Kill Shakespeare is a Graphic Novel series that is set in a world where many of the Bard's characters exist at the same time and interact with each other.
The story begins in Denmark, where Hamlet is in the midst of his attempt to avenge the death of his father, who was murdered by none other than his uncle Claudius. After accidentally killing Polonius, Hamlet is sent away from court as per the plot of the play, carrying his Please Shoot the Messenger missive. And that's where things start to change from what you know.
On board the ship (the Antonio), Rosencrantz tells Hamlet that he and Guildenstern read the missive. Rosencrantz offers their support in Hamlet's attempt to win back his father's throne, but the death of Polonius and the visions that have been haunting Hamlet since just before they left Denmark have left him questioning his actions and even his sanity. Hamlet's brooding is cut short when a group of pirates attack, and despite resisting, the crew of the Antonio and Hamlet's friends soon seem to be getting the worst of things. Hamlet is knocked overboard, and clinging to life he drifts to the shores of England, where he awakes in the palace of Richard III.
Richard befriends the younger man, and shows him the grand ambitions Richard has for improving England, and Hamlet quickly comes to believe Richard is a benevolent ruler. Furthermore Richard tells Hamlet that he knew of Hamlet's coming through prophecy; he says that he believes that Hamlet is "The Shadow King", a figure that Richard says will kill a powerful and elusive wizard whose zealot followers (who call themselves the Prodigals) are behind uprisings and rebellion in Richard's realm. The name of the wizard? William Shakespeare.
To seal the deal, Richard takes Hamlet down to a secret room in his palace where Hamlet sees three Wyrd Sisters in Richard's service revive a sailor that had been killed in the fight aboard the Antonio. When Richard offers to revive Hamlet's father in the same manner, Hamlet quickly agrees and sets out to search the countryside with Richard and his soldiers. Along the way, Hamlet starts to become friends with one of Richard's men accompanying him: Iago. Not long after setting out, Hamlet winds up separated from the group in part thanks to Falstaff, who tells Hamlet that Richard and his ally Macbeth are cruel tyrants, and begs Hamlet to meet with the leaders of the Prodigals (Juliet and Othello) and make up his own mind.
Hamlet is reluctant, and he doesn't exactly hit it off with Juliet and company when he finally meets them (in no small part because they believe The Shadow King is destined to be a savior both to them and Shakespeare, and they were Expecting Someone Taller), but the longer that he spends around both them and the common people, the more Hamlet comes to wonder about his new friends. Plagued by his doubts and visions sent by the Wyrd Sisters to drive him along, Hamlet must soon make some very important choices, and perhaps change the fate of a nation in doing so...
This work contains examples of:
- Adaptational Heroism: Averted. The characters that were Shakespeare's villains are just as nasty as they were in the original plays. They're just smart enough to keep that hidden so long as it gets them closer to their goals.
- Action Girl: Juliet is no lovestruck young maiden here. She has a fierce will and leads the Prodigals on the battlefield as well as off, and can be a formidable combatant.
- Back from the Dead: Richard III promises Hamlet he'll bring his father back from the dead if he kills Shakespeare. He shows Hamlet the Wyrd Sisters reviving a sailor from Hamlet's ship as proof, that he can actually do it. As soon as Hamlet leaves the room the Sisters stop channeling their magic into the man and he keels over, dead once again, implying they cannot permanently revive someone.
- Buried Alive: The fate of Macbeth is being sealed up behind a wall after he starts getting in the way of the plans of Richard and Lady Macbeth.
- Crossover Alternate Universe: The series takes place in a universe that significantly diverges from its source material for the purpose of bringing together characters in a crossover.
- Crossover Couple: Richard III and Lady Macbeth. For a while, anyway... both are looking to claim ultimate power for themselves, and both are willing to kill anyone, even each other, for it.
- Disguised in Drag: Hamlet and Falstaff try this when in a bar to escape pursuers sent by Macbeth. It doesn't work.
- Eye Scream: Richard puts out the eyes of one of the guards when Hamlet goes missing.
- Femme Fatale: Lady Macbeth is a gorgeous, seductive woman who wields black magic and is utterly ruthless in her ambitions. She is more than willing to betray and murder her husband, as she does in the first trade paperback, and will do so to anyone else who becomes an obstacle or crosses her.
- The Good King: Subverted with King Richard III. He begins seeming rather nice, showing Hamlet how he's a good king to his people but it's just a facade to win over Hamlet and manipulate the younger man. What's underneath the facade isn't pretty.
- Lady of Black Magic: Lady Macbeth is this down to the letter. A sultry, seductive, woman with fan service outfits and control of dark magic.
- La Résistance: The Prodigals are this against Richard, who pretends to be a benevolent monarch to Hamlet but is an iron fisted tyrant.
- MacGuffin: The item that Richard and Lady Macbeth are trying to get their hands on is Shakespeare's pen, which they believe will allow them to become more or less a Reality Warper and rewrite the world according to their will.
- Medium Awareness: To a degree. At least several of the villains have become aware that they are somehow creations of William Shakespeare, and are seeking to usurp his power over them and their lives.
- Public Domain Canon Welding: Every character and story written by William Shakespeare is treated as existing in the same universe.
- Reference Overdosed: All To Shakespeare.
- Ruling Couple: Macbeth and his lady, until she kills him and replaces him with Richard III.
- Til Murder Do Us Part: Lady Macbeth betrays her husband and buries him behind a wall in the castle.
- Unequal Pairing: Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, then her with Richard III.