Great Shakespeare Plays Retold with Stick Figures in Three Simple Drawings


Oth­er than Romeo and Juli­et and pos­si­bly Ham­let,  Shake­speare does­n’t exact­ly lend him­self to the ele­va­tor pitch. The same creaky plot devices and unfath­omable jokes that con­found mod­ern audi­ences make for long wind­ed sum­maries.

Not to say it can’t be done. Mya Gosling, a South­east Asia Copy Cat­a­loger at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan, has been amus­ing her­self, and more recent­ly oth­ers, with “Good Tick­le Brain,” a web com­ic that reduces each of the com­plete works to a mere three pan­els. (Titus Andron­i­cus’ blood­bath required but one.)

Those of us who are semi-versed in the Bard should delight in the way major char­ac­ters and com­plex side plots are glibly strick­en from the record.

(Methinks Lady Mac­Beth would not be pleased…)

And what high school­er won’t expe­ri­ence a per­verse thrill, when the obscure and bor­ing text his class has been pars­ing for weeks is dis­patched with the swift­ness of your aver­age Garfield? (The wise teacher will be in no rush to share these rev­e­la­tions…)


Gosling, whose dad intro­duced her to Shake­speare at an ear­ly age, knows the mate­r­i­al well enough to sub­vert it. Who cares if her artis­tic tal­ent max­es out with stick fig­ures? Famil­iar­i­ty allows her to nail the end­ing of Troilus and Cres­si­da (“Home­r’s Ili­ad hap­pens”). The mid­dle pan­el of Win­ter’s Tale is devot­ed to “some poor guy” get­ting eat­en by a bear, and why should­n’t it be, when the author’s famous stage direc­tion is the only thing most peo­ple can dredge up with regard to that par­tic­u­lar play?

As for the title of her web com­ic, it’s an insult from one of her faves, Hen­ry IV, part 1. My kind of geek­ery, for­sooth.

H/T Michael Good­win, the author of Economix, a book that explains The His­to­ry of Eco­nom­ics & Eco­nom­ic The­o­ry with Comics. See a sam­ple by click­ing here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Course: A Sur­vey of Shakespeare’s Plays

Dis­cov­er What Shakespeare’s Hand­writ­ing Looked Like, and How It Solved a Mys­tery of Author­ship

The Bea­t­les Per­form a Fun Spoof of Shakespeare’s A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream (1964)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day’s 16-year-old daugh­ter plays a small part in Michael Almerey­da’s Cym­be­line. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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