Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Bravo, Mr. Shakespeare! Seven Plays presented by Marcia Williams

In Bravo, Mr William Shakespeare!, Williams presents accessible and entertaining retellings of seven of Shakespeare's plays. Included in the book are four comedies (As You Like It, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, and Much Ado About Nothing) and three tragedies (Antony and Cleopatra, Richard III, and King Lear). The plot of each play is condensed into four to six pages.

Williams presents the plays in three distinct, but complementary ways; each contributing to the overall reading of the play.  First, the actual words Shakespeare wrote for the characters to say are reproduced in cartoon-like strips on the page, some in “bubbles” above the character’s heads. Second, the plot of the play is narrated below the image in modern-day Standard English. Thirdly, the pages are bordered by pictures of members of the audience, who comment on the plays as they take place, much in the way they would have done in Shakespeare's time.   The commentary ranges from humorously personal to illuminating observations on the plays as well as providing comic relief. "They're mummies, you dummies!" explains a member of the crowd, as Antony and Cleopatra are buried together in a tomb. "Cantankerous harpies!" declares a King Lear attendee, of Cordelia's sisters. 

By reading both Shakespeare’s own words and the paraphrased plots side by side, children will be able to understand the plays and get the sense of Shakespeare’s English. 

Each page is jam-packed with intricately detailed, comic-book styled cartoon panels, done in pen and watercolour, which move the action along. Despite each page being 'busy', the text, black set against blocks of white, is easy to distinguish and read. The artwork does invite scrutiny and although it is comic in appearance, it does add to the mood of the play. In the comedies: As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Merchant of Venice, and Much Ado about Nothing, the illustrations are bright, colourful, and have a sense of fun to them. In Antony and Cleopatra the illustrations have a definite Egyptian feel to them through the use of the gold and turquoise colours and the clothing and ships. The tragedies: Richard III and King Lear have the appropriate darker feel to them through the use of blacks, greys, and more sombre tones.
The front endpaper reproduces a Playbill as it may have appeared to the audience at the Globe Theatre. It contains the table of contents for the book. 

Teachers at Key Stage 2 will find that this is accessible for all children. It is an ideal early introduction to Shakespeare's plays. It will help children understand the plot of each of the plays and provide opportunities to explore and experiment with Shakespeare's dialogue.

publisher: Walker Books
publication date: 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4063-2335-1