Enter the Body

Dutton. Mar. 2023. 336p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593406755.
Gr 7 Up–Beneath a stage trapdoor, Juliet, Ophelia, and Cordelia gather with the silent and mysterious Lavinia nearby; many others linger in the shadows around the room. As Shakespeare’s most famous and beloved dead girls begin to recount their lives, the probing questions they ask of each other encourage them to delve into their own motivations, beliefs, choices, and lack thereof. They begin imagining what would and wouldn’t have changed if they’d been given agency over certain decisions and the ability to speak their minds, to be more than just props for their fathers’ aspirations. This exploration of their own limitations in the original stories parallels the relationships between fathers and daughters, Shakespeare and his creations, and the ways young women are often used to serve many purposes except their own. Constant shifts among modern, distinctive first-person voices of the girls told in changing poetic formats swirl with the more distant prose sections; previous familiarity with the basic stories of Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and King Lear will give readers access to some of the deeper references but even those completely new to Shakespeare will have no trouble following the outline of the stories. All readers will emerge with a more thorough understanding of these girls’ stories along with a deep sense of grief for the independence their fathers (and ultimately Shakespeare) denied them. The classroom connections here are endless.
VERDICT This work elevates and reenergizes the canon; it’s an absolute must-read regardless of readers’ knowledge or opinion of Shakespeare.

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