Kelex's Reviews > Hamlet

Hamlet by Kenneth Branagh
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's review
Aug 13, 09

bookshelves: owned
Read in January, 1997

Formerly a member of the Royal Shakespearean Company, actor/director Kenneth Branagh confesses that he has been intrigued and in some ways obsessed by Hamlet from early on in his life, early teens and before.

That intense devotion-bordering-on-obsession serves this book well, as well as it's movie counterpart. Both the introduction and the film diary give excellent insights into not just how the movie was made, but the play itself, and how things that we don't notice--for example, what a good statesman Polonius is, because he treats Hamlet well and with respect even after Hamlet disgraces Ophelia ("To a nunnery, go" and during the entire play-within-a-play)--help to create that character in more dimensions than simply the Kingmaker.

As you read the text of the play--and that is exactly what this is, the "eternity version" of Hamlet, pieced together from several quartos and one surviving copy--there are notations from Branagh, stage directions and hints for the reader of what the passage is saying. Several soliloquies have been shifted in this edition to make it flow better for filming, and I think they are actual improvements on the places they are found in the text.

However, the shifting of passages does not dull the understanding of the play a whit; even though this is made as a companion book to an excellent film, it stands alone quite well as an "everyman's" treatise on how Hamlet the play and Hamlet the man can influence one person's life.
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