Shakespeare week

Shakespeare week

Shakespeare Week takes place from 20 to 26 March. This blog provides a list of themed reading for adults and children.

Shakespeare Week takes place from 20 to 26 March. While aimed at children there is nothing to stop adults from joining in the fun. So much of our popular culture has been inspired by Shakespeare and his plays, from familiar sayings to our favourite TV shows. Here are some book ideas to whet your appetite.

Modern retellings

Plymouth Libraries has a swathe of books with modern settings, from those faithfully following the plots of Shakespeare’s plays to those loosely based on them. Browse the list of Shakespeare titles for adults.


In 2015 the Hogarth Shakespeare Project enlisted famous authors to write modern versions of seven of Shakespeare’s plays.

Shakespeare’s Queens is a series by Joanna Courtney based on strong female characters from the plays.

John Crace’s parodies are not only funny but short too, at under 100 pages each.

  • Hamlet by John Crace

  • Much Ado About Nothing by John Crace

The Comedy of Errors

  • Oh, I Do Like To Be... by Marie Phillips


  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

  • Nut Shell by Ian McEwan

  • The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

  • Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

Henry IV, Part 1

  • A Bright Ray of Darkness by Ethan Hawke

King Lear

  • A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

  • The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

  • We That Are Young by Preti Taneja


  • The Enchanted Wanderer & other stories by N. S. Leskov

  • The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

  • Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

The Merchant of Venice

  • The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore

A Midsummer Night's Dream

  • Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

  • Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

  • Midsummer Dreams by Alison May

  • Dream Country by Neil Gaiman

Perciles, Prince of Tyre

  • The Porpoise by Mark Haddon

Richard III

  • The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Romeo and Juliet

  • Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North

  • Juliet by Anne Fortier

  • Love at First by Kate Clayborn

The Taming of the Shrew

  • We have the vocal score to Kiss Me Kate by Cole Porter

The Tempest

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

  • The Wake by Neil Gaiman

Titles inspired by lines from Shakespeare

A more tenous link to Shakespeare is found in those books with titles taken from lines within his plays.

For the general fiction reader:

For the crime reader:

  • Make Death Love Me by Ruth Rendell

  • The Secret House of Death by Ruth Rendell

  • Put on by Cunning by Ruth Rendell

  • A Killing Frost by R.D. Wingfield

  • The Lake of Darkness by Ruth Rendell

  • The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin

  • Sleep No More by P.D. James

  • To Fear a Painted Devil by Ruth Rendell

  • Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand by Fred Vargas

  • Look to the Lady by Margery Allingham

  • Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie

For the reader of classics: 

  • Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy

  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

  • Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham 

  • The Darling Buds of May by H.E. Bates

For the non-fiction reader: 

  • Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose

  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

For the romance reader: 

The Shakespeare Sisters series is written by Carrie Elks.

For the reader of science fiction:

For the fantasy fan:

Seanan McGuire writes the October Daye novels, which are named for lines of Shakespeare.

Other fiction inspire by Shakespeare

  • The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher

  • The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher

  • Dark Amelia by Sally O'Reilly

  • Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

  • Shakespeare's Sword by Alan Judd

  • Shakespeare's Rebel by C.C. Humphreys

  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

  • A Decent Interval by Simon Brett

Shakespeare non-fiction

  • Shakespeare's Gardens by Jackie Bennett

  • 30-Second Shakespeare by Dr Rosalind Barber

  • This Is Shakespeare by Emma Smith

  • Worlds Elsewhere by Andrew Dickson

  • Hidden Shakespeare, a Biography by Nicholas Fogg

  • 1599 A Year in the Life of William Shakespear by James Shapiro

  • 1609 Shakespeare and the Year of the Lear by James Shapiro

  • Shakespeare by Bill Bryson

  • Shakespeare & Me by Susannah Carson

  • Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal

  • Exit Pursued by a Badger by Nick Asbury

  • Shakespeare Saved My Life by Laura Bates

  • This Is Shakespeare by Georgina Palffy

  • To Be or Not To Be by Liz Evers

  • Soul of the Age by Jonathan Bate

  • Death by Shakespeare by Kathryn Harkup

  • Year of the Fat Knight by Antony Sher

  • Shakespeare in Swahililand by Edward Wilson-Lee

  • Hamlet Globe to Globe by Domonic Dromgoole


We also hold the music score for Shakespeare and all that Jazz by John Dankworth.

Shakespeare week for children and young adults

Listed below are a selection of books for children and young adults based on Shakespeare’s plays, inspired by Shakespeare’s plays or named for lines in Shakespeare’s plays as well as books about Shakespeare. There really is something for everyone!

Browse the list of Shakespeare titles for children and young adults. Most of these books are available as physical copies within branches while the remainder are available as eBooks on Libby.

Books based on the plays

These books by Andrew Matthews are written for primary school readers, with around 65 pages in each.

Marcia Williams has also written a series of stories for primary school age children, each being less than 50 pages in length. Seven of these stories have been combined into one volume.

Also in this series as separate books: As You Like It, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Richard III and Twelfth Night

Ross Montgomery has given four of Shakespeare’s plays a modern twist with these titles.

The Shakespeare Today series is aimed at young adults, taking classic stories and moving them to a modern setting.

Graphic novels and manga are a great tool for helping readers to understand Shakespeare’s plays, whether they use the original language or modern English.

For children: 

  • Hamlet by Russell Punter

  • Hamlet, Starring Donald Duck by Disney

For young adults: 

  • Henry V by William Shakespeare

  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare 

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

  • Hamlet by Emma Vieceli

  • Much Ado About Nothing by Emma Vieceli

  • Richard III by Patrick Warren

  • The Tempest by Paul Duffield

Books inspired by Shakespeare’s plays

These books include simplified versions and retellings of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, as well as books set in Shakespeare’s time and books with Shakespeare as a character within them.

For children:

  • Stink - Hamlet and Cheese by Megan McDonald

  • Macbeth retold by Tony Bradman

  • Macbeth United by Michael Rosen

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream by Terry Deary

  • King of Shadows by Susan Cooper

  • Othello by Rosie Dickens

  • Asterix and the Great Divide by R. Goscinny

  • To Wee or Not to Wee by Pamela Butchart

  • The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

  • The Boy and the Globe by Tony Bradman

  • The Long-lost Secret Diary of the World's Worst Shakespearean Actor

  • Day of Deliverance by Johnny O'Brien

  • Millhouse by Natale Ghent

For young adults: 

  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

  • Summers Crossing by Julie Kagawa

  • The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa

  • Under a Dancing Star by Laura Wood

  • Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman

  • Romeo & Juliet by Michael Cox

  • Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

  • These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

  • An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan

  • The Taming of the Drew by Stephanie Kate Strohm

  • The Greatest Show of All by Jane Eagland

Book titles inspired by lines from Shakespeare

So many of the things we say today were either created by Shakespeare or first written down by him. It is no surprise that some authors use his words when deciding what title to give their books. All three books shown are for young adults.

We have a wide range of non-fiction about Shakespeare and his plays, some more serious than others. What will you learn? Perhaps you can share one of your new facts with a member of library staff.

The non-fiction books are suitable for both children and young adults.

  • Secrets of Shakespeare's Life Revealed by Nick Hunter

  • A Stage Full of Shakespeare Stories by Angela McAllister

  • Scenes From the Life of the Worlds Greatest Writer by Mick Manning

  • The Comdey, History & Tradegy of William Shakespeare by Anna Claybourne


- Written and curated by Nikki at Central Library.