Pairing Covers of Shakespeare Retellings With the Original Play

Jesse Doogan

Staff Writer

Jesse Doogan writes about food, faith, books, and DIY projects, and sometimes even puts these things on her blog. She works in publishing and lives near Chicago with her cat. She tweets about all these things at @jadoogan.   Blog Twitter: @jadoogan

This post matching the covers of Shakespeare plays with retellings is sponsored by Wednesday Books.

Jade, Jenny, Mads, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of—until the night of Jade’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Jade as their next target. They picked the wrong girl. Sworn to vengeance, Jade transfers to St. Andrew’s Prep. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes.

One of my favorite things to do in my work as a bookseller is help people come up with the exact perfect gift set. Maybe we figure out what candle to pair with what book, or what board book is the perfect “for now” complement to a picture book that a new baby will enjoy later. Little Women with another Louisa May Alcott book your niece has never heard of. My new idea is that I want to start pairing Shakespeare retellings with the most beautiful, perfectly matched edition of the original play. Thank goodness the Bard is out of copyright so there are plenty of editions to match up with.

Othello and Desdemona by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison’s play Desdemona allows Desdemona and her maid Barberry to take center stage. I’d pair this cover with a photo of the stage production with the Yale University Press edition of Othello. The stark, snuffed candle looks great alongside the dramatic Morrison edition.

Romeo and Juliet and Prince of Cats by Ron Wembly

Prince of Cats is described as “the B side” to Romeo and Juliet, a rollicking retelling set in an ’80s block-party in sword-obsessed New York City. The electric pink cover of Prince of Cats is perfect next to the equally electric Folgers edition of Romeo and Juliet.

Hamlet and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

Edgar Sawtelle brings Hamlet to America’s heartland—and throws some dogs into the mix, and everyone knows that the quickest way to improve on a story is to add some beloved pets. This cover is quiet and pastoral, so I was very happy to find this lovely impressionist Hamlet cover. Both covers are in the same soothing palette, but both seem to suggest that something dark will happen, and soon.

The Tempest and The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer

A steampunk The Tempest? Well, that is certainly going on the list.  The Dream of Perpetual Motion is about greeting card writer Harold Winslow, who is trapped on board a zeppelin with no one but the disembodied voice of his one true love and her cryogenically frozen father, Prospero. I’m pairing this with the most steampunk copy of The Tempest I could find: a letterpress edition hand-bound in goatskin. It’s perfect for reading by gas light.

King Lear and A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley transports King Lear from a castle to a farm in Iowa. The cover is surprisingly hopeful, with a bright blue sky, which is surprising for a retelling of a tragedy. I’m pairing this with a cover that is its opposite: instead of a bright open field, it’s a dark, close forest.

The Taming of the Shrew and Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

This cover! I love this cover. The fresh illustration is perfect for the romantic comedy that it is. Anne Tyler retells The Taming of the Shrew, this time making Kate the forthright daughter of a demanding scientist daughter. I am again turning to the electric Folgers covers, since the yellow perfectly matches Kate’s sweater.

The Sonnets and The Sonnets: Translating and Rewriting Shakespeare by Paul Legault and Sharmila Cohen

This book brings us 154 “English-to-English” translations of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. This diverse group of poets completely transforms the poems while maintaining their original meaning. This cover looks like an old title page, and I would pair it with the Penguin cloth-bound edition of Shakespeare’s originals.