Shakespeare can be a bit hard to wrap your head around, but, often times, it’s worth the work you have to put in to understand the historical context. After all, that’s what makes the jokes so funny! There’s just something about Shakespeare’s storytelling ability that has people adapting his words again and again. However, adaptations are not the only way to get a modern Shakespeare fix. Today, we’re telling you about two of our favorite novels that involve Shakespeare. Both of these novels are beautiful and heartbreaking, and must-reads for any fans of the Bard.
If We Were Villains focuses on a group of actors and friends as they enter their final year of training to become professional Shakespearian actors. On and off the stage, protagonist Oliver and his friends take on different roles as they navigate love, life, lust and heartbreak. One part mystery, one part romance and full of beautiful language and exquisitely crafted drama, If We Were Villains will have you quoting Shakespeare and crying. Here’s the blurb for more:
Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.
As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.
Station Eleven is, in our opinion, nothing short of a work of genius. Set across decades, Station Eleven describes the aftermath of a deadly plague that has left the world in shambles. However, despite the sad state of cities and refugee camps, a troupe of Shakespearean actors find hope in each other and in performing Shakespeare’s works at the various camps to which they travel. If you don’t normally read science fiction, we implore you to give Station Eleven a try. It’s scifi, yes, but also drama, romance and full of heart and language you simply can’t tear yourself away from. Here’s the blurb for more:
Set in the days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.
The next time you’re in the mood for some Shakespeare but don’t feel up to deciphering the thous and thys, give one of these great novels a try!