Shakespeare is known throughout the ages and across every continent. His plays are performed across countless theatres and are studied in countless schools. They’ve made a huge literary impact, so much so that adaptations are constantly being made.
Teen film classics like 10 Things I Hate About You (The Taming of the Shrew) and She’s The Man (Twelfth Night) dominate our screens, as do the many variations of West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet). Disney movies, such as The Lion King duology (Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet), and other animated movies like Gnomeo and Juliet. All of these are iconic takes of some of Shakespeare’s best works, following the themes but making their own impact. Likewise with novels.
Honourable mentions: The Academy by Emmaline Andrews. A sci-fi/dystopian with similarities to Twelfth Night, this was one of my first introductions to Shakespeare. Warm Bodies by Isaac Manon was the zombified version of Romeo and Juliet which inspired the film. And finally, We That Are Young by Preti Taneja is an Indian retelling of the gruesome King Lear.
Some writers, like my recent favourite Chloe Gong, go all in on the Shakespearean adaptation. She ADORES the work of the historic playwright, following his plays with her own fantastical twists. Her debut duology, These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends, follows Roma Montagov, the heir to The White Flowers, and Juliette Cai, the heir to the Scarlet Gang, as they make their way through 1920s Shanghai. With real Chinese history mixed with a supernatural threat, tensions are high for this young pair, in more ways than one. Based on Romeo and Juliet, we see the rival gangs, echoes of classic characters – Marshall, Benedikt, Tyler – and even iconic R&J quotes, such as “these violent delights have violent ends”.
The duology isn’t where her adaptations end, though. Later this year, a spinoff duology, beginning with Foul Lady Fortune, features Rosalind, a Scarlet, and newcomer Orion, as they deal with the Japanese expansion into China in the 1930s. This duology is loosely inspired by As You Like It and is described by Chloe Gong as “speculative historical noir”. In summer 2023, the first in her upcoming Adult trilogy, Immortal Longings, has a fantasy 1990s setting, and takes inspiration from Anthony & Cleopatra.
As a Shakespeare nerd, and a lover of all things YA and Fantasy, I can certainly see all my money going to Gong’s works. Bring on the Shakespeare adaptations.