Saturday, 21 January 2012

Hamlet - William Shakespeare


Every night the ghost of Hamlet's father makes an appearance. Some soldiers see it and try to communicate but the ghost disappears. They tell Hamlet hoping that since the ghost has his father's appearance it will speak to him. Hamlet goes to the ghost and he discovers that his father was murdered by his uncle. His uncle is now King of Denmark and married Hamlet's mother soon after the death of the old King. Hamlet is already upset about this incestuous marriage and is determined to have his revenge on the King. His anger and reaction to others and the one he supposedly loves, Ophelia, leads the King and Queen to believe that he has gone mad and so set him up to find the cause. Meanwhile Hamlet decides to have players visiting to put on a play about the betrayal and murder of a King in the hopes of finding out once and for all if the ghost is telling the truth.

The scenes at the start of the soldiers seeing the ghost was a great start. It certainly set up the atmosphere of the play. It reminded me of the creepy start to Macbeth. Whilst I enjoyed it, for me it didn't keep up the atmosphere through out unlike Macbeth. I felt that there was too much in between rather than getting to the point. Hamlets doubts were slightly irritating and I wanted him to just get the thumb out and go and confront his uncle. If he had mind you it wouldn't really have been a tragedy. The King and his mother wouldn't have thought him mad and felt the need for covert operations in order to discover why. Which wouldn't have led to so many deaths.

I found that I had to rely on the back of the book to explain things to me more than any of the other plays so far. It didn't quite take all the enjoyment out of it but as a result it was a little more slow going and I was impatient to get to the good bit. The last few scenes were probably the best for me. When Hamlet finally does get his revenge and of course doesn't really have long to enjoy it. If you aren't aware before (sorry for the spoiler) this is one of those plays in which almost no one survives. Good news for Norway whom the King was in dispute with at the start of the play.

Hamlet refers to his mothers marriage as incestuous but I think he was more bothered by the fact that it happened so quickly (well, until he found out what his uncle did). Interestingly although the King and his new wife weren't actually related  it would have been classed as incest back then. Henry VIII was only able to get dispensation from the Pope to marry his brother's wife because the relationship hadn't been consummated (although Henry disputed that to get out of the marriage 20 years later). I think it's a safe bet though that this wasn't the case with the Hamlet's parents.

Overall I did like it. I liked the atmosphere and I liked the fact that both sides were plotting against each other. I think though this is one that I will get more out of watching than reading.

I read this as part of Shakespeare month hosted by Allie of A Literary Odyssey.  You can see posts by others taking part here. She has also posted an update about the challenge here. We have a few extra days to read more.

Remember to leave a comment here if you want to win a copy of The Eyre Affair. Hamlet doesn't make an appearance in that book but he does later on in the series and there are many other characters from classics to enjoy before he does.

12 comments:

  1. When I took a Shakespeare course in college, I read Hamlet and watched the movie with my son who was 13 or maybe younger. In any event, I chose the Kenneth Branagh version and my son really enjoyed it. We later watched the Mel Gibson version and my son said he didn't like that one nearly as much. I haven't seen the Olivier version yet because I feel like I'm saving what is supposed to be the best for last. Of course, it's taken me over 10 years to see it so maybe I should stop avoiding and just buckle down already.

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    1. I know all the plays are meant to be watched but I think this definitely needs to be watched to be fully enjoyed. For me anyway.

      I am always meaning to watch things and not usually getting round to it. The number of DVDs I own still in cellophane is actually disgusting. One day I will have watched them all.

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  2. I am conflicted about Hamlet, because on the one hand I totally see how amazing it is and everything, but it is LONG and sometimes gets a bit confusing, at least for me. I think I need to see it performed to fully get it. Having said that, it is still one of my favourites!

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    1. It really is a bit long and some of the scenes seem a bit pointless at first. I did enjoy it though but like you I think I would gain more from seeing it performed.

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  3. I hated Hamlet (the character - and also the ending) when I was a child in school (started reading Shakespeare at 11). Then I re-read it when I was at uni and I loved it. I could understand Hamlet better - before I just thought he was a whiny brat.

    And as per usual, I'm giving unsolicited further reading advice - but this is an absolute must (I always say that, don't I?). Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard which is pure perfection (as is the film, although the guy that plays Hamlet in it is really bad). This play is hilarious, slightly confusing and just plain silly.

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    1. Maybe I should give Merchant of Venice a re-do then. I hated that one at school.

      I do actually like the sound of the play by Stoppard. Although they were spies I felt a little bit sorry for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. It's not their fault the thought their friend was crazy.

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  4. I listened to this last year as a full-cast audio book, but found it a little confusing, mostly because it sometimes took me a second to figure out who was speaking. I don't think I've seen any of the movies. I'll have to check if our library has one.

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    1. To be honest I don't really like audio books anyway (I have tried them) but I think I would have the same problem as yourself. Hope you enjoy the films. I have yet to watch any.

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  5. I've also read Hamlet for Allie's Shakespeare Reading Month and I have to admit that I really loved it. Yes, it was quite demanding and I had to meditate over it a lot, I also had to look up a lot of things but somehow the play really took hold of me and didn't release me until I had finished it.
    The way everything spiraled downward until the ending which, I have to agree, was superb!
    While I have to admit that especially the middle part was a little too stretched out, I can understand Hamlet's doubts, after all he is only a student, a boy who isn't used to having to make difficult decisions. However, I am going to read Macbeth next, so maybe then my opinion about Hamlet will change a little too.

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    1. To be honest the only play so far I haven't found to be demanding is Much Ado About Nothing (although that's not why it's my favourite so far). I don't mind a demanding book especially if the story can such me in but this one didn't. At least not as much as I expected it to (and there may be another problem I had - my expectations). I did still like it though and it would still be high up on my list of classics.

      I hope you like Macbeth too. I loved it. I particularly like Lady Macbeth. Such fantastic characters in that one.

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  6. This was the first Shakespeare I read this month and I think I was so happy to finished it without banging my head against the wall that it skewed my judgment. I did get a little lost in Hamlet's indecision... He was much more enjoyable in Something Rotten!

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    1. I heartily agree with you there.

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