Bookworms love a good retelling. Some romantic ships, like Elizabeth and Darcy, we watch over and over, in every possible setting, without ever getting tired. Oftentimes, authors write a retelling because there is something confusing in or missing from the original. For example, in Emma, many people think Mr. Knightley is too old and a chronic mansplainer. Modern retellings will “fix” this problem and make the romance more relatable to a modern audience. I have compiled a list of some of my favorite classic couples that deserve a good retelling, but haven’t had one.
Amy and Laurie from Little Women
This ship has always been overlooked, understandably so. In the novel, Amy is selfish and bratty, and we don’t want her to end up with our precious Laurie. Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation succeeded in making us sympathize with Amy and root for her romance with Laurie. Still, I felt their relationship was underdeveloped. I bought them as a couple, but I wanted to see more of the moments that made them fall in love. Why they love each other is never explained. This makes sense, because the movie has to explore the lives of all four sisters, especially Jo. However, if Laurie and Amy were to have their own novel, I think their story could be fleshed out into something exceptional.
Hamlet and Ophelia from Hamlet
Frankly, I’m shocked that we’ve gotten so few Hamlet retellings, given that Hamlet is the most sad, emo boi in classic literature (except, perhaps, Victor Frankenstein). I feel like he’s a classic character that many high schoolers today would relate to. His relationship with Ophelia could be interpreted in multiple ways. My favorite interpretation portrays Hamlet as a tortured soul who desperately loves Ophelia, but is so driven mad by his depression that he isn’t able to treat her properly. I would love a good modern-day retelling that fleshes out the story from both points of view.
Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot from Persuasion
Jane Austen retellings abound in the YA scene, but usually it’s one of the Big Three: Pride & Prejudice, Emma, or Sense & Sensibility. Meanwhile, Persuasion sits in the corner clenching her fists and screaming, “pick me!” And it deserves its due. It’s got it all: the pining, the spurned love, the jealousy, and second chances. Unlike many Austen heroines, Anne is older and more mature, but also softer spoken. She’s highly relatable to those shy bookworths (like me) who wish they were as dazzling and charming as Lizzy Bennet or Emma Woodhouse, but know they are not. Her relationship with Wentworth oozes with tension. Once lovers, she had to reject him for reasons outside her control, but now she wants him back. But will he ever forgive her? We have to know!
Heathcliff and Catherine from Wuthering Heights
These two deserve the label of “hot mess” more than any other literary couple. Since childhood, they have loved each other, but it’s an obsessive, unhealthy love. Instead of seeing themselves as two different people who complete each other, they see themselves as the same person. Even after Catherine marries someone else (itself problematic), Heathcliff continues to pursue her, and after she dies, he seeks revenge on her husband and even digs up her grave to look at her one last time. Despite the dysfunction, I think we can still learn lessons and this classic romance is still worthwhile. But the novel itself is dense, hard to read, and honestly drags at times. If this story were updated to a modern setting and voice, it could be fascinating—like a dark, disturbing train wreck you can’t look away from.
King Arthur and Queen Guinevere from King Arthur legends
Stories about King Arthur and his noble knights have owned my heart since I was a little kid, but the romance between Arthur and his queen has never sat right with me. King Arthur is a brave and noble king and Guinevere is a wise and beautiful lady. By all fairy tale rules, they should be deeply in love. The king’s best friend, Sir Lancelot, always has to come along and ruin everything by making it a stupid love triangle! Now, BBC’s Merlin has a beautiful take on the story. However, I have not read a good YA novel that gives us the Arthur-Guinevere fairy tale of my dreams.
Featured image courtesy of BBC, ITV, IFC Films, and Sony Pictures.