William Shakespeare is a name that high school students love or loathe, but it's one they definitely recognize. He has been introduced through various media: a modernized cinematic lens, the traditional text of his plays and even high school drama club performances of his plays.
Now, Shakespeare has taken a new form with the release of Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth and Julius Caesar in Japanese graphic novel-style manga editions.
Greg Tubach, the senior editor for Wiley, the publishing company that also produces Cliffs Notes, said the company decided to publish manga editions because of the popularity of graphic novels and the ubiquity of Shakespeare in the classroom.
"It just seemed like a natural fit to marry the two," he said.
Mr. Tubach said the graphics match the subject matter in the books. Romeo and Juliet , for example, is a romance, so the look and feel of the visuals are lighter than in a tragedy such as Macbeth . Though the text had to be cut down, they still offer Shakespeare's words.
"It's the visual elements that can convey as much as the dialogue," he said.
The main goal was comprehension, Mr. Tubach said.
According to members of Ken Stephens' 10th grade advanced English class, manga Shakespeare succeeded.
Academy of Richmond County students, who are in the middle of an assignment in which they have to write their own Shakespearean plays, looked at the manga editions earlierthis month.
"I understand it better," William Johnson said. He said he would prefer the manga edition.
Other students said the drawings helped them understand the archaic English language.
Mr. Stephens said it could still use some improvements.
"It would be nice if the publication included a glossary in the back," he said. "(It) might justify the $10 price tag."
He liked that the books still used Shakespeare's words, just edited, as many of the movie versions do, and that anything that promotes reading is a good thing.
Not all students were sold, though. Sarah Ward said that a lot of time is spent on the words in the format they're in and that converting it takes away from it.
The four books published are the four read during high school in Georgia, Mr. Stephens said: Romeo and Juliet. freshman year; Julius Caesar, sophomore year; Hamlet, junior year; and Macbeth, senior year.
Mr. Tubach said you can expect some more classics in manga, with Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn set for release in January.
Reach Sarah Day Owen at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY THE BOOK
WHAT: Hamlet, by Adam Sexton and Tintin Pantoja
WHAT: Julius Caesar, by Adam Sexton and Hyeondo Park
WHAT: Macbeth, by Adam Sexton, Eve Grandt and Candice Chow
WHAT: Romeo and Juliet, by Adam Sexton and Yali Lin