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Now Shakespeare in comic strips

The genius of Shakespeare may lie in his finely-crafted passages, but soon his famous lines will be dumbed down in comic strips for bored pupils.

art and culture Updated: Aug 18, 2007 19:06 IST

The genius of Shakespeare may lie in his finely-crafted passages, but soon his famous lines will be dumbed down in comic strips for bored pupils.

No longer will Macbeth say "Is this a dagger, which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee." Her lines, like a TV soap opera will now be peppered with conversational cliches -- "Is this a dagger in front of me? Come here!"

Classical Comics, the publishers, hope the comics - illustrated by artists who have worked on the Spiderman series - will inspire disaffected readers with a love of the Bard's plays, according to the Daily Mail.

The comics are targeting older primary pupils and teenagers and have already won the backing of the National Association for the Teaching of English.

Three versions of each play will be produced to help teachers cater to children of differing literacy abilities. The first uses Shakespeare's own words, the second translates them into plain English while the third is a "quick text" version and uses as few words as possible.

The firm hopes eventually to publish comic strip versions of all Shakespeare's plays.

But the Queen's English Society warned that the "dumbed down" versions could backfire by allowing pupils to avoid tackling the language and themes of the originals. Dr Bernard Lamb, chairman of the London branch of the Queen's English Society, told the Daily Mail: "Pupils may just enjoy the cartoons and not connect it with Shakespeare and they won't be much of a contribution to education.

"A lot of the beauty of Shakespeare is in the language more than the plot... There is so much dumbing down all round. Students are unaware of what language is appropriate in different circumstances. I have had students in degree exams using 'eight' for 'ate'."

But Clive Bryant, chairman of Classical Comics, insisted the shortened versions of his plays would give youngsters a "leg up" to enjoy the originals.

"We want to make Shakespeare as energetic and colourful as Spiderman," he said.