02 December 2009


I assume you've all heard that old saying about misfortune: "When it rains, it pours." I would think Prince Hamlet would know all about that phrase. Just two months after his beloved father's death, his father's brother, Claudius, has wedded Hamlet's mother and is now the reigning king of Denmark. As if that's not enough of a downer, Hamlet encounters a ghost who claims to be his father. The Ghost reveals that he did not a die a natural death - Hamlet's dad succumbed to murder. And the murderer is none other than Claudius. The Ghost orders Hamlet to avenge him, but Hamlet, ever the thinker, is not sure. Is The Ghost telling the truth? Is Claudius guilty? Leave it to crafty Hamlet to uncover this mystery.

How now, gentle readers! As the final installment in Zella Kate Presents: The Medieval/Renaissance Classics I bring you my favorite Shakespearean play: Hamlet! *trumpet flourish* One reason I love this play is because Hamlet blends a moving mix of action, tragedy, suspense, and humor all into one package. I always groan when I hear people describe Shakespeare as boring. I think what these people assume is that since Shakespeare's name is now synonymous with brilliant literature, his work must be boring. I think calling Hamlet boring is operating with a strange definition of boring. Ghosts, intrigue, poisonings (Yes, plural!) , insanity, and the most dysfunctional family this side of Days of Our Lives is boring? Hmm. I think what they fail to realize is that Shakespeare didn't set out to write masterpieces. He was an entertainer. He wrote what would sell! Although our Elizabethan forebears may have had questionable hygiene practices and worn weird, uncomfy shoes, I refuse to believe that the masses of Elizabethan England would've flocked to Shakespeare's plays if they were not entertaining. To think these plays are no longer entertaining because the actor says "Prithee" is being a bit narrow-minded.We still love a train wreck as much as we did then…and oh! what a train wreck this family and country is!

Although Shakespeare may have been an entertainer, I think it speaks volumes of his talent that his work is brilliant literature, even though it wasn't written with that intent. (Come on, how many people 400 years from now are going to look at our summer blockbusters and call them masterpieces? Mmm hmm. That's what I thought.) Yes, the language in Hamlet is beautiful, and this play is full of some of Shakespeare's most famous lines ("Something is rotten in Denmark," "The play's the thing," Fickle thy name is woman," and my personal favorite: "Methinks it is like a weasel.") But the real draw for me is the character Hamlet. This philosophizing, avenging Dane is one of the most fascinating, contradictory, and complex figures in all of literature. (And he is one of my favorite characters, hands down.) Hamlet is undoubtedly noble and brilliant, as his melancholy, philosophical soliloquies and shrewd plotting illustrate, but he also possesses a razor sharp wit, an inexhaustible supply of puns, and a dark sense of sarcasm. (I laugh every time I read his "Polonius is at supper" exchange with Claudius.) But as likable as Hamlet is, he is also capable of being irrational, impulsive, and, at times, downright cruel. Is he perfect? Far from it, but it's his combination of strengths and weaknesses that make him so appealing. Hamlet is one of my favorite characters because he is so human. Furthermore, how can you not feel sorry for the poor guy? His dad's dead, his uncle stole the throne, his mom married the nasty uncle, and now they're both accused of killing dear old Dad…by dad himself. I firmly believe poor Hamlet needs a hug.

I recently read a poll that said the most common issue readers have with Shakespeare is the complex, ornate Elizabethan English. I am not going to argue that Shakespeare's plays are easy to read. You do have to make an effort to read and comprehend the text. However, I am firmly convinced that this is more of a matter of how you go about reading the texts, rather than an issue with the plays themselves. I have posted a companion blog that gives some ideas on how to do this. Feel free to adapt it to your own purposes.
Don't dismiss Shakespeare's Hamlet as a dry, boring, waste of your time! That couldn't be the further from the truth! Hamlet is a masterfully crafted, psychologically intense drama with an unforgettable cast of characters.


Next Week: I am not sure. My finals are next week, so I can not guarantee that I will get anything read. If that's the case, I'll post a blog about my favorite poets or a list of the books I'd take if I were stranded on a deserted island (one must always be prepared). If I do get something read, it will probably be a classic British murder mystery by Dorothy Sayers or Ellis Peters. I miss my mysteries and I want something more light hearted after all of the deep, dark things I've been blogging about. I believe a witty, genteel murder mystery with minimal amounts of blood and ample amounts of entertainment is exactly what we need. Hopefully, next week, I'll meet you here over a (figurative) corpse. And to make up for extorting pie off of you last week, I'll make us tea, erm, of the non-poisoned variety. Oh, fine, I'll taste it first, but I assure you I am not trying to kill any of you. *hides arsenic behind back and grins innocently*


  1. I've never seen Hamlet. My mum went to see it once, but my siblings and I were stuck in the lobby reading the fifth Harry Potter (the worst, in my opinion) out loud. I have, however, done a Hamlet in 3 minutes performance (along with Julius Caesar, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet), in which every cast member ended up on the floor dead.

  2. Ha ha, Chairman, Hamlet in 3 minutes. God, that play went wrong. I was Claudius and wound up with the worst case of carpet burn ever after I missed my cue.
    I've only attempted to watch one version of Hamlet and found it boring. I didn't like the actors, so I hard a hard time getting into it. I want to read it though, I haven't yet. (I know, sad me)
    This was a great review, by the way Zella. Thumbs up

  3. Haha Those three minute Shakespeare plays sound hilarious. I would watch one! :D

    The Chairman, I love how Shakespearean tragedies always end with tremendous bloodshed. I had a friend who once complained about that. I was like, "Isn't that why they're so much fun?!"

    Penguins Quack, Thanks! Which version did you watch? I really liked the Olivier version (probably just because I think Olivier is an amazing actor!), but it's been years since I watched it. I watched the Mel Gibson version in class last week, and even though I am not a Mel Gibson fan, I thought he did a good job. It has been shortened (which made me angry. They shortened and cut some of the scenes! Woe is me!), but it makes the movie more compact, so I can't complain too much. Let me know what you think of Hamlet once you've read it. :)

  4. Great review, I've now decided that the next Shakespearean story I read will be Hamlet.
    By the way, I've done a review of Catching Fire, it's here:

    Your review of Hamlet is really quite riveting! Nice use of humor.

  5. Thanks, Jourdie! :) And thanks for following. I appreciate it.

    I shall go have a look at your Catching Fire review. That series is my new obsession!