Unique Take on Shakespeare

filled star filled star filled star filled star star unfilled
kmanos Avatar


In the room beneath the stage's trap door, four dead teenagers from Shakespeare's tragedies - Juliet (Romeo and Juliet), Ophelia (Hamlet), Cordelia (King Lear), and Lavinia (Titus Andronicus) - take their own sort of center stage and compare their experiences to retell stories of life, love, and loss, and perhaps along the way allow themselves the ability, for once, to offer support and reclaim a bit of their story that should have rightfully been theirs.

As a theater lover, and an occasional reader of Shakespeare, I found this to be a pretty unique spin in order for the woman, primarily the teen girls, who perish by different means in various tragedies, to speak their minds and take back some agency in their stories. Through a narrative told in three parts, the girls - Juliet, Ophelia, Cordelia, and Lavinia - go on a journey both individually (as each of their stories of pain and sorrow are their own to face) and as a collective unit of characters whose lives were cut short due to decisions and actions *mostly* out of their control. Each get the chance to tell the story of their life (with the exception of Lavinia, who is unable to speak due to her tongue and hands being removed prior to her death) as Shakespeare wrote it but then their is a shift as Juliet acknowledges the others in the room, and the group begins to wonder what it would be like if they'd had more support in their stories. Thus begins a recount of each story in which each teen gives themselves a slightly better hand in helping control their story, with some occasional commentary from the others added in for good measure. It was incredibly interesting getting to see how each girl chose to change their narrative, and how that was shaped by their experiences throughout the rest of the play. For instance, Cordelia and Lavinia are older, more jaded from the hardships and realities of life, while Juliet and Ophelia have a more optimist outlook on their stories, even if death still knocks on their door. The differences between their accounts really highlighted the various ways people can choose to have more agency in their lives, whether it's relying on other people in their lives when they need help or fighting for something they regret giving up on in the past. Happily ever afters aren't always realistic, but that doesn't mean anyone who strives to find one is less important. I also appreciated the inclusion of Lavinia, a character who was terribly abused by men in her life and who is unable to share her own version of the story alongside the other - in my opinion she represents those who have undergone such terrible hardships and who struggle with sharing their story due to trauma or physical inability to do so, but whose existence is still important and they matter to someone, even if it feels like the world is against them. I have a feeling this is a story that is going to stick with me for some time, and I'm glad I got the chance to have a copy and look back on in the future. *Thanks to BookishFirst and the publisher, Dutton Books, for the finished copy, all thoughts and opinions are my own.*