What is “Shakespearean Fiction”?

Shakespeare famously manipulated existing plots when writing his plays. He often used the work of his contemporaries—like Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd—as inspiration, as well as well known classical poets like Ovid. kitshax

So, imagine what authors can do with Shakespeare’s works? His rich characters, suspenseful plots, universal themes, and compelling settings. Thwarted love, ambition, jealously, pride, fear—if you want to write a story about a fundamental human predicament, Shakespeare has a story for it.

There are many writers who take their “cues” from Shakespeare, like John Fowles who uses the Tempest as an inspiration from his work, The Magnus. FowlesEven Melville’s Moby Dick is inspired by the male archetypes developed by Shakespeare—those over-reaching, ambitious, obsessed men who subvert the natural order of things. Men, like Macbeth and Lear, with hubristic quests that are doomed from the start.

But this blog is not concerned with fiction that is merely inspired by a Shakespearean theme or a single Shakespearean character, but is rather interested in those fictions that seek to understand the lives of Shakespeare’s fictional characters unbounded by Shakespeare’s play. Perhaps they consider the story from a different perspective with the plot, or perhaps from a different time period. Works like Jane Smiley’s award-winning Thousand Acres, which retells the story of King Lear in modern-day Iowa and re-imagines the relationships between the characters beyond what the original play gives us, or Susan Fraser kingbookKing’s Lady Macbeth which imagines the story of Macbeth from the notorious wife’s point of view, or even Updike’s Gertrude and Claudius, which explores the nefarious relationship outside of Hamlet’s perspective.

This blog is dedicated to such stories and their authors. Those who are inspired by Shakespeare’s works and seek to “flesh” them out more by imagining their characters beyond the scope of Shakespeare’s plays. In so doing, they help us re-discover the richness that Shakespeare has to offer us and provide us with compelling questions—some without answers—as to the interior lives of these characters beyond the scope of Shakespeare’s circumscribed plays.

Stay tuned for future posts on Shakespearean Fictions– reviews of Shakespearean fictional works, profiles and interviews with authors, and tidbits of Shakespearean lore (both fiction and fact). If you have content you’d like to contribute– feel free to contact me at shaxsister@gmail.com


3 thoughts on “What is “Shakespearean Fiction”?

  1. Of course! But is “O” a Shakespearean Fiction– that is a fictional story that uses Shakespeare’s characters and plot– or is it an adaptation of “Othello” set in modern time? I think it’s just an adaptation, right? I’m interested in how writers/ film makers are taking characters OUT of Shakespeare’s world and extending their lives. Think “Murder at Pemberly” in terms of an Austenin Fiction: the characters are extended beyond “Pride and Prejudice,” but they are maintained the way that Austen imagined them to be.


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