HarperCollins Children’s Books will publish Morpurgo’s Tales from Shakespeare by Michael Morpurgo, a retelling of 10 of Shakespeare’s most popular plays.
Morpurgo will translate "Romeo and Juliet", "A Midsummer Night's Dream", "The Tempest", "The Taming of the Shrew", "King Lear", "Hamlet", "The Winter’s Tale", "Macbeth", "Henry V" and "Twelfth Night" into "thrilling" prose. The retellings will provide a jumping-off point for young readers and will "preserve all the imaginative genius and spark of the originals, while bringing a contemporary, flexible and fluid voice to their retelling", said the publisher.
Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher, acquired world rights as part of a multi-book deal brokered with Veronique Baxter at David Higham Associates. The retellings of "Romeo and Juliet" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" will be published as audio-firsts in May 2021, with audio versions of the remaining plays to follow in pairs each month until September, and a hardback edition to be published in autumn 2022.
The tales have been created in association with the Royal Shakesepare Company and the audio versions will feature readings from Morpurgo alongside members of the company including Alice Blundell, Ben Caplan, Colm Gormley, William Grint, Amanda Hadingue, Kemi-Bo Jacobs, Avita Jay, Miles Jupp, Zoe Lambert, Georgia Landers, Mogali Masuku, Dyfrig Morris, Baker Mukasa, Anne Odeke, Patrick Osborne and Assad Zaman. Each audiobook will be directed by Hal Chambers and Aaron Parsons and introduced by Morpurgo. They will also include incidental music composed by Phil James.
Murtagh commented: "Only a storyteller at the very height of their powers could take on a project like this, and Sir Michael Morpurgo is just that writer. In a labour of love that has been years in the making, Michael brings Shakespeare to life in retellings that speak with a fierce passion for the enduring relevance of the works. Michael’s retellings are at once moving and vibrant, poignant and revitalising, and I believe this collection will resonate with a contemporary audience—providing a definitive introduction to Shakespeare for generations to come."
Morpurgo said: “When I became a teacher, I knew how important it is for a child not to be put off Shakespeare. The language was antique, and difficult to comprehend, and there were tests and exams associated with him. But tell a cracking story, tell it well, and children will love to listen. So, I thought, tell the tales of Shakespeare your way, with pace and with passion. Mean the stories as you tell them, so that children can see the truth in them, the fun, and the excitement, identify with the characters, empathise with them. Then, and only then, introduce them to the text and begin to discover the beauty of the language, the poetry, the genius of our great bard. Every child should have the opportunity to come to love the plays of Shakespeare. It’s a birthright and a joy. These tales might help that happen. Believe so, hope so."