Falling For Hamlet ~ Michelle Ray
Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well…
In Shakespeare’s famous graveyard scene, Hamlet, our young and depressed Danish prince, takes up the skull of the deceased court jester to say the above quote. I couldn’t think of a better line to use, leading in to my review of Michelle Ray’s Falling for Hamlet. The book wasn’t horrible but the humor, like the famed court jester, was sadly dead. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Hamlet is a tragedy. Tragedy as it may be, it was still born of Shakespeare’s pen and thus has this inherent humor to it in word plays and ironic minutia.
Unfortunately, the humor wasn’t the only theatrical element missing from the retelling. Because Ray chose to tell the story from Ophelia’s point of view, it felt as though many of the original scenes were left on the cutting room floor. Many of the interactions between the teens’ parents and friends were lost, as were the scenes in which Hamlet and his deceased father’s ghost met. As so many historians will tell you, these are really what drive the whole story, setting the scene for the revenge and the creepiness that the original capture.
The setting also proved to be a bit of a thorn in my side. I’m pretty sure that most of Ray’s references to pop-life, while tricky and well placed, in theory, wouldn’t translate to modern-day Denmark. Because most of the “royalty” issues were similar to those of a pop-star, I think it would have been a better fit to place the story in L.A. (alaBaz Luhrmann’s 90’s Romeo and Juliet) and play it out that way, as it seemed way too fakey and American as it was written. My biggest pet-peeve in this area was the reference to a fictional Denmark State. Denmark isn’t a state and thus doesn’t have a state university. With very little research, a more believable fictional back-up school could have been created.
So, did I hate it? No, of course not. I was in an eight grade performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream and, personally, I thought it was phenomenal. I think that if a person’s heart is in it, any adaptation is worth watching or reading. Adaptation and interpretation are human instinct and Shakespeare has been subject to both for years and years. I did enjoy many parts of the story, though, I think that I would have enjoyed it much more if I hadn’t read or seen the original. I made the very bad mistake of reading the original script while reading this one and I think that it really undercut the otherwise probably minor faults in the YA edition.
As a hugely positive note, I will say that where Ray stuck to reinventing exact scenes as opposed to going off script, the reworking was superb and really, quite funny in its modern portrayal. The places where she was able to most precisely translate the script to the more modern stuff seemed to really capture the essence of the play, rather than her guesses at what Ophelia (really, an obscure character in the play) might have been going through.
Well, there you have it. I think, as far as adaptations go, this one was luke-warm. I’ve seen worse but I’ve definitely seen better. I’ll definitely give Ray another chance if she promises to leave the adaptations alone.