Shakespeare, adaptation and 'matters of trust'

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This article describes an empirical study of the ways in which one group of adaptors transformed the plays of William Shakespeare into the medium of the comic book for use in school classrooms. It explores the choices, dilemmas, processes and responsibilities they experienced in doing so. These adaptors had to tackle the burden of ‘Shakespeare’ - what he has come to mean in world literature, the popular imagination, and education – as well as attempting to make the text both appealing and understandable to their intended readers – teenagers studying the plays in school. I argue that they viewed this task as a pedagogic one and saw the notion of ‘trust’ as central to it. The article therefore has a second aim and that is to use these empirical findings to explore the concept of ‘trust’ and, in particular to outline its relevance for educational research. Using the work of the philosopher Katharine Hawley and the literary theorist, Umberto Eco, I show that the relational concept of trust is a helpful way of articulating the process of adapting Shakespeare’s work. In the conclusion I highlight the ways in which the concept might illuminate broader educational issues related to knowledge, assessment and learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-354
JournalCambridge Journal of Education
Issue number3
Early online date12 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2017


  • Shakespeare
  • adaptation
  • trust
  • knowledge
  • comics and graphic novels


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