Written by: Myra Gabor
Jonathan Green got to wondering: what if Shakespeare, the acknowledged greatest playwright in the English language was introduced to the fantastic world of Lovecraft and his terrors. He gathered together like minded authors and produced this book. They decided that, despite his telling us of murder, suicide, regicide, treachery and madness that Shakespeare wasn’t dark enough. All the stories are redone with evil wizards, spells and/or devils.
The book is divided as follows:
PROLOGUE: There are two versions of Romeo and Juliet. In Star Crossed by Jonathan Oliver, a creature older than time is pretending to be a mere youth in high school. He will play Romeo in the school play, while our heroine will play Juliet. He thinks to keep his youthful appearance through connivance while our heroine Jasmine/Juliet has her own agenda to play out with the help of an old book of spells. Sometimes wisdom truly comes only with age.
ACT ONE: The second story, A Madness Most Discreet, by Michael Carroll, discusses what would have happened if there were not just two leading houses of Verona involved, but three. And the third house contains a creature most vile just waiting to be released. Plots and counter plots abound.
Something Rotten by Adrian Tchaikovsky is a retelling of Hamlet as told by his friend, Horatio. Imagine that Hamlet’s madness is not caused by indecision or by his uncle, Claudius, marrying his mother, Gertrude, but by the knowledge that he is descended from a line of warriors who mated with sea creatures. The resulting description of the founder of the Danish royal house would turn anyone’s blood to ice, let alone someone who thought he was descended from it.
Once More Unto the Breach by CL Werner, tells a different version of Henry V’s battle at Agincourt. Henry and his army are in France facing defeat at the hands of the superior French army. This story is more Lovecraftian than any of the previous ones and far more chilling than they are. Mix in a Druid priest and his command of horrors from the sky and we have another version of how the English bested the French in the battle.
A Tiger’s Heart, a Player’s Hide by Josh Reynolds is the retelling of the story of Dr John Dee, apparently a genius in his own time. Dr Dee records his encounter with William Shakespeare and also with the Devil. In this story, Shakespeare has unknowingly set loose a plague in London by the performance of his plays. Dr Dee realizes this and sets out to stop him. Not exactly a retelling of one of Shakespeare’s plays, but a retelling of Shakespeare’s playwriting and performing abilities.
INTERLUDE: What Dreams May Come by Nimue Brown retells Hamlet’s famous soliloquy with a little of The Tempest thrown in. Very little.
ACT TWO: The “‘iä”s of March by Andrew Lane is Julius Caesar’s story. No, that’s not a misspelling of Ides. That’s how the author titled the story. It is about Caesar, Brutus, the rest of the conspirators who killed him and the devil behind it all.
To acknowledge the rest of the authors –The Undiscovered Country by Ian Edginton redoes The Tempest. The Suns of Yorkby Adrian Chamberlin redoes Richard III who was accused of murdering his nephews in order to gain the English throne. A Reckoning by Guy Haley retells As You Like It, a complicated story with lots of disguises and misdirection.
INTERLUDE: a poem by Danie Ware – The Green Ey’d Monster.
ACT THREE: Exit, Pursued By…? by Edward Hamilton is another retelling of the A Winter’s Tale, a story of jealousy and persecution. The King in Yellow Stockings by Ed Fortune is a reimagining of Twelfth Night. The Terrors of the Earth by Pat Kelleher tells the author’s version of King Lear, the king who had no sons but whose daughters’ husbands wanted the kingdom for themselves. Exeunt by John Reppion tells of Shakespeare and John Fletcher who really did collaborate on writing two plays as they might have spoken during their collaboration. It also has Shakespeare meeting other contemporaries: Michael Drayton, Ben Jonson and Kit Marlowe who had died over twenty years previously.
EPILOGUE: Mustn’t leave out the retelling of Macbeth, which is what Something Wicked This Way Comes by Graham McNeill does.
CURTAIN: Tempest by Jan Siegel narrates The Tempest as a completely modern day play filled with @characters using twitterfeed and other online comments.
I don’t know why the editor, Jonathan Green has chosen to call this book Shakespeare vs Lovecraft as that would imply that the two are adversaries. These authors have done their best to merge them. These authors have chosen the plays wherein someone or lots of someones die or want to kill someone else. All the stories are cleverly done, but, since both Shakespeare and Lovecraft have done their tales so expertly, that merging their ideas and rewriting the stories becomes an exercise in fun for these authors. Like they wanted to see if they could really do it. They are fun to read, but on the order of intellectual fun, more like “hey, that could have been what really happened”. No one would ever think, “hey, so that’s what really happened”. As usual, I say that with short stories you can dip in and start anywhere and read the stories in any order that you want. You can certainly read and get pleasure from these, but do yourselves a favor and enjoy the originals as well.