Since 2016, Hogarth Press has enlisted well-known writers, including Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson, to reinvent Shakespeare’s best-known plays for a modern readership. Editor Dahlia Adler undertakes a similar project in That Way Madness Lies, but the re-imagined versions here take the form of short stories, and the resulting anthology’s intended readership is teens.
Adler notes in her introduction that “to say Shakespeare did not do marginalized people any favors is an understatement; many of us still live with the effects of his caricatures and common story lines today.” With this anthology, she intends to correct that imbalance. The bestselling and award-winning YA authors gathered here “have deconstructed and reconstructed an inarguably brilliant but very white and very straight canon,” giving Shakespeare the same treatment Edgar Allan Poe received in Adler’s previous anthology, His Hideous Heart.
Some stories include an accompanying note that illuminates the author’s approach. Patrice Caldwell explains that Hamlet’s gothic overtones led her to recast Hamlet as female (and Hamlet’s uncle as a vampire), while Adler’s own story seeks to reclaim the figure of Shylock from The Merchant of Venice’s anti-Semitism. Caldwell isn’t the only writer to give her story a bit of supernatural flair either; Lindsay Smith’s exploration of Julius Caesar incorporates witchcraft and dark sacrifices.
The contributors take varying liberties with their source material. A.R. Capetta and Cory McCarthy’s “Some Other Metal” is set in a theater, but their version of Much Ado About Nothing applies a queer, science fiction approach to the romance at its center. Kiersten White’s “Partying Is Such Sweet Sorrow” recounts the plot of Romeo and Juliet through text messages but remains (for the most part) faithful to the spirit of the original. On the other hand, some stories—such as Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka’s “Severe Weather Warning”—conceal their Shakespearean roots so deeply as to be almost unrecognizable without the aid of context and some winking allusions. (Their story contains a cat named Ariel.)
The majority of the stories stand capably on their own merits but will be enriched by familiarity with—or better yet, reading alongside—Shakespeare’s original plays and sonnets. Budding writers may even be inspired to put their own spins on the Bard of Avon’s timeless tales.