Marking the Bard’s birthday this April, is a new edition of Geraldine McCaughrean’s sparkling re-telling of ten of his best known plays. The aim is to engage younger readers by sloughing off the drier elements of the text, and letting the stories shine through.
Shakespeare wrote for a mass audience, and yet today, his plays are often regarded as elitist and difficult. Many children don’t encounter them until secondary school, by which time they’re likely to regard his work as somewhat intimidating. This colourful collection aims to grab those youngsters before that happens, and whisk them straight into the heart of the stories.
Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, are among the plays covered, plays that certainly contain the very stuff of life. Love, hate, jealousy, revenge, guilt. You only have to spend half an hour at a toddler’s play date, to observe all these emotions in action.
Geraldine McCaughrean re-tells Shakespeare with real panache, and embraces the original language by punctuating her own text with quotes from the plays, often at moments of high drama. Imagine your bloodthirsty kids glee at the line from the infamous eye-gouging scene in King Lear,
Out, vile jelly!
Where is thy lustre now?
Vile jelly! Gruesomely perfect wording.
I particularly enjoyed Hamlet. A complex play, that runs to three hours in performance, it’s been brilliantly condensed here.
I love the opening paragraph.
There was once a castle full of shadows. They barred the windows, waited on the stairs. Like webs, they rounded the corners of rooms. Like bad dreams, they mustered in the bed-hangings and consorted behind the fire’s flickering.
Such imaginative scene setting. Of course, there’s no substitute for performance. Happily these days, many theatre companies stage really innovative kids productions. If you combine theatre with this book, your child won’t be intimidated when it’s time to study Shakespeare, and it may even inspire an enthusiastic lifetime hailing of the Bard.