What’s the Jane Austen News this week? Are Retellings A Good Idea? Austen & Shakespeare You have probably heard that in 2013 HarperCollins launched the Austen Project, commissioning contemporary updates of Jane’s six completed novels. Well, less well publicised has been the Hogarth Shakespeare initiative, which, in a similar vein to the Austen Project, is giving eight of Shakespeare’s plays to a selection of today’s best-selling novelists for some modern retellings. Shylock is My Name is Howard Jacobson’s take on The Merchant of Venice. Jeanette Winterson has written The Gap of Time based on The Winter’s Tale. Then came Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler which is a remake of The Taming of the Shrew. The Austen Project has had a few criticisms from reviewers, but the Hogarth Shakespeare initiative has a couple of problems that the Austen Project did not, which has left some critics cold to the idea. For example, how to deal in a modern society with a plot hinging on misogyny in The Taming of the Shrew, and one based on anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice. Also, changing the format from a play that happened over the space of a few hours, to a form that takes much longer, usually a few days at least, takes some thought and much deeper access to characters’ psychology. The next in the Shakespeare series is due out this October; Hagseed by Margaret Atwood, based on The Tempest. We at the Jane Austen News thought that fans of the Austen Project might like to know and compare the relative successes of the books from the two
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