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Howard Jacobson and Margaret Atwood to re-write Shakespeare

image captionHoward Jacobson will tackle The Merchant of Venice, while Margaret Atwood will 're-tell' The Tempest

Booker Prize-winning novelists Howard Jacobson and Margaret Atwood are to re-write two of Shakespeare's plays in modern prose.

Jacobson will "re-tell" The Merchant of Venice, while Atwood will tackle The Tempest.

They join the already announced Anne Tyler and Jeanette Winterson as part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project.

The updated versions will be published in 2016 to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death.

Canadian author Atwood said The Tempest had always been "a favourite", adding working on it would be "an invigorating challenge".

Jacobson said his take on Shakespeare's controversial play would tackle some of its more debated aspects.

"For an English novelist Shakespeare is where it all begins. For an English novelist who also happens to be Jewish, The Merchant of Venice is where it all snarls up," he said.

"Only a fool would think he has anything to add to Shakespeare. But Shakespeare probably never met a Jew, the Holocaust had not yet happened, and anti-Semitism didn't have a name.

"Can one tell the same story today, when every reference carries a different charge? There's the challenge."

The two new versions will sit alongside Tyler's take on The Taming of the Shrew and Winterson's version of The Winter's Tale.

Publishers Penguin Random House said conversations were still underway with "a number" of other writers to take part in the project.

It said the new versions would be "true to the spirit of the original dramas and their popular appeal, while giving authors an exciting opportunity to reinvent these seminal works of English literature".

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