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What to Read for Talk Like Shakespeare Day

If thou wouldst like to read more about the Bard and his works, get thee to a library and borrow these books!

April 19, 2021

April 23 is Talk Like Shakespeare Day! It’s the perfect excuse to re-read (or finally get around to reading) Shakespeare’s many works—and you can see those in our catalog or visit this MIT website to read them online for free. But there are other ways to get in touch with your inner Shakespeare!

NPR has shared some tips on talking like Shakespeare, and there’s even a whole website dedicated to talking like Shakespeare (talklikeshakespeare.org)!

If thou wouldst like to read more about the Bard and his works, get thee to a library and borrow these books!

In this list:

  • About the Bard
    Learn more about Shakespeare and his works.
  • Shakespeare today
    A few books on how Shakespeare applies today.
  • Retellings and continuations
    New authors take on Shakespeare’s greatest characters.
  • Shakespeare in fiction
    Stories about the Bard and his life.
  • Shakespeare on the big screen
    Performances and retellings of Shakespeare’s most famous works.

 

About the Bard

Learn more about Shakespeare and his works.

Death by Shakespeare

Death by Shakespeare
Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts

Kathryn Harkup

In Death By Shakespeare, Kathryn Harkup, best-selling author of A is for Arsenic and expert on the more gruesome side of science, turns her expertise to William Shakespeare and the creative methods he used to kill off his characters.

Is death by snakebite really as serene as Cleopatra made it seem? How did Juliet appear dead for 72 hours only to be revived in perfect health? Can you really kill someone by pouring poison in their ear? How long would it take before Lady Macbeth died from lack of sleep? Harkup investigates what actual events may have inspired Shakespeare, what the accepted scientific knowledge of the time was, and how Elizabethan audiences would have responded to these death scenes.

Death by Shakespeare reveals this and more in a rollercoaster of Elizabethan carnage, poison, swordplay and bloodshed, with an occasional death by bear-mauling for good measure.

Shakespeare Basics for Grown-Ups

Shakespeare Basics for Grown-Ups
Everything You Need to Know About the Bard

E. Foley, B. Coates

The Bard was so incredibly prolific that even most Shakespeare scholars would welcome the occasional refresher course, and most of the rest of us haven’t even got a clue as to what a petard actually is.

For parents keen to help with their children’s homework, casual theatre-goers who want to enhance their enjoyment and understanding, and the general reader who feels they should probably know more, Shakespeare Basics for Grown-Ups includes information on the key works, historical context, contemporaries and influences, famous speeches and quotations, modern day adaptations, and much, much more.

The Shakespeare Book

The Shakespeare Book

Consultant Editor Stanley Wells

An accessible guide to the works of Shakespeare, with timelines, overviews, thematic explorations, and material on the historical context for his writings.

Shakespeare's Language

Shakespeare’s Language

Frank Kermode

Plumbing the sweet mysteries of Shakespeare’s language, the author argues that the Bard’s tragedies were probably difficult even for his contemporaries to understand and identifies a shift in Shakespeare’s use of language around 1600.

 

Shakespeare Today

A few books on how Shakespeare applies to today’s culture and politics.

Juliet's Answer

Juliet’s Answer
One Man’s Search for Love and the Elusive Cure for Heartbreak

Glenn Dixon

When Glenn Dixon is spurned by love, he does something unusual. He travels to Verona, Italy, to become a scribe of Juliet, Shakespeare’s fictional character, all in an attempt to understand his heartbreak. Once there, he volunteers to answer the thousands of letters that arrive addressed to Juliet, letters sent from lovelorn people all over the world who long to understand the mysteries of the human heart.

Shakespeare in a Divided America

Shakespeare in a Divided America
What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future

James Shapiro

Leading Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro traces Shakespeare’s formative and crucial role in our nation’s history, from the otherwise progressive John Quincy Adams’s sinister opinions on race expressed via (and only via) his views on Othello; to the resounding American triumph of Shakespeare in Love, which exploded a debate about adultery at the time of President Clinton’s Oval Office affair with Monica Lewinsky; to Shakespeare’s undeniable contemporary significance, after a production of Julius Caesar, which depicted the assassination of a President Trump-like Julius Caesar, was exploited calculatedly by Breitbart and Fox News to ignite outrage.

With style and unmatched expertise, Shapiro contends brilliantly that few writers or artists can shed as much light on the hot-button issues of American life—and that by better understanding the role of Shakespeare’s plays in American history we might take steps towards mending our bitterly divided land.

Tyrant

Tyrant
Shakespeare on Politics

Stephen Greenblatt

As an aging, tenacious Elizabeth I clung to power, a talented playwright probed the social causes, the psychological roots, and the twisted consequences of tyranny.

In exploring the psyche (and psychoses) of the likes of Richard III, Macbeth, Lear, Coriolanus, and the societies they rule over, Stephen Greenblatt illuminates the ways in which William Shakespeare delved into the lust for absolute power and the catastrophic consequences of its execution.

