Zadie Smith’s The Wife of Willesden

by Candace Barrington

Screen Shot 2019-11-13 at 11.52.10 AM
Zadie Smith. Photo from Brent 2020 website

The Guardian reported on 12 November 2019 that Zadie Smith (author of White Teeth among other notable novels set in contemporary London) is adapting The Wife of Bath’s Tale (but I suspect they mean her Prologue) for the borough of Brent’s 2020 program marking it as a “borough of culture.” Titled The Wife of Willesden, this first play by Smith will be a monologue performed at Kiln Theatre. The article reported that, per Smith, the piece will “raise questions about the place of women in society and aim to capture the voice of Brent.”

By adapting the Wife as a vehicle for a distinctively localized and contemporary voice, Smith is not alone. Jean “Binta” Breeze’s “The Wife of Bath in Brixton Market” and Patience Agbabi’s “The Wife of Bafa” have adapted the Wife’s monologue for voices associated with the African Diaspora.  (See Jonathan Hsy’s posting where he describes  how he incorporates their work into his classroom teaching.) In Brazil, Francisco Botelho has adapted his Brazilian-Portuguese translation of The Wife of Bath’s Prologue into a one-woman dramatic monologue.

We’ll keep an eye on updated information on Smith’s Chaucerian play. And for those wanting to see a performance, we will post dates and ticket information as soon as they appear.

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