Review Blog

Jul 28 2009

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. Retold by Robert Swindells

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A & C Black, 2009. ISBN 9781408104361
Swindells has taken on a task which would daunt many people: retelling Shakespeare's stories for a young audience in the twenty first century. Using contemporary language, but with a sprinkling of the Bard's words still intact, Swindells captures the essence of this funny play with ease.
Divided into the same five acts, the story of love and desire meets the play within the play, as Oberon, playing a trick on his love, Titania, has a potion poured onto her eyelid so that she will love the first person she sees on waking. He has the same thing done to Demetrius, in the hope that the first person he sees is Helena, who loves him passionately. But his scheme fails, and both Lysander and Demetrius spy Helena, and follow her blindly, leaving poor Hermia to wonder where her love, Lysander has got to.
In the meantime, Titania has woken and spies Bottom, one of the characters from the play within the play, dressed as an ass. She falls hopelessly in love with the ass and they wind flowers through their hair in her bower. Oberon must turn around the night's fun to regain Titania's love and put the lovers together again.
Within the 70 pages the story of one of Shakespeare's best loved comedies is presented, along with a list of characters, and drawings by Tomislav Tomic. Middle to upper primary readers will love this easy to digest introduction to the 400 year old story, or have just a great tale to read for themselves. Swindells has rewritten a number of other plays as well in this series for A & C Black of London. For those classrooms tackling Shakespeare, then this series will be a great introduction to the storylines of these plays, and help acquaint the students with settings and characters.
Fran Knight

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