William Shakespeare & Courtney Carbone,
OMG Shakespeare: Macbeth #killingit
(Random House, 2016)

William Shakespeare & Brett Wright,
OMG Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night #nofilter
(Random House, 2016)

Shakespeare's plays are less about the stories -- they were, after all, borrowed in many cases from earlier works -- and more about the language he used to tell them.

Now, Random House is stripping the language from some of Shakespeare's most enduring tales, reimagining them as stories told entirely by text. I get what they're trying to do here -- the OMG Shakespeare series, as it's called, is trying to introduce The Bard to a new, younger, hipper crowd -- but to me it misses the point.

For one thing, they don't make tons of sense when, for instance, the three witches from Shakespeare's Macbeth are texting each other over the cauldron as Macbeth and Banquo approach, or Lysander and Hermia are texting each other while snuggled together in a bush in the woods. More importantly to me, this version steals the power of the stories themselves, turning the tragic pseudo-history of Macbeth into a farce and taking Midsummer -- which is already plenty funny -- and making it just plain silly.

I typically don't mind and quite often enjoy adaptations of Shakespeare's work for new audiences. From the comedic play "Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)," which makes comedies of both Othello and Romeo & Juliet, to "Shakespeare's Bloody Best" at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, which has converted a series of serious plays into bloodsport farces, I have admired the cleverness involved in reinterpreting the work. Still, for me, the OMG series falls flat.

That said, I certainly understand how these books could prove useful for teachers introducing young readers to the concept, and I'm sure some literary-minded parents will enjoy using these to bring their children into the fold. But, call me a knotty-pated fool or a poisonous bunch-back'd toad, I just don't like 'em.

Besides the two books provided to me for review, the series so far includes srsly Hamlet and YOLO Juliet.

book review by
Tom Knapp

5 March 2016

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