Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Library Was Dukedom Large Enough

"My library was a dukedom large enough,"
William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Engraving by Martin Droeshout, 1622
Some say that everything written in English is based on either William Shakespeare or Jane Austen… well, I say that, anyway. So, as homage to Shakespeare’s 451st birthday on April 23, let’s look at some modern titles that are actually based on one of his plays or on Shakespeare himself, or some form of him.

Quality of Mercy by Faye Kellerman: one of my favorite Kellerman’s novels and very different from her Peter Decker mystery series: Rebecca, a Converso who practices Judaism in private and helps fellow Jews escape persecution, meets a dashing young actor and playwright, William Shakespeare. We see touches of The Merchant of Venice and even Romeo and Juliet in this thoroughly enjoyable, mystery and love story.

My Name is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare by Jess Winfield: In this riotous novel about the parallel lives of Willie Shakespeare Greenberg, a ne’er do well graduate student studying his namesake, William Shakespeare, we see eerily similar patterns in both their lives. Each alternate chapter features either Willie or William both 20 years old. It is funny with lots of drugs and sex in both centuries.

The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips: When Arthur and his twin sister find an undiscovered Shakespeare play, The Tragedy of Arthur, given to them by their con-artist father at the end of his life, they go on a quest to find out if this is the real thing. But like Kate Atkinson’s works, this novel is a puzzle within a puzzle. Both the author and the main character are Arthur Phillips. Is The Tragedy of Arthur about the King or about himself? Read this multilayered novel and you can decide.

The Madness of Love by Katharine Davies: First time novelist Davies calls upon Twelfth Night as inspiration for her own comedy of manners involving twins, disguises, and unrequited love in a modern Welsh setting… with a background of Twelfth Night as the school play.

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley: Did you know that this best seller was inspired by King Lear? Well, it was news to me. Set on a large farm in Iowa, owned by a father and 3 daughters, this retelling of an aged father too old to work the farm anymore is from the point of view of the oldest daughter. It is a novel of love, jealousy, and fear. Sound familiar?

Ophelia by Lisa Klein is a character sketch of Ophelia’s life in Hamlet’s court designed for young adult readers.

And here are some movies also inspired by The Bard:

  • "Haider" is an Indian adaptation of Hamlet set in Kashmir (coming soon to our collection)
  • Caesar Must Die: As inmates at a high security prison in Rome rehearse for a production of Julius Caesar, they discover there is much that they have in common with the characters in this play.
  • Throne of BloodA Japanese adaptation of Macbeth set in feudal Japan.
  • Shakespeare UncoveredIn this documentary an array of Shakespearean actors assemble to explain Shakespeare and his plays to the theater going public.

There are many more lists of Shakespeare inspired works. Check out "
Top 10 Novels Inspired by Shakespeare," a list organized by Shakespearean play, and a list from the New York Public Library.

Remember, we have Shakespeare, as well as the books inspired by him, in print, CD Book, Large Print, and e-book.

L. Navidi

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