Shakespeare for Squirrels

by Christopher Moore

William Morrow


288pp/$28.99/May 2020

Shakespeare for Squirrels

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

In 1606, William Shakespeare's King Lear debuted and, with it, the character of The Fool. Four hundred three years later, Lear's Fool became Pocket in Christopher Moore's humorous take on King Lear in the novel Fool. Pocket, seemingly immortal, returned in Moore's novel The Serpent of Venice, which combined Othello and The Merchant in Venice in a convincing manner. Pocket Has moved on and has found himself, along with apprentice fool, Drool, and his monkey, Jeff, in a story based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare and Squirrels.

Shakespeare's play includes several different groups of characters, interacting in various ways. The Mechanicals are a group of amateur actors who are preparing a play for the wedding of the Duke of Athens. The Duke of Athens is preparing to marry the Queen of the Amazons, Hermia and Helena and their suitors are cavorting in the forest where and the fairy courts of Queen Titania and King Oberon are active. Pocket comes into contact with all of these groups, as well as Robin Goodfellow, a trickster spirit who is A Midsummer Night's Dream's answer to King Lear's fool. Pocket finds himself working for all of these groups in one capacity or another as he tries to free Drool from the clutches of the Duke of Athens, find Jeff in the forest, and flee to more normal regions.

Pocket finds himself caught between the various factions and, true to form, does what he needs in order to survive, his narcissism tempered by his grudging acceptance of the fact that he cares what happens to Drool and Jeff, despite himself. Having faced down a serpent in the previous book, in Shakespeare and Squirrels, he finds himself face to face with real magic, not only the magic of the faeries, but also the fact that his every handy jester's puppet Jones has developed a voice of his own that the puppet uses at the most inopportune times.

One of the biggest differences between Shakespeare and Squirrels and the earlier novels that focus on Pocket is that it is the first time Moore is using a comedy as his source material rather than a tragedy. This means that Pocket is not playing against the seriousness of the setting, but rather is trying to add his own senses of humor and absurdity to the humor Shakespeare offers. Unfortunately, all too often Moore's and Pocket's senses of humors become the voice of reason in Shakespeare's fairy-infested woods. This isn't to say that Moore's humor isn't successful or invisible. One of the best characters is his original malaprop spewing Blacktooth and Blacktooth's translator, Burke.

Moore also introduces an unreliable narrator, who is not only untrustworthy about what they relate about the action, but is also unreliable in turning up throughout the book. Mostly told from the point of view of Pocket, the unreliable narrator shows up occasionally, but not frequently enough, to comment on the action and try to force it into a different direction as a sort of Greek chorus. The narrator offers a glimpse of other potential plots Pocket could find himself in if the Fool would try to break free of the narrative that was created by Shakespeare's original tale.

While Shakespeare and Squirrels isn't as overtly funny as many of Moore's novels, it does provide an interesting merger of Shakespeare's play with Moore's sensibility, but the humor built on a comedy offers less of a chance for Moore to juxtapose his version of the world with Shakespeare's than he had when he was placing Pocket into a world based on Shakespeare's tragedies. And the squirrels of the title do play a rather surprising role.

Purchase this book

Amazon BooksOrder from Amazon UK

Amazon Books



Return to

Thanks to
SF Site
for webspace.