Graphic Novels,  Reviews

Shakespeare – Graphic Style

I was at work, browsing through the graphic novel collection, when I noticed a group of graphic novels for Shakespeare. So of course I had to check one of them out. I decided to go with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, because I have not read this play, but have always wanted to.

(Okay, mainly because of this…) 
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Before reading this adaptation of the play, I would have said that anyway to get someone (particularly a teen) to read and understand Shakespeare is good in my books. After reading it…I’m not so sure.
It’s not a very good version of the play. Again, I hadn’t previously known this play at all, so I can’t speak for how closely it follows the actual work. But the way it was translated and trimmed to fit the graphic novel style was pretty horrible!

It’s in modern English, and the text has been so simplified and directly translated that often it sounds really stupid, and sometimes it doesn’t even make sense. Have you ever seen Singing in the Rain? The first attempt for the silent actors to make a talking picture fails miserably. Here’s the clip.

Now, imagine this from the actor’s point of view. Take it seriously, and this is how bad some of the dialogue sounded (I refer not to the play at the end, which is basically supposed to be this bad, but the plot in between). There was a lot of I love you! You are beautiful! I love only you! And now I hate you! The general idea of the plot is there, but I have great faith that Shakespeare makes his characters sound a tad better than this throughout the play!

I will admit that I finished the book understanding the play, which I know would not have been the case if I’d been in high school and reading the play itself. So there is a positive to having such a simplified version of the story available. My concern, however, is that someone without knowledge of Shakespeare will read this and wonder why on earth anyone ever liked these stories, since the adaptation is so bad. For many, things like Shakespeare are tedious enough without adding a bad translation to the mix!

All in all, I think the idea is fantastic, and if done by someone who really loves Shakespeare, I think this format could be perfect for some people. This version was done by an educational company, however, and I can’t help but feel that they just wanted to churn something out for the sake of making money. And the results were less than lovely. I’d much sooner suggest the No Fear Shakespeare side-by-side translation, or for a quick go at it, at least one of the film versions.

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Also, quick note on the images (I review a graphic novel and hardly mention the images…I’m terrible, I know.) – The colours and shading were really nice in this book. I didn’t care much for the way the people were drawn, but I thought the illustrations were decent. They weren’t good enough to make me forget the text, though, =P

Anyone have any favourite alternative adaptations of a Shakespeare work?

One Comment

  • Susan Francino

    Wow, how fascinating, graphic novels of Shakespeare's plays! I've never encountered this before, probably because I am not at all entrenched in the graphic novel world, but still… Very interesting.

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