How much I love retellings of classic tales must be evident by now. Every time I find new retellings of my favorite stories, I can’t help myself. I get so excited!
I guess, what appeals to me most about retellings is that every author highlights a different perspective of the story and I end up with a more complete picture of my favorite characters’ worlds.
Not to say that the original authors didn’t create vibrant enough worlds. On the contrary, I love their worlds so much that I want to spend even more time in them. I want see what goes on in that world through another lens.
I’ve also mentioned before how much I love Hamlet. When I read it for the first time, I was confused by Ophelia. I couldn’t tell if she was clever or completely insipid, so I was delighted to see that Lisa Klein stars her as the main character of her Hamlet retelling titled Ophelia.
By navigating the riveting plot of the tragedy through the eyes of a highly elusive character, Lisa Klein puts a whole new twist on the story of Hamlet without corrupting, in my opinion, the original intentions of the play. There is still death, and madness, and actions by Hamlet that could be analyzed for years to come.
Furthermore, in Ophelia Klein really brings out Queen Gertrude. In the original play, Shakespeare doesn’t really talk much about her. She’s more of a figurehead for Hamlet to alternately scorn, praise, and forgive. But in Ophelia Gertrude becomes a full-bodied character.
Does all this praise mean I mean prefer Ophelia over Hamlet?
A play and a novel serve different purposes. I read plays, but in truth they are meant to be watched. To feel the full effect of Shakespeare, or any playwright for that matter, it is necessary to hear the emotions behind the words, hear the tones they were meant to be said in. It is necessary to witness the witty dialogue as it bounces between the characters. This brings the story to life in a way descriptive scenes never could.
A novel on the other hand is purely based in the reader’s imagination. There are no actors to give voices to the characters, no exact images of what the people or the world they live in have to look like. The reader assigns a voice to a character, an image to the world, and creates something that no one else ever can.
So no, I don’t believe that either work is better than the other. Hamlet will always be unequalled in the world of Fantastic Plays, but at the same time it’s extremely exciting to see other authors build on its tradition.
I LOVED Klein’s Ophelia. Please check it out! If you enjoy retellings, another favorite of mine is one of Romeo and Juliet called Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine which I also recommend.
I would love to know how you feel about retellings in the comments. 🙂 Do you enjoy them or think they are literary travesties that corrupt the beauty of classic literature?