7 excerpts from Shakespeare-inspired novels

Looking to escape in a good book? Take a break from non-fiction, and read these excerpts from Shakespeare-inspired novels that we’ve featured in the past two years on Shakespeare & Beyond.

The Assassin of Verona1. The Assassin of Verona by Benet Brandreth

In this historical thriller, William Shakespeare is disguised as a steward to the English ambassador in 1586 Venice. He and his actor friends Oldcastle and Hemminges possess a deadly secret: the names of Catholic spies in England who seek to destroy Queen Elizabeth.

Miranda in Milan book cover2. Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett

What happens after The Tempest ends? Miranda in Milan picks up where Shakespeare’s play leaves off.

'Mad Blood Stirring.' Simon Mayo. 2019.3. Mad Blood Stirring by Simon Mayo

Inspired by a real-life episode, this novel tells the powerful story of a Shakespeare production by African American prisoners of war at Dartmoor prison in England, near the end of the War of 1812.

The Shakespeare Requirement cover image4. The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher 

This sequel to Dear Committee Members continues the author’s satirical commentary on the humanities in academia. Payne University’s English department faces budget cuts, and Shakespeare has become a sticking point.

5. Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

This novel tells the story of the first production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Elizabethan England, from the perspective of William Shakespeare’s younger brother Richard.

6. Macbeth by Jo Nesbø

Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø transforms the protagonist of Macbeth from a Scottish thane to the head of the SWAT unit in a 1970s industrial town torn apart by the drug trade. This gritty retelling of Shakespeare’s play is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

Dunbar7. Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn

In this retelling of King Lear (also part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series), Henry Dunbar makes the mistake of handing over control of his global corporation to his eldest daughters, who bribe a doctor to declare him mentally unfit and send him to a nursing home in England.

Have you read any of these books, or do you have any favorite Shakespeare-inspired novels not in this list? Share in the comments below.


  • Not to miss Ian McEwan’s short , but masterful modern story….Nutshell. It’s Hamlet from the most unusual perspective, the yet unborn

  • I thought “The Gap of Time” was brilliant, both as it transposed the plot and characters into the 21st century and as it explored themes from the play. “Vinegar Girl” was a delight; certainly lets us look at Kate in a different light.

  • I’d like to put forward the Bianca Goddard mysteries by Mary Lawrence. These are fun historical mysteries definitely influenced by Elizabethan dialect and Shakespeare.

  • Perhaps my favourite Shakespeare-themed novel is Anthony Burgess’s biographical ‘Nothing like the Sun’.

  • Some others : “The Late Mr. Shakespeare”, by Robert Nye; “Nothing Like the Sun”, by Anthony Burgess; the anthology “After Shakespeare: Writing Inspired by the World’s Greatest Author”, edited by John Gross; and “The Homer Nods”, a loopy novel-in-verse, during the course of which a wanna-be poet gets timely writing assistance from William Shakespeare (who, at one point in the story is described as
    ” —way cracker-chested,
    skin like mayonnaise dolloped on a slice of
    white Little Debbie bread, tonight he’ll need
    the witch hazel and calamine lotion for sure.

    He’s an Elizabethan dweeb, certainly
    having a bad hair day, as the sea breeze
    whips about the few filatures there are
    on his high-domed and beet red burnt pate.

    In a pink and fuchsia Speedo swimsuit,
    an upstart crow on bandy paper-white legs,
    Will is prancing and pursing like Mick Jagger,
    yet ALWAYS churning words for Honey’d Verse.”

    In any event, Enjoy! Cheers!

  • Have to toot the family horn here. My husband, Harry Turtledove, wrote a book called RULED BRITANNIA. The Armada succeeds, England is occupied by the Spanish, and Shakespeare has been recruited by the resistance to write a play to inspire the masses. Trouble is, the Spanish have also drafted him to write one in honor of the dying Philip II.
    Over at the science fiction website, tor.com, he wrote a short story, “We Haven’t Got There Yet,” in which Will is annoyed to see some new players using his characters Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern.

  • If we were villains is a fantastic Shakespeare inspired novel. At the moment I’m reading The secret life of William Shakespeare and I have The weird sisters on my shelf to read next. There are so many great novels referring to the Bard <3

  • Can’t believe you left out Hagseed! Any group doing The Tempest needs to book club this with director and cast.

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