Rhyming Shakespeare

My son gave me this book by James Muirden, illustrated by David Eccles.


Shakespeare Well-Versed is absolutely original, clever, and witty times three. It’s the Shakespeare plays encapsulated in rhyme and altogether charming.

I won’t pretend to be a Shakespearian scholar ”” well, I might. Maybe in the grocery store parking lot, when some crazy lady almost hits me in her ridiculously obscene SUV … “O tiger’s heart wrapp’d in a woman’s hide!”

Or when playing checkers … “But king-making’s a dangerous game to play.”

Or if I visit Congress … “What a vaccilating bunch!”

Or on allowance day … “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”

Nah, probably won’t pretend to be a scholar.

But, what I was going to say, before I was so rudely interrupted, was that the Bard’s stories I already knew were great fun to revisit in this form, while the ones I was unfamiliar with (C’mon! The Histories?!) were much more enjoyable than Cliff’s Notes.

See for yourself. Here’s a stanza from Hamlet, Prince of Denmark:

Well, all Prince Hamlet has to do
Is knife his uncle in Act Two …
But audiences wouldn’t pay
Unless it was a five-act play,
So Shakespeare has this thoughtful youth
Soliloquise on Cause and Truth,
Revenge, the Afterlife, etc.,
And, ultimately, his raison d’etre.
Since Hamlet’s never going to find
The answers in his tortured mind
(And since whatever can, goes wrong)
This famous play’s extremely long.

And I love the limerick style of The Winter’s Tale:

Exit, pursued by a bear.
Such dramatic directions are rare;
But like others I’ve met
(Enter Pericles, wet)
They are tidbits I’m eager to share!

Most people, I’m tempted to say,
Know the joke without knowing the play.
It is one I admire
(To put it no higher),
But it’s not seen that often today.

Are those great or what?! 224 pages like that!

On the cover of Shakespeare Well-Versed, Booklist says, “More fun than seeing many a Shakespearean production, and a good prep for seeing any.”

James Muirden has also written A Rhyming History of Britain: 55 B.C.-A.D. 1966

I’ll stick my neck out and bet kids would remember their British History if they read their history in rhyme.

What do you think of rhyming Shakespeare or British history? Would a book written in rhyme make you more likely or less likely to read it?

0 thoughts on “Rhyming Shakespeare”

  1. OH! I LOVE THIS! Books with rhyme were always my first choice to read to my kids…it’s more fun, I think they listened better, and picked up great skills because of it. But the Shakespeare stuff is incredibly clever–I can’t WAIT to read more!!! I am supremely impressed by people who rhyme so well. And, I like Shakespeare.

  2. Your post reminded me of another I read today from Joel Stein’s 25 things and is about rhyming And I gave you the one after too, because it’s funny.

    18) In 1985, when I was 14, I used my Apple 2e to get onto bulletin boards where I would taunt other people in rhyming couplets and called myself the Rap King. And I’m now married.

    19) My favorite Dungeons & Dragons character was a wizard named Solon who did not, to be honest, really deserve all his experience points. That felt good to finally say.

    1. Joel Stein makes me laugh. I wish I was smart enough to taunt people in rhyming couplets.

      I was, however, smart enough never to play Dungeons & Dragons.

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