Bob Varettoni's Reviews > Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by A.J. Hartley
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Dec 19, 2016

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To Read or Not to Read?

In this book, a Shakespeare scholar (Hartley) and former journalist (Hewson) have novelized the story of Hamlet for modern audiences. 'Tis is a noble effort, I suppose… reminding me of an iPad app for cats, with lots of sudden, random movement.

Before the play-within-a-play begins, in the space of seconds, Hamlet punches a stone wall, sings and dances maniacally. Seemingly, the young prince is always moving forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling towards freedom. (Apologies to the Kang character in “The Simpsons”). The action is so compressed here that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive from half the known world away to appear in the king’s court within hours of being summoned. This takes two months in the actual play.

The avuncular Polonius becomes a scheming political operative. Think Kevin Spacey in “House of Cards.” In this book, Ophelia carries Hamlet’s love child and is subsequently murdered by the traditionally minor character Voltimand, upon whom the authors have bestowed Sicilian mob ties. Hamlet – think Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips” -- battles menacing pirates. And then there’s the plot twist of “A Beautiful Mind,” where a main character Russell Crowe thought existed in real life turns out to be only the figment of Hamlet’s imagination.

The famous soliloquies are only hinted at here. So, in the end, it’s easy to smugly dismiss this as “Shakespeare without the poetry”… a tale of sound and fury, signifying nothing. But it has enough elements of Entertainment Weekly magazine in the plot to ensure the failure of any student using this text as a replacement for actually reading or seeing “Hamlet.”

So I give it three stars for that.
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Reading Progress

December 1, 2016 – Started Reading
December 9, 2016 – Finished Reading
December 19, 2016 – Shelved

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