Sunday, January 24, 2010

BOOK: Tales from Shakespeare by Marcia Williams

Tales from Shakespeare by Marcia Williams, 36 pages

graphic novels (children's comic); Four Month Challenge: a book about/by Shakespeare

I'll confess, I'm not much of a Shakespeare fan. I studied some plays in high school, and I didn't hate them, (my favorite Shakespeare story is Cue for Treason, a great story about life in Shakespeare's time, kind of like the movie Shakespeare in Love) but I am decidedly unaffected by the plays. I do feel a bit of a lacking in my reading history however. I picked up this children's comic version to fill in some gaps. This wonderful book is just the thing for slackers like me who want to read the plays with out actually reading the plays. Six plays are presented here, over a couple of double spread pages each - Romeo and Juliet, The Winter's Tale, MacBeth, Hamlet, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Julius Caesar.

There are three parts to each play - the story or plot is told under the pictures, actual Shakespeare words are used in the pictures, spoken by the actors, and the spectators are seen around the edges of each story. Queen Elizabeth I and Will Shakespeare are present at most of the plays, with the rich people seated near the top of the page and the peons at the bottom, planning when to throw their tomatoes. It was a humorous, nice touch, and led a historical feel to the plays.

I really liked that the famous lines are included for each play when possible, but the plot is told in regular English. I read Romeo and Juliet and MacBeth in high school, yet I only remembered the bare essentials of the plays. As much as I'd like to like A Midsummer's Night Dream, since it plays such a pivotal role in one of my favorite movies, Dead Poets' Society, it didn't appeal to me, even here in cartoons. I would be interested in seeing movie versions of Julius Caesar, The Winter's Tale and Hamlet, the stories that I enjoyed the most. I tried to read the book to my daughter, thinking she'd follow along with comic pictures, but she wandered off during the first tale. Oh, well. The only quibble I had was that the character drawings were not easy to differentiate between, and with so many unfamiliar names and such a short format, it would have helped to have more differences between the characters' appearances.


  1. You've never seen the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet? Ethan Hawke was in a version of Hamlet set in modern times.

    10 Things I Hate About You is a version of Taming of the Shrew. And do you remember the Moonlighting episode based on the same play?

    A Midsummer's Night Dream has never appealed to me either. My favourite comedy is A Comedy of Errors--basically a Three's Company level of misunderstanding, as told by Shakespeare.

  2. ctoan - never seen any Hamlet movies. I think I'd like to though.
    Moonlighting was one big Taming of the Shrew! I usually like the adaptations of the plays into other books or movies. And if you mention Three's Company, it has to be good.

  3. Or have you seen the film version of Much Ado About Nothing - with Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh? Or there's a really good film version of Twelfth Night also, with Helena Bonham-Carter as Olivia, or also, oh, David Tennant was in an RSC version of Hamlet they just did. ANY OF THESE might make you love Shakespeare (she said hopefully).

  4. I LOVE A Midsummer Night's Dream. I watched the film version with Calista Flockhart and Rupert Everett and Stanley Tucci and a bunch of other people in it and really enjoyed it. It helped me better understand the play!

  5. jenny - Much Ado with Emma and Kenneth sounds a bit familiar. Maybe I caught the last end of it on TV once, and thought it looked ok?
    Helena Bonham-Carter? awesomeness. I'll have to look into watching a movie of Hamlet, I'll try.

    lexi - I think I'd definitely prefer the movie versions.


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