Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Notebooks – Edited Justin Richards
Many people know about William Shakespeare’s famous encounter with the Doctor at the Globe
Theatre in 1599. But what few people know (though many have suspected) is that it was not the first time they met.
Drawn from recently-discovered archives, The Shakespeare Notebooks is the holy grail of Bard scholars: conclusive proof that the Doctor not only appeared throughout Shakespeare’s life, but had a significant impact on his writing. In these pages you’ll find early drafts of scenes and notes for characters that never appeared in the plays; discarded lines of dialogue and sonnets; never-before-seen journal entries; and much more.
From the original notes for Hamlet (with a very different appearance by the ghost) and revealing early versions of the faeries of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to strange stage directions revised to remove references to a mysterious blue box, The Shakespeare Notebooks is an astonishing document that offers a unique insight into the mind of one of history’s most respected and admired figures. And also, of course, William Shakespeare.
Thanks to Netgalley for providing a review copy.
While Doctor Who continues to show every Saturday night I am indulging my reading list with as many Who books as I can. The Shakespeare Notebooks is one of the more unusual Doctor Who books I have read and I found that I could only read it in short bursts rather than a prolonged sitting. This may be a limitation of the reader rather than the source material, however, I personally found the collection of short stories and excerpts from plays lent themselves more readily to quick reads.
There is no doubting that this is a clever collection. The Doctor and various companions pop up across a myriad of Shakespeare plays as do characters such as The Master and Shakespeare himself. Favourite plays are reworked and the Doctor will cameo and interact with the players injecting his unique solutions to their problems. Romeo and Juliet gets a novel ending, Hamlet and the Fendahl? Brilliant concepts are played out in true Shakespearean dramatic prose.
Personally I found the Macbeth reworking was my favourite contribution but this may be due to my familiarity with the source material. This may be where the success of this book will live or die – the better your knowledge of the Shakespeare plays and Sonnets the more you are going to get from The Shakespeare Notebooks.
I read a digital copy of the Notebook but have also seen the physical book. I would suggest that the actual physical copy of this book is the way to get the most from this collection, there are many illustrations and footnotes that come across best in an actual book – footnotes are not the Kindle’s friend.
In brief – one for the Doctor Who fans who will enjoy the random appearances of several favourite characters. Shakespeare fans may be slightly appalled, unless they also enjoy Gallifrey’s favourite son. One for the collectors or a good Christmas gift.