Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Shakespeare Rewritten

With the winter SMU classes, Introduction to Shakespeare, starting at the Alderney Gate Library, I started thinking about how many interesting variations/interpretations there are for Shakespeare's works.

My favorite variation is Fool by Christopher Moore. To quote the author’s website “This is a bawdy tale. Herein you will find gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity....if this sort of thing you might enjoy, then you happened upon the perfect story.” While Moore brings in elements from a number Shakespeare’s plays, the main characters of King Lear are all there, much to our amusement. The novel’s main character, Pocket, is based on the fool from King Lear. While I've never read King Lear, I found it was not necessary to enjoy this wonderful novel. I might actually read the original tale now.

The Dead Father’s Club by Matt Haig is a comic tour de force. The novel is a funny, touching novel of an eleven year old boy, Phillip, who is haunted by his father’s ghost. Besides dealing with usual childhood issues, Phillip learns that his uncle Alan killed his father. Alan is lusting after Phillip’s mother and the family pub. If this sounds familiar, you may be reminded of Hamlet..

Also by this same author is a best selling first novel, The Last Family in England. It is a stunning re-telling of Henry IV. The canine narrator (yes the main character is a Labrador dog ) sees all the hidden plots and family dynamics of the Hunter family. Often people do talk to their pets as therapy and this family definitely needs a therapist.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard. If you like absurd theatre, have I got a story for you. This wonderful tale focuses on the misadventures and musings of two characters from the play “Hamlet”. While Rosencrantz and Guildenstein are just minor characters in
Shakepeare’s play, the exact opposite is true here. They are the major characters while Hamlet plays a minor part. They are like a comedy duo stumbling along because they are “offstage”, having no idea of the actions and plots of the major characters of Hamlet. If anyone knows the play “Hamlet” they know that everyone dies at the end of the play. So why it was necessary to announce that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead is a puzzle to me, but it did provide Tom Stoppard the occasion to write a wonderful, award winning play.

Gertrude and Claudius is John Updike’s 19th novel. It tells the story of Claudius and Gertrude and it ends just as the play “Hamlet” starts. It brings to life Gertrude’s childhood, her arranged marriage and her affair with Claudius. Updike has each of the characters go through names changes for the 3 sections of the novel. It is as if with the passing of time, humans create or develop different identities. Hamlet never speaks for himself and is only seen briefly in this novel, but we all know what happens next.

posted by Rosemary T.

No comments:

Post a Comment