Sheldon P. Zitner is Professor Emeritus, Trinity College, University of Toronto. He has written extensively on Renaissance Literature, including a recent book-length study of All's Well That Ends Well (Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1989)
Gr 8 Up-These books depict Shakespeare's plays through black-and-white paneled storytelling. Much Ado is set in Italy during the late 1800s, using Victorian clothing to set the scene. Vieceli uses different styles of manga art with great effect, from "chibi" or "super-deformed" characters to show excessive cuteness or childish banter to the dramatic, overflowing tears that exaggerate a character's grief. This play is an excellent choice for adaptation, given its comedic moments and over-the-top emotions, and Appignanesi adapts it beautifully. King Lear is more challenging to convert to the style, made no less so by the choice of setting: the North American frontier, with Lear himself cast as an Algonquin chief. The traitorous Edmund is cast as one of the few African Americans. He is more sympathetic than in other productions, but he remains a villain. Ilya works hard to wrap real historical and cultural details into the panels, attempting authenticity instead of stereotypical images that too often accompany Native Americans in comics. However, there are some questions about the accuracy of the appearance of the fools particularly; they are costumed as "clowns," one with a vaguely Southwestern appearance and the other wearing the entire hide of a wolf. In addition, Ilya places some gratuitous nudity and cleavage into the script, and the depiction of Lear's daughter Regan as sometimes pale and sometimes dark-skinned is confusing. Still, both books are likely to draw manga readers further into Shakespeare's plays, and students of the Bard may get new ideas about how his works can be presented to modern audiences.-Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.