 

Retellings and Continuations

New authors take on Shakespeare’s greatest characters.

Dunbar

Dunbar

Edward St. Aubyn

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.

Edward St Aubyn is renowned for his masterwork, the five Melrose novels, which dissect with savage and beautiful precision the agonies of family life. His take on King Lear, Shakespeare’s most devastating family story, is an excoriating novel for and of our times an examination of power, money and the value of forgiveness.

Hag-Seed

Hag-Seed

Margaret Atwood

Felix is at the top of his game as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he’s staging a Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, it will heal emotional wounds.

Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And brewing revenge. After 12 years revenge finally arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. Here Felix and his inmate actors will put on his Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him.

Macbeth

Macbeth

Jo Nesbø

A re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, set in the 1970s in a run-down, industrial town where the police struggle to shed an incessant drug problem.

Duncan, the 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.

Miranda And Caliban

Miranda And Caliban

Jacqueline Carey

A lovely girl grows up in isolation where her father has spirited them to in order to keep them safe.

We all know the tale of Prospero’s quest for revenge, but what of Miranda? Or Caliban, the so-called savage? In this incredible retelling of The Tempest, Jacqueline Carey shows readers the other side of the coin—the dutiful and tenderhearted Miranda, who loves her father but is terribly lonely. And Caliban, the strange and feral boy Prospero has bewitched to serve him.

The two find solace and companionship in each other as Prospero weaves his magic and dreams of revenge. Always under Prospero’s jealous eye, Miranda and Caliban battle the dark, unknowable forces that bind them to the island even as the pangs of adolescence create a new awareness of each other and their doomed relationship.

Miranda in Milan

Miranda in Milan

Katharine Duckett

After The Tempest, after the reunion, after her father drowned his books, Miranda was meant to enter a brave new world. Naples awaited her, and Ferdinand, and a throne.

Instead she finds herself in Milan, in her father’s castle, surrounded by hostile servants who treat her like a ghost. Whispers cling to her like spiderwebs, whispers that carry her dead mother’s name. And though he promised to give away his power, Milan is once again contorting around Prospero’s dark arts.

With only Dorothea, her sole companion and confidant, to aid her, Miranda must cut through the mystery and find the truth about her father, her mother, and herself.

New Boy

New Boy

Tracy Chevalier

Starting his fifth school in five years, Osei Kokote, a diplomat’s son, hoping to survive his first day becomes friends with Dee, the most popular girl in school, but Ian is determined to destroy the budding friendship.

An adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Othello.

Shakespeare for Squirrels

Shakespeare for Squirrels

Christopher Moore

An uproarious hardboiled mystery inspired by Shakespeare’s most-performed play finds The Serpent of Venice’s Pocket of Dog Snogging assuming the duties of a murdered Puck to identify hidden adversaries who have complicated an arranged marriage.

As anyone who is even vaguely aware of the Bard’s most performed play ever will know, nearly every character has a motive for wanting the mischievous sprite dead. With too many suspects and too little time, Pocket must work his own kind of magic to find the truth, save his neck, and ensure that all ends well.

Verona Comics

Verona Comics

Jennifer Dugan

Jubilee has it all together. She’s an elite cellist, and when she’s not working in her stepmom’s indie comic shop, she’s prepping for the biggest audition of her life.

Ridley is barely holding it together. His parents own the biggest comic-store chain in the country, and Ridley can’t stop disappointing them—that is, when they’re even paying attention.

They meet one fateful night at a comic convention prom, and the two can’t help falling for each other. Too bad their parents are at each other’s throats every chance they get, making a relationship between them nearly impossible… unless they manage to keep it a secret.

Vinegar Girl

Vinegar Girl

Anne Tyler

Kate Battista feel struck. How did end up running house and home for eccentric scientist father and the uppity, pretty younger sister, Bunny? Plus she’s always in trouble at work—her preschool charges adore, bit their parent don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner.

A retelling of the Shakespeare play The Taming of the Shrew.

 

Shakespeare in Fiction

Stories about the Bard and his life.

Fools and Mortals

Fools and Mortals

Bernard Cornwell

In the heart of Elizabethan England, Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in one of the London playhouses, a world dominated by his older brother, William. But he is a penniless actor, making ends meet through a combination of a beautiful face, petty theft and a silver tongue.

As William’s star rises, Richard’s onetime gratitude is souring and he is sorely tempted to abandon family loyalty. So when a priceless manuscript goes missing, suspicion falls upon Richard, forcing him onto a perilous path through a bawdy and frequently brutal London.

Hamnet

Hamnet

Maggie O’Farrell

A short, piercing, deeply moving novel about the death of Shakespeare’s 11 year old son Hamnet—a name interchangeable with Hamlet in 15th century Britain—and the years leading up to the production of his great play.

