Thursday, October 09, 2008

Graphic Novels: Henry V by William Shakespeare

It may well be an idea whose time has come. Not simply a graphic novel based on William Shakespeare’s classic work, but the graphic novel, done up three ways.

Based in the United Kingdom, Classic Comics has a name for each portion of the trio of books they’ve published under the Henry V title: Original Text is just as it sounds, the Bard’s original prose, set here against stunning full color illustrations, beautifully reproduced. (“O for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention! A kingdom for a stage, princes to act and monarch to behold the swelling scene!”)

Plain Text delivers the same gorgeous illos, but this time with a contemporary translation of the original text. (“It would be great to have some goddess of creative fire, to help us enact this play with a true representation – to have an entire kingdom for a stage and princes for actors and to have royalty watch the performance!”)

Finally, the Quick Text version offers a simplification of the original text. (“If we had some help from the gods, we could give a better performance of this play.”)

Age will not inhibit the reader’s enjoyment of these works. That said, Classical Comics does seem to have aimed their books at young readers: the press kit that accompanied the trio of Henry Vs informs reviewers that the text is currently being test driven by young people at several schools in the UK. They also tell us that lesson plans, whiteboard toolkits and other teaching resources are available for each book.

Meanwhile, Henry V was just the first of these modernized classics out of the gate. Classic Comics has since introduced Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, Macbeth, Frankenstein, Romeo and Juliet, Richard III and -- just in time for the beginning of holiday 2008 sales -- Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

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