Hamlet ~ William Shakespeare; David Scott Kastan (Introduction by); Jeff Dolven (Editor)
Before we begin:
One of my favorite “adaptations” comes from another theatrical performance, Hair. Think you can’t “get” Shakespeare?
Check this out and you’ll literally be singing a different tune.
Oh, dear sweet Hamlet. So overly quoted and noted, yet not all that widely seen, even less read. Old William’s famous Danish Prince is most often cited for madness. But, truly, I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves. He is often spun into a dramatic teenager, stomping around, pouting. The thing is, we catch up to him shortly after he’s been visited by his father’s ghost. Yup, sure thing. And this ghostly visit is totally corroborated by his best friends so the madness isn’t exactly all his. What happens next is the downward spiral one might expect of a brooding teen, a three-year old girl or a little old lady, really. When the whole plot is set up and explained in full context, it gives a lot more credit to the “sulking” than many give.
Sure, revenge isn’t the best medicine, especially to the tune of murder but then again, hey, he’s been through a lot. Avenging his father and driving the long road to his own self-destruction and discovery takes the time of the remainder of the play, though it’s obviously not that simple. One of Shakespeare’s finest plays and, for me, his best tragedy, Hamlet is deep, dark, depressing fun. It’s an inside-out thriller and a serious case study in power and politics.
Right, so, I haven’t really read a play in a very long time. While I have been known to do such things for fun (though not as much as my film major husband or my theater professor sister) I do prefer plain old prose for my fiction. I picked up a copy of Michelle Ray’s Falling for Hamlet, this past weekend and a few pages in, I realized that I really needed to read the play. I have seen it on a few stages but not enough (or recently enough) to compare the YA adaptation. And, magic, there you have it. Just like that, Hamlet and I have been snuggling up for the last night or so.
Oh but you know what they say about the best laid plans. It turns out, that might not have been a superb idea. It falls into the category of stupid things I do like rushing out to read the book before going to see the movie. I guess I have this problem with people who try to adapt Shakespeare. The original is just so darn good. Often, the biggest downfall comes when the original is revisited because it is hysterical in the pure and simple form. I find that, too often, a lot of the humor of the first is lost in modernization. Still, if it propels people who would otherwise not dig into Shakespeare, then I’ll take what I can get. I think, personally, I just need to remember that adaptations are just that and they are not the exact duplicate of the oldie.
Ah, anyway, to make a very long story short, I love this play and I think it’s a great one for folks who love a nice, dark tragedy. You’ll be able to go out and rent or buy all of those fun adaptations after, and feel like you actually know what you’re watching or reading.
Now, I have to do this since I can’t help but think about all of those many adaptations, as I read any classic. I debated, long and hard about who I might pick as my dark prince. My Kurt Cobain is a closer match physically, what with the blondness and all. He also has the angst thing down. The thing is, though, like I said at the beginning, it’s more about personal tragedy than just whining. I really felt that Dave Matthews was the closer fit in that he wasn’t just angsty but had true things to ramble eloquently on about. There are quite a few songs I could pick but one of my favorites is a recent one that shares a bit of the paranoia and “madness” in both of my lovely leading men.