England, 1580. A young Latin tutor—penniless, bullied by a violent father—falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman—a wild creature who walks her family’s estate with a falcon on her shoulder and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer. Agnes understands plants and potions better than she does people, but once she settles with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose gifts as a writer are just beginning to awaken when his beloved young son succumbs to bubonic plague.

The Secret Life of William Shakespeare

The Secret Life of William Shakespeare

Jude Morgan

There are so few established facts about how the son of a glove maker from Warwickshire became one of the greatest writers of all time that some people doubt he could really have written so many astonishing plays.

We know that he married Anne Hathaway, who was pregnant and six years older than he, at the age of eighteen, and that one of their children died of the plague. We know that he left Stratford to seek his fortune in London, and eventually succeeded. He was clearly an unwilling craftsman, ambitious actor, resentful son, almost good-enough husband.

But when and how did he also become a genius?

The Spy of Venice

The Spy of Venice

Benet Brandreth

When he is caught by his wife in one ill-advised seduction too many, young William Shakespeare flees Stratford to seek his fortune. Cast adrift in London, Will falls in with a band of players, but greater men have their eye on this talented young wordsmith.

England’s very survival hangs in the balance and Will finds himself dispatched to Venice on a crucial assignment. Dazzled by the city’s masques and its beauties, he little realizes the peril in which he finds himself. Catholic assassins would stop at nothing to end his mission on the point of their sharpened knives—and lurking in the shadows is a killer as clever as he is cruel.

 

Shakespeare on the Big Screen

Performances and retellings of Shakespeare’s most famous works.

As You Like It

As You Like It

Bryce Dallas Howard, Kevin Kline, Alfred Molina, Brian Blessed, Romola Garai

Rosalind, the daughter of banished Duke Senior, is being raised at the court of Duke Frederick. She falls in love with a young man named Orlando, but she is banished by Duke Frederick, who threatens death if she comes near the court again.

Disguised as the boy Ganymede, Rosalind happens upon Orlando and his manservant, who are fleeing the wrath of Orlando’s eldest brother. What follows is an elaborate scheme devised by the cross-dressing Rosalind to find out the verity of Orlando’s supposed passion for her, and to further capture his heart, through the witty and mischievous façade of Ganymede.

Hamlet

Hamlet

Laurence Olivier, Basil Sydney, Eileen Herlie, Norman Wooland, Felix Aylmer

The classic version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the towering tragedy of the Danish prince who feigns madness to trap his father’s murderer.

Hamlet

Hamlet

Kenneth Branagh, Julie Christie, Billy Crystal, Gerard Depardieu, Charlton Heston, Derek Jacobi, Jack Lemmon, Rufus Sewell, Robin Williams, Kate Winslet

In this first-ever full-text film of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark returns home to find his father murdered and his mother remarrying the murderer. Meanwhile, war is brewing.

Henry V

Henry V

Laurence Olivier, Robert Newton, Leslie Banks, Renee Asherson, Felix Aylmer

An adaptation of Shakespeare’s patriotic historical drama that celebrates the English nation and the greatness of its King. Includes medieval battle sequences with a recreation of the Battle of Agincourt.

Macbeth

Macbeth

Ian McKellen, Judi Dench

When a trio of witches prophesy Macbeth’s ascension to the throne, Lady Macbeth pushes her husband into a murderous spree. But once crowned king of Scotland, Macbeth sees ghastly visions, fueled by guilt and a new prophecy, that ensure his ultimate downfall.

The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice

Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes, Lynn Collins, Zuleikha Robinson, Kris Marshall

The story of Antonio who risks his life to borrow money from his enemy, Shylock, and is saved by Portia, an heiress posing as a lawyer. A classic tale of morality, revenge, redemption and love set in the lavish era of 16th century Venice.

Romeo + Juliet

Romeo + Juliet

Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes

An unconventional adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic love story, with the setting moved from Renaissance-era Verona to modern-day southern California.

Romeo And Juliet

Romeo And Juliet

Natascha McElhone, Stellan Skarsgard

An ageless story from the world’s most renowned author is reimagined for the 21st Century. This adaptation is told in the lush traditional setting it was written, but gives a new generation the chance to fall in love with the enduring legend.

Shakespeare in Love

Shakespeare in Love

Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Ben Affleck, Judi Dench

When Will Shakespeare needs passionate inspiration to break a bad case of writer’s block, a secret romance with the beautiful Lady Viola starts the words flowing like never before!

The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew

Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Cyril Cusack, Michael Hordern, Alfred Lynch, Alan Webb

Petruchio is a poverty-stricken gentleman from Verona who journeys to Padua in search of a wealthy wife. There he meets Katharina, a self-willed shrew who leads Petruchio on a merry chase before he successfully circumvents her attempts to avoid marriage. After the honeymoon, Kate helps Petruchio win a wager that he has the most obedient wife. In reality, Kate has found a more effective way to dominate her mate.