5 Shakespeare Retellings to Celebrate the Bard's Birthday

Claire Handscombe

As with so many things about Shakespeare, his exact birthdate is not known. But it's widely accepted to be April 23, 1564. April 23rd is also St George's Day, which is the closest thing to a National Day that England has, so it seems appropriate to celebrate one of our most iconic people ever on that day, too. If you've always wanted to get into Shakespeare but been afriad to try, a good place to start is modern retellings of his story. Here are a few for you! (Descriptions have been taken from retailer websites.)

Dunbar, by Edward St Aubyn (King Lear)

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Henry Dunbar, the once all-powerful head of a global media corporation, is not having a good day. In his dotage he hands over care of the corporation to his two eldest daughters, Abby and Megan, but as relations sour he starts to doubt the wisdom of past decisions.Now imprisoned in Meadowmeade, an upscale sanatorium in rural England, with only a demented alcoholic comedian as company, Dunbar starts planning his escape. As he flees into the hills, his family is hot on his heels. But who will find him first, his beloved youngest daughter, Florence, or the tigresses Abby and Megan, so keen to divest him of his estate?The Gap of Time, by Jeanette Winterson (The Winter's Tale)

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In The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson's cover version of The Winter's Tale, we move from London, a city reeling after the 2008 financial crisis, to a storm-ravaged American city called New Bohemia. Her story is one of childhood friendship, money, status, technology and the elliptical nature of time. Written with energy and wit, this is a story of the consuming power of jealousy on the one hand, and redemption and the enduring love of a lost child on the other. If You Come Softly, by Jacqueline Woodson (Romeo and Juliet)

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Jeremiah feels good inside his own skin. That is, when he's in his own Brooklyn neighborhood. But now he's going to be attending a fancy prep school in Manhattan, and black teenage boys don't exactly fit in there. So it's a surprise when he meets Ellie the first week of school. In one frozen moment their eyes lock, and after that they know they fit together--even though she's Jewish and he's black. Their worlds are so different, but to them that's not what matters.MacBeth, by Jo Nesbo (MacBeth)

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Set in the 1970s in a run-down, rainy industrial town, Jo Nesbo's Macbeth centers around a police force struggling to shed an incessant drug problem. Duncan, chief of police, is idealistic and visionary, a dream to the townspeople but a nightmare for criminals. The drug trade is ruled by two drug lords, one of whom--a master of manipulation named Hecate--has connections with the highest in power, and plans to use them to get his way.Hecate's plot hinges on steadily, insidiously manipulating Inspector Macbeth: the head of SWAT and a man already susceptible to violent and paranoid tendencies. What follows is an unputdownable story of love and guilt, political ambition, and greed for more, exploring the darkest corners of human nature, and the aspirations of the criminal mind. Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler (The Taming of the Shrew)

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Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she's always in trouble at work - her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don't always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner.Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There's only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost.When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he's relying - as usual - on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he's really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men's touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

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