No better introduction to William Shakespeare's dramatic masterpieces exists than the delightful prose adaptations of Charles and Mary Lamb, first published in 1807. The two selected 20 of Shakespeare's best-known plays and set out both to make them accessible to children and to pay enthusiastic homage to the original works. Together the Lambs distilled the powerful themes and unforgettable characterizations of Shakespeare's plays into elegant narratives--classic tales in their own right. Charles took responsibility for such powerful tragedies as Othello
, and King Lear
, while Mary worked on the comedies: brilliant fantasies like A Midsummer Night's Dream
and The Tempest
, and thought-provoking plays like Measure for Measure
, and The Merchant of Venice
. As the authors point out in their Preface, their versions of the tragedies tend to rely on the language of the original plays, while the comedies are more freely adapted. But all of the Lambs' stories--with their clear, supple, and rhythmic prose--reward any reader, whether encountering Shakespeare for the first time or revisiting his work.
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