“just as Shakespeare completely contorted”
“We’re very much leaving it up to the imaginations of the authors. We have talked with them about following the spirit of the plays, but it isn’t helpful for them to have to paint by numbers. We want them to bring all of their imaginations and different points of view just as Shakespeare completely contorted some of the history from which he took his own plays.”
—– Clara Farmer, Publishing Director, Chatto & Windus and Hogarth (June 26, 2013)
“I’m very drawn to American fiction and am always on the lookout for a new Marilynne Robinson or Philipp Meyer. I’m publishing a couple of fantastic American novels this coming year (The Interestings, the new Meg Wolitzer, and the new Jennifer Close, author of Girls in White Dresses), and I’d love to find a British writer to shout out about.”
—– Juliet Brooke, Senior Editor, Chatto & Windus and Hogarth (January 12, 2103)
You may already have read how American writer Ann Tyler and British writer Jeanette Winterson are the first commissioned for the re-writes of the works of William Shakespeare, a project “devised by Juliet Brooke, Senior Editor at Chatto & Windus/Hogarth, and Becky Hardie, Deputy Publishing Director [w]ith Clara Farmer, Publishing Director, … [who] comprise the UK publishing team.” Farmer says, “The time is ripe,” and she and her group are looking at 2016, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
Is this Bard news specifically? Or is this rather “good news” for publishers generally, a pop “current trend for modern retellings of classic stories” as with “Val McDermid, Joanna Trollope and Curtis Sittenfeld … all currently writing reworkings of Jane Austen”?
Some of us are less excited than others about the project. Is Farmer right to claim that this is driven by the spirit of Shakespeare? Are the authors’ imaginations really following the Bard? Are the historical contexts in which he writes his plays “completely contorted”?
I find Joss Whedon’s new, contemporary film version of Much Ado About Nothing to be a much more honest reworking of Shakespeare. Here he talks with Belinda Luscombe of Time magazine about his time to work with a play of the playwright he so reveres.
What are your thoughts about these new “Shakespeare” transpositions? Are they complete distortions or ways to bring the old works to new audiences?