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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

Quick Text


Author: William Shakespeare
Script adaptation: John McDonald
Artist: Jon Haward
Classical Comics
RRP: £9.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 906332 05 1
Available 25 February 2008

In 11th century Scotland, Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, is one of King Duncan's greatest war captains. Upon returning from a battle with the rebellious Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth and Banquo encounter three witches, who prophecy that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and then King. When Lady Macbeth hears this, she is determined to push her husband to take fate into his own hands and make himself king by murdering Duncan...

Macbeth is probably the most dramatic, and certainly one of the most well known, of Shakespeare's tragedies. This is Classical Comics's second graphic novel release (The first being Henry V) that aims to make the works of Shakespeare accessible to the novice as well as offering something for those that have a had a little more exposure to the Bard's work or are studying this play.

The idea behind this series of graphic novels is simplicity itself. Each release is designed to make the classics available to the masses - at whatever level they are at. Because the language in Shakespeare's plays takes a little getting used to - at which point a lot of the younger generation will just give up - Macbeth is available in three different versions.

While the artwork remains the same, you can buy the Original Text version, Plain Text or Quick Text. This means that everyone can find a version that is appropriate to them. If you want to read the Bard's words as originally written then the Original Text is the release to opt for; Plain Text has the play translated into plain English; while the Quick Text version sees the full story reproduced but with reduced dialogue for easier reading.

To be honest though, whether you are coming at this play as a Shakespeare novice, or buying it for a young adult who is about to start studying it at school, I'd strongly advise picking up all three so that each version can be studied in order to gain a greater appreciation of the play.

The Quick Text version reads like your typical graphic novel, allowing the reader to grasp the story and characters; the Plain Text allows you to make the jump to a more complex reading of the play; and the Original Text throws you straight into Shakespeare's original dialogue.

The back of each collection also includes additional information on the real life of William Shakespeare; the real Macbeth; Macbeth and the Kings of Scotland; the history of Shakespeare's Macbeth; graphic novel page creation; the Globe theatre; and Shakespeare today.

Because Shakespeare is notorious for not offering much in the way of stage direction or a clear description of the setting for each scene, this collection allows the reader to easily visualise where events are taking place, which will be another welcome addition for young students.

Future releases in Classical Comics’s range of graphic novel adaptations will include Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (summer 2008), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (summer 2008), Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (autumn 2008) and Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (autumn 2008). Also planned for release are Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet and Richard III as well as Bram Stoker's Dracula.

The idea behind this collection is so simple that I'm surprised that it hasn't been done before. This is an essential purchase for all who want to get to grips with Shakespeare's original play.


Nick Smithson

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