakespeare, join our online Shakespeare reading group The Play’s the Thing.