Think the only way you could plough through Shakespeare’s plays is with a literature degree – barring which, a very large cup of strong coffee? Think again. His original works may be a tad challenging for novices, but his stories, themes and characters are so universal they’ve been reimagined, redefined and revisited in practically every way possible.
The Bard must have done something right to have his works still fascinating us 400 years after they were penned!
To celebrate World Book Day on April 23 and Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, we look at a selection of modern books that owe much of their inspiration to his works. And with the list covering everything from comics and sci-fi to chick lit and young adult, you’ll never have to worry about Shakespeare being "boring" or unrelatable again.
Romeo and Juliet: The War by Max Work, Stan Lee, Terry Dougas and Skan Srisuwan
This gorgeously-illustrated graphic novel sets Romeo and Juliet in a future where the Montagues and Capulets are two warrior clans tasked with protecting the empire of Verona, but have now turned on each other. The Montagues are powerful cyborgs made from artificial DNA, while the Capulets are genetically-enhanced humans with great speed and agility. When Romeo of the Montagues and Juliet of the Capulets fall in love, however, the safety of the whole empire is threatened.
The Madness of Love by Katharine Davies
This humorous love story is a modern take on Twelfth Night. Valentina, devastated after her twin brother abandons her, masquerades as a gardener to the lovesick Leo, who is pining after Melody. She, however, is in no mood for love, as she mourns over her brother’s suicide. As Valentina starts falling for Leo even while helping him woo Melody, we're treated to a tale of mistaken identities, unexpected desires, and finding love where you least expect it.
Exposure by Mal Peet
This young adult novel transplants Othello to modern South America, and revolves around black football player Otello and his relationship with white pop star Desmerelda. The glare of the spotlight, the racism Othello faces, and the schemes of those close to him, however, unravel their lives, as the story weaves together a story of prejudice, desire and betrayal.
The Taming of Lola: A Shrew Story by Ellen Weiss and Jerry Smath (illustrator)
It’s not every day that a children’s book can take on The Taming of the Shrew, but this adorable one manages to do so with oodles of style. Little Lola the shrew is a meanie who always gets her way, and her family has just about had it with her whining. Things go topsy-turvy, however, when her cousin Lester comes to stay. Not only is he even meaner than her, he manages to get special treatment from her family!
Fool by Christopher Moore
This bawdy, hilarious novel narrates the story of King Lear from the point of view of the King’s court jester. Filled with sex, murder, violence and betrayal, this is the raunchy version of events that you never knew existed, but will have you laughing out loud all the way to the last page.
Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty by Jody Gehrman
Geena is looking forward to working the summer at the Triple Shot Betty coffee shop with her best friend Amber and her cousin Hero. Drama and hijinks ensue, however, when not only do Amber and Hero hate each other on sight, but Amber falls in love with the rogueish John, who appears to have the hots for Hero instead! Meanwhile, Hero wants Claudio, and just as Geena is about to give up on them all, she finds her own tangle with high school rival Ben. Now, this is Much Ado About Nothing for the espresso age.
Macbeth: The Graphic Novel by Arthur Byron Cover and Tony Leonard Tamai (illustrator)
The Japanese manga style is used to reinvent Macbeth as a space opera, complete with robots, dragons and letters that arrive over computers. The intriguing themes of ambition, betrayal and guilt, however, are kept very much intact, and brought to life by the stylish artwork.
The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig
The Kingdom of Denmark is replaced by an English pub in this quirky retelling of Hamlet, where 11-year-old Phillip is visited by the ghost of his father and asked to avenge his murder. According to the recently-deceased dad, he was done in by Phillip’s uncle, who apparently aims to marry Phillip’s widowed mother and take over the family-owned pub. As Phillip goes about plotting revenge, he must also contend with adolescence, schoolyard bullies, and the distractions of his girlfriend, Leah.