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    Releasing the potential of Shakespearean comic book adaptations in the classroom: A case study of Romeo and Juliet

    McNicol, Sarah (2014) Releasing the potential of Shakespearean comic book adaptations in the classroom: A case study of Romeo and Juliet. Studies in Comics, 5. ISSN 2040-3240


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    The increasing number of comic book adaptions of Shakespeare’s plays is unsurprising given their prevalence within school curricula. Graphic novel adaptations are often seen as a stepping stone to the ‘real’ text, a way of introducing young people to works whose language, settings and complexity may, initially, be off-putting. Retelling Shakespeare’s plays in a comics format has, therefore, become a popular approach to attempt to engage students and to make the work more accessible, especially to ‘reluctant readers’. Romeo and Juliet is among the most frequently taught of Shakespeare’s texts, and is often used as a first introduction to studying Shakespeare. The four adaptations compared in this article illustrate the variety of ways in which Shakespeare can be reinterpreted in a comics format and used to support young people studying his plays. Classical Comics offers the most conventional representation, drawing obviously on long-standing comic traditions of the western hemisphere. A different approach is taken by the Manga Shakespeare version, which is set in present day Tokyo. This incorporates many elements of Japanese manga, while remaining accessible to readers without previous experience of manga, for instance, the action flows from left to right across the page and the book is read from ‘front to back’. The Manga Edition has many similar features, but retains the original setting of the play. Finally, Gareth Hinds’ recent adaptation clearly draws on European comic conventions, but also incorporates elements of manga, most noticeably in action scenes. Comparing these diverse approaches, this article considers how comic book adaptations can do more than simplify the text and make Shakespeare more attractive for young people. It considers ways in which they can act as an effective pedagogical device to support young people of differing abilities and levels of reading experience studying Shakespeare’s play. It also considers the extent to which these texts have a value in their own right, rather than simply being viewed as inferior versions of the original that merely engage and simplify Shakespeare’s plays and can be discarded as soon as they are no longer required.

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