Buy, Borrow, Bypass: Shakespeare for Students

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Because so much time has passed since his plays were written, students today often feel like Shakespeare is beyond their grasp. That doesn’t have to be the case, though. The authors of these titles endeavor to close the gap, making Shakespeare less intimidating and more accessible.

William Shakespeares Star Wars Trilogy The Royal Imperial Boxed SetWilliam Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy by Ian Doescher

The story is one that is, for modern audiences, more familiar than, say, Titus Andonicus, though just as grand and sweeping in scale.  By presenting the story of Star Wars in Shakespearean language, Ian Doescher has brought a contemporary tale and a seemingly antiquated dialect together in a way that is highly appealing to the reader. They know the plot, so negotiating the dialogue doesn’t seem so difficult.

Verdict:  Buy. It is a quick, highly enjoyable reading. It makes a pretty good reader’s theater, too. If you have a chance to see it performed, I suggest you do.

The Friendly Shakespeare Norrie Epstein Paperback CoverThe Friendly Shakespeare: A Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Best of the Bard by Norrie Espstein

I discovered this title on the library shelves as a student, and I made extensive use of it as a teacher. It’s fun and (as the title promises) friendly. The book includes info on each play, but also details on the man himself, actors who were famous for playing notable roles, and a vast assortment of Shakespearean trivia. The illustrations are pretty amusing, too.

Verdict: Borrow.  It’s a library staple (or should be), and makes for a great occasional reference. I have fond memories of flipping through it while sitting at a study carrel in the stacks.

To Be or Not To Be A Chooseable Path Adventure Ryan NorthTo Be or Not To Be by Ryan North

This book found its way to shelves through a wildly successful Kickstarter, and it has changed the way that I look at Shakespeare. North takes Shakespeare’s classic Hamlet and brings the reader into the action, allowing them to make important decisions about the path the story takes. The Melancholy Dane doesn’t have to be so…well, melancholy.  Some would argue that changing the path of the story is doing Shakespeare a disservice, but I think that he’d appreciate the creativity – especially since his name’s still on the cover.

Verdict: Buy.  It’s too fun, and there are too many options to not keep this book in your personal collection. You could read a different version of the play every time you pick it up. Oh, and there’s a chooseable-path Romeo and/or Juliet coming this summer. It’s available for pre-order.

Editor’s note: The post originally said this year was the 500th anniversary of his death and has been corrected.

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