midnightfaerie's Reviews > Hamlet

Hamlet by William Shakespeare
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bookshelves: classics, rory-gilmore

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Hamlet by William Shakespeare has got to be high on my list of the Shakespeare plays. Although Much Ado About Nothing, so far, is still my favorite, I think Hamlet has made a close second. Intrigue, love, betrayal, and a man struggling with his internal desires are just a few of the things this story contains. I had never read or seen Hamlet up until now and my eyes are opening to just how many references to this play I have read in books or seen in movies. From the famous quote "There's something rotten in Denmark" to "Methinks the lady doth protest too much" I couldn't believe just how many lines I had heard in various places before.
My favorite character is Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, the man who battles his conflicting desires and responsibilities. He covers the whole gamut of emotions for the human condition, I can only imagine the skill and depth it would take to play this character.

One of the things I've noticed about Shakespeare is that there is a lot of angst in his famous speeches. Part of me almost relates them to (And forgive me Shakespeare fans), the Twilight Saga. There is just so much drama that reminds me of the teenage type angst you see in the Meyer books. Yes, I realize that's why they're called dramas, but sometimes, it can be a bit much emotionally. And I'm forced to set the book aside for a bit until it all sinks in.

Some of my favorite lines of all Shakespeare were in this play. When Hamlet is asked what he's reading he replies "Words, words, words!" I just loved that. There is also one of his crazy periods when he is asked how he fares. He replies "Excellent, i'faith, of the chameleon's dish. I eat the air, promise-crammed. You cannot feed capons so." Basically meaning, "Excellent, eating the same food as chameleon's: fresh air and empty promises. You can't feed chickens like that." I just love it. It literally made me laugh out loud.

I also love when Shakespeare makes a character with excessively flowery speech, that has trait of some kind that's meant for humorous relief. In this play, it was Polonius, an elderly Councillor of State. I love it when his diatribe got so long that even the Queen lost patience and told him to get to the point. "My liege and madam, to expostulate What majesty should be, what duty is, Why day is day, night is night, and time is time, Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time..." You get the picture.

One other thought that I'd like to touch upon briefly is Ophelia. She fascinates me in that I'm not sure her intentions completely. I was thoroughly confused when I first encountered Hamlet's scorn of her when he was supposedly supposed to be in love with her. Then her mad rant, which some of the plays and movies depicted as being because he slept with her. But I hadn't read that so I was wondering exactly what text depicts this? So I did some research and found some interesting interpretations. First, there's Ophelia's mad rant poem about a maid being seduced by her lover and coming to her bed, and then the sing song poem a bit later about not coming to her bed. So, okay, I guess I can concede that there's some indication that he slept with her, especially after he tells her to remember his sins in her prayers. If he's treated her honorably, why should she remember his sins, unless they sinned together? Okay, so now that we've established that she might have slept with him, could it possibly follow that she's pregnant? I found some compelling arguments to this point by Alex Epstein that I think are legitimate enough to state here. First, the flower meanings. Yes, Rue, that she gives herself, is a symbol of regret, but it's also a powerful abortive tool. If he's just denounced her, told her to go to a nunnery (which has been translated by scholars to mean whorehouse), killed her father, and then sent away to England, there's really no hope for their love. And if she's pregnant, the obvious solution is either an abortion or killing herself to save face. Hamlet has been away long enough at Wittenberg for her to know she's pregnant. Another hint at this way of thinking is in Act 2 Scene 2 when Hamlet is being his crazy self, he tells Polonius "Conception is a blessing, but as your daughter may conceive - friend look to't'." Then there's the fact that Gertrude is very specific when she details Ophelia's death later. It's possible that it's because she was actually there to witness it, approving of the only means Ophelia has left to keep her honour. Also, the heroine of The Rape of Lucrece kills herself after Tarquin rapes her to preserve her honour. So it's a theme Shakespeare has done before. These are just some of the points made to this idea. I think that it's very probable. And it clears up some of my questions. The only one it doesn't is when Hamlet first goes off on Ophelia. Like I said before, if he really loves her, would he be so harsh in his farce of insanity? And wouldn't he let her in on it? But he's really mean to her. The only information I could find on this is that some think that in some of the reprintings of the plays there is a lost stage direction which has Hamlet entering in on the conversation between Ophelia and her father and overhearing the fact that she's meant to spy on him. That makes sense, and it seems that most of the renditions of the play I've seen, interpret it this way. Otherwise, he's an ass for being so mean to her when she really didn't do anything. So this relationship between these two lovers has a lot of double meanings within their craziness. Interesting to ponder and discuss.

Overall, Hamlet is right there at the top with my favorites, but I'll reserve further judgment until I've read all of Shakespeare.

