Transforming Shakespeare: Neil Gaiman and The Sandman.

Round, J., 2010. Transforming Shakespeare: Neil Gaiman and The Sandman. In: Frus, P., ed. Beyond Adaptation: Essays on Radical Transformations of Original Works. Jefferson NC,USA: McFarland, pp. 95-110.

Full text available as:

[img]
Preview
PDF - Published Version
2029kB

Abstract

This paper considers the ways in which Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman appropriates and transforms the works of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare features in three comics from the award-winning Sandman series: ‘Men of Good Fortune’ (The Sandman #13), ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (The Sandman #19), and ‘The Tempest’ (The Sandman #75). The series rewrites the Shakespearean legend into a Faustian bargain and provides readings of these two plays that not only sustain their traditional interpretations and performance legacies, but also subsumes them within a wider treatise on the nature of literary creation. In this sense The Sandman transforms Shakespeare’s works into metafictional diatribes that comment both on his life and on the nature of literary creation and storytelling. The Sandman #19 (Neil Gaiman/Charles Vess) tells of Dream’s first performance by Lord Strange’s Men to a faerie audience that includes many of the play’s characters, allowing Gaiman to situate ‘real’ versions of the play’s characters and events alongside their actor counterparts. In this way Sandman #19 both performs and comments upon Dream. Drawing on previously published criticism, this article briefly discusses the ways in which the comic sustains many semantic and structural themes of the Shakespearean text. These include the play’s reality/illusion dichotomy, the play-within-play motif, the entertainment of the faerie cast by the mechanicals, and the doubling of many characters and events. However, Gaiman’s treatment of many of these elements may also be said to simultaneously subvert the original text, as his faerie characters are often opposed to their Shakespearean counterparts. The article then moves to consider The Sandman #75 (Neil Gaiman/Charles Vess). This comic surrounds the text of The Tempest with a metafiction that replicates the play’s motifs, themes and specific scenes. In so doing it comments on the small amount we know about Shakespeare’s life, and draws parallels between the author, its titular character, Morpheus, and even Gaiman as the comic’s creator. The main body of this article proceeds to discuss the effects of this transformation of Shakespeare’s life and work. As metafiction that deals not only with the creative process and the telling of stories, but also with the nature of fact and fiction/reality and illusion, The Sandman provides an informative example of the uses and effects of metafiction that is of interest not only to students of literature, but also accessible to general readers. This article closely examines The Sandman #13 (Neil Gaiman/Michael Zulli and others), which details the pact made between Morpheus and Shakespeare. It concludes that while this scenario initially appears to attack Shakespeare and reference the history of doubt surrounding his works, the mystical nature of this pact means it can also be read as sustaining ‘bardolatry’. The article concludes that subversive and supportive elements coexist in both the Shakespearean content of The Sandman and its medium (which challenges elitist notions of Shakespearean drama while retaining an emphasis on spectacle and performance). In many respects comics align with dramatic texts: both are subject to constant reinterpretation and re-creation with each new reading/production and, while having a textual basis, therefore exist in no original form. As such, Gaiman and Vess offer a reinterpretation of the plays and playwright that renews and relocates Shakespeare by aligning the man’s life with his fictions, and in this regard sheds light on academic discourse that habitually sets literature against popular culture.

Item Type:Book Section
ISBN:978-0786442232
Number of Pages:226
ISSN:978-0-7864-4223-2
Subjects:Arts > Graphic Arts
Literature
Group:Media School
ID Code:14073
Deposited By:Dr Julia Round
Deposited On:30 Apr 2010 08:14
Last Modified:12 Feb 2013 09:24

Document Downloads

More statistics for this item...
Repository Staff Only -
BU Staff Only -
Help Guide - Editing Your Items in BURO