Perry (Death of a Stranger, p. 1180, etc.) and 16 accomplices take on the daunting job of rewriting Shakespeare. The high points include Carole Nelson Douglas’s Mixmaster approach to The Merchant of Venice and The Tempest, in which Portia, having made her name in the ultimate courtroom drama, defends Caliban when he’s accused of murdering Antonio; Marcia Talley’s witches’-eye burlesque of Macbeth, in which the weird sisters’ economic and domestic problems dwarf the tragedy of their Scottish clients; Robert Barnard’s attempt to give voice to the Silent Irishman in Hamlet (addressed in the line “Now I might do it, Pat”) in a farce that seriously undermines the melancholy Dane’s status as proto-modernist hero; and more earnest considerations by Peter Robinson and Gillian Linscott of how characters Shakespeare represented as ideals of feminine docility might take bloody revenge on their oppressors, showing how a popular genre may take its revenge on the oppressive canons of high culture. Less radical (and less successful) revisions by Brendan DuBois, Peter Tremayne, Sharan Newman, P.C. Doherty, Lillian Stewart Carl, Simon Brett, Kathy Lynn Emerson, Edward Marston, Jeffery Deaver, and editor Perry consider Shakespearean characters offstage, in historical contexts, or onstage, as actors in performances of Shakespeare in various historical periods.
Genuinely witty interpolations and extrapolations of the plays, in which Shakespeare and mystery both profit from the resulting cross-pollination, alternate with more pedestrian tales. The latter’s disconcertingly Shakespearean cast may well make you miss iambic pentameter and blame the Bard for creating such conventional victims, villains, and detectives.