Addicted to novelty since 2001

Major Rewrites of Hamlet and the Odyssey

An old friend writes with an odd question from her law professor:

Can you set out for me a little list of major literary rewrites of Hamlet and of the Odyssey, particularly those looking at the story from different angles? An example of the former is John Updike, Gertrude and Claudius (telling the Hamlet story as centred around G & C), and Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; an example of the latter is this new Penelopeiad by Margaret Atwood telling the story from Penelope’s point of view.

He is looking for 4 or 5 of the best-known or most important retelling on each of them with a bit of information about what is unique about each retelling.

Can you help? I’ll try to free up my brain later in the day to think about it, but for now all I’ve got is O Brother, Where Art Thou? I’m pretty sure she’s not looking for movies, though. There’s also Stephen Berkoff’s heavy revision of Hamlet, but that’s more a mashup than an actual retelling.

7 Responses to “Major Rewrites of Hamlet and the Odyssey”

  1. Geordie

    James Joyce’s Ulysses come to mind. Interesting question

  2. Mirren

    There’s also the 1980s cartoon series classic, Ulysses 31. And not exactly what you’re looking for, but Ilium, by Dan Simmons, is a bizarre revisioning of the Iliad: its main protagonist is a 20th century classics professor resurrected by what appear to be the Greek gods, whose strength and powers largely derive from their mastery of quantum physics.

  3. Kennedy

    Dogg’s Hamlet, also by Stoppard, is an alternate. But it’s more about the truncation of language into identifiable shorthand than an alternate perspective.
    Humble Boy (produced by the Vancouver Playhouse lasy season is in essence a modern retelling.
    Strange Brew – yes the Bob & Doug Mackenzie movie – is a retelling of Hamlet, although when I saw it I was barely old enough to get that and extrapolate much of the >ahemDogg’s Hamlet, also by Stoppard, is an alternate. But it’s more about the truncation of language into identifiable shorthand than an alternate perspective.
    Humble Boy (produced by the Vancouver Playhouse lasy season is in essence a modern retelling.
    Strange Brew – yes the Bob & Doug Mackenzie movie – is a retelling of Hamlet, although when I saw it I was barely old enough to get that and extrapolate much of the >ahem

  4. Chuck

    Thanks so far for the very helpful comments. My professor is also very impressed with this as a venue for the discovery such information.

    Please keep the suggestions coming if you have any more!

    The result will be a law and literature piece written by my professor.

  5. Monique

    No hamlet here, but David Arnason’s novel King Jerry is an adaptation of King Lear.

  6. Amy

    I’m a Ref Librarian at a small English-language private college in Montreal, and one of the English teachers has asked me the same question re. The Odyssey. Appropriately, it’s proving to be a challenge… I’m going through all of the databases that I have access to (not enough!), and have found only one other title that I can add to the list (with thanks to Erika von Conta-Bruce who wrote a letter to the editor in the 02 Nov 2005 issue of the Ottawa Citizen): A Very Ordinary Marriage, by the Austrian novelist Inge Merkel (original title Eine ganz gewoehnliche Ehe). I’ll be watching this space avidly, hoping this string will be revived!

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