Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Reworking Shakespeare Anne Cassidy

Shakespeare did it. He took other people's stories and reworked them. It's fair to say that he did it pretty well. How would I manage, I wondered when I tried to rework one of his stories? Turning it into a teenage novel? The play was OTHELLO. It's not one of my favourites but the central triangle has always fascinated me. OTHELLO/DESDEMONA/IAGO. Why did Iago do what he did? What was his motive?
As in all reworkings I threw most of the events and the characters out. I found the heart of the story which I wanted to explore and built outwards. So I have a teenage girl, Elise, who loves the boy next door, Carl. Carl likes Elise but in the novel he falls for an American girl, Sandy. Elise tries to stay calm thinking it is a fling but when it becomes clear that Carl and Sandy are close she decides to try and part them. Carl is mixed race and this is important because while Elise is whispering untruths into his ear about his girlfriend's fidelity she also comments on his race and the fact that the girl he loves is white.
Elise doesn't intend for anyone to die. She only wants Carl back. Sadly, though, things go badly wrong.
I've set my story at the coast (so another thing in common with OTHELLO). It takes place in a Norfolk seaside town in the winter. It's cold and dull and this Love is the only thing Elise has to hold onto.
OK maybe it does sound more Mills and Boon and less like OTHELLO but I'm hoping my readers will trust me for twists and turns and gritty realism.
The dropped handkerchief has turned into something else which is the trigger for the grim ending.
Would Shakespeare have approved? He would certainly have approved of me using his story. Whether he would have liked what I did with it is another matter.


Lucy Coats said...

Anne, I'm sure Shakespeare would have approved--what's sauce for the goose and all that! There are supposed to be only 7 basic plots--but there are a million trillion stories, and we, as storytellers, each see them in a totally different way. If I looked at Othello, no doubt I would find a totally other angle fascinating me than you did. That's the beauty of the human mind--each of our neural pathways is unique, each of our souls has a different vision of the world.

Anonymous said...

Do you have a title and prospective date of publication for this story? (or is it out already?) I definitely would like to read it. I think it's very interesting that you've transformed Iago into a female character; jealousy is a good motivation--in fact, you've given Elise more realistic motivation, it seems to me, than Iago had.

Why did you decide to make Sandy an American? Nothing wrong with the decision; I'm just curious.

Charlie Butler said...

Interesting take! Can we read back from this that you think Iago has homoerotic feelings for Othello? I know that's one popular interpretation. But why did you turn him into a girl?

Anne Cassidy said...

It comes out in JAN 09. Can't believe I didn't put the title JUST JEALOUS. The American bit is important because the gun that is used is a gun brought home from Iraq by Elise's brother.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the title and pub date--I'll look for it!