The themes of Shakespeare’s plays are timeless, but one thing’s for sure: the paperback covers ain’t. So for its latest edition of Shakespeare paperbacks, Penguin imprint Pelican wanted to do something a little more modern. Something that didn’t look like the bald-headed barb himself had just yanked it out of his ruff. So the company turned to 24-year-old Indian artist Manuja Waldia to adapt each play’s central ideas and themes into a few minimalist, vector-based icons–which Waldia even animated.
Inspired by ancient symbol-based languages like hieroglyphics, as well as minimalist iconography popular on the net today, Waldia designed new covers for six plays so far. Her Macbeth cover shows one crown emptying blood into another; for Romeo and Juliet, two arrows sitting side by side, pierced by Cupid’s Arrows; for King Lear, a bearded king weeping in the rain; for Midsummer Night’s Dream, the side of a Grecian urn; for Twelfth Night, a shipwreck hanging above Viola disguised as Cesario; and for Hamlet, a crowned skull sitting on a tombstone.
And that’s just to start. Eventually, the plan is for Waldia to design covers for all 40 Shakespeare plays, with The Tempest, Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Taming of the Shrew, and Julius Caesar coming next. “The neat thing about these covers is that it reminds people of modern environments–airport signage, the icons and imagery in their phones, modern web apps and neon signs,” Waldia tells me. “Shakespeare’s fan base is such a broad spectrum, it’s challenging to strike a balance and still resonate with people with varying familiarity with the plays.”
Now, thanks to Waldia, Pelican has a line of Shakespeare covers that should play just as well with young people as they do with Harold Bloom. Of course, once they open up the play and start reading? They’re on their own.
All Images: courtesy Penguin