The first movie I saw was the one with Kenneth Branagh. I love him doing Shakespeare, he does it phenomenally. He's a brilliant actor anyway, and Shakespeare just brings this out in him. This movie is two disks and almost five hours long because I believe they do the whole play word for word, without changing anything. (I'm I remember the reading correctly) This is nice, because you really get to see how your reading was interpreted. Also, Kate Winslet as Ophelia is absolutely amazing! Her crazy rant was beautiful and I wished we could have seen her death. I really enjoyed those two together. Another wonderful bit about this movie is all the stars! Just some of the few that you see in here are Robin Williams, Charlton Heston, Jack Lemmon, Rufus Sewell, Gerard Depardieu, and Billy Crystal. And they are all excellent in their roles. If you have the time, to get a complete understanding of the play, I would recommend this rendition of the play. I loved it.

The next one I saw was Veggie Tales: Lyle the Kindly Viking King. Although Jimmy the Gourd is not as seasoned as Kenneth Branagh, his acting ability in the role he was given is outstanding. This version, entitled "Omelet", give new meaning to the phrase "2B or not 2B" (when playing Battleship), and "To Eat or not to Eat" when it comes to sharing the last eggs in the kingdom. Although it doesn't follow the play word for word, (probably because it's only 15 minutes long), it still adequately portrays the benefits of sharing, as is its intent. A lovely interpretation of Hamlet and I highly recommend it. (Especially for children and adults under 5 yrs old)

The next version I saw was the one starring Mel Gibson. He also did a superb job even though I didn't enjoy the overall movie as much. I absolutely love Helen Boham Carter and this movie was no exception to her highly acclaimed acting career, in fact, I was surprised how young she was and how good she was even at that age. They changed some of the lines, dumbing it down a little for the general public if I remember correctly, and changed some of the plot to make for a standard 2 hour length film. In the end, the acting was worth it, although the storyline was not.

The next take on Hamlet I saw was a little bit different. It was called "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead". A satire and new take on Hamlet, it was at parts, entertaining, boring, hilarious, and downright silly. In the end, I liked it. If you're looking for some new interpretations of Shakespeare to absorb, try this one out.
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Reading Progress

May 30, 2012 – Shelved
June 21, 2012 –
page 50
17.3% "loving it..."
June 22, 2012 –
page 150
51.9% "There's something rotten in the state of Denmark..."
June 22, 2012 –
page 225
77.85% "To be or not to be..."
Started Reading
June 23, 2012 – Finished Reading
June 28, 2012 – Shelved as: classics
January 13, 2023 – Shelved as: rory-gilmore

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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Jonathan Terrington I like the review very much so. Did you know that there's a train of Shakespearian thought that argues that the uncle may not have been the killer still and that the real murderer got away with the deed?

midnightfaerie interesting! i hadn't heard that theory! i have heard that there were actually 3 different hamlets originally and they weren't sure which was the right/final one, so they combined them all into "today's" hamlet. originally he was much more decisive and reacted quicker.

Jonathan Terrington It was mentioned in Sherlock Homes Was Wrong. Apparently the same writer wrote on how Hamlet was wrong but it's only available in French and not as a translated English version. Sadly I cannot read French.
I've heard there were many versions of the Shakespearian plays also. I had not heard that particular piece.
By the way in response to your question on the deal with Ophelia. It reads to me as if she and Hamlet are originally lovers then when he goes after the King he tries to keep her away by indicating he now hates her. It always seemed like he was possessed with trying to find his father's murderer.
Some people suggest that the whole ghost side of the story was intended as a metaphor for Hamlet's desire I believe. Which is interesting thing to pursue. I've always been fascinated by how Shakespeare's plays can be looked at in so many different perspectives in that way.

midnightfaerie that is interesting...i agree on the many different perspectives...it's one of the reasons i like him so much as well...

Charity Yoder LOVED this review. in high school, we didn't touch on nearly half of this stuff... which is sad because then you only get the one bias. it was all "ophelia either committed suicide on purpose on or it was a complete accident" now i think that' a complete waste. i think i'll reread it if i ever get the chance!

midnightfaerie Thanks Charity! I think this one has so many themes to expound on...it's a shame that some teachers only focus on a select few!

Charity Yoder i think she (my teacher) "tamed" it down a bit because it was high school. how come 18 yr olds in high school aren't allowed to get the full treatment but the same aged kids in college are expected "to deal with it because they're adults." seriously.
but anyways. there's a class i on Shakespeare that i can take if i want, and i think i will so i can appreciate Shakespeare and his floweriness a bit more =)

 Danielle The Book Huntress *Pluto is a Planet!* Great review, midnightfaerie. I loved your thoughts and processes as you worked through some of the things said and did by the characters.

midnightfaerie Thanks so much Lady D! I'm really enjoying my trek through Shakespeare.

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