Hamlet Hamlet discussion


353 views
Should Hamlet be updated?

Comments Showing 1-50 of 67 (67 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

message 1: by Stephen (last edited Aug 25, 2013 07:38PM) (new) - added it

Stephen I think that we should all take a stab at rendering Hamlet in a more up to date style.

Here's my Suessical approach I like to call Green Eggs and Hamlet.

I do not like ova chartreuse anymore. I will not eat them in Elsinore.
I do not like the ghost of my dad. And mom sleeping with Uncle just makes me mad.
I do not like Ophelia like she likes me...
but don't worry... Neither a borrower nor a lender will I be.
I do not like spying college friends R&G, I altered their letter so they met the fate meant for me.
I do not like invading Norwegian kings. I do not like so many things.
Though I did like Yorrick, now he's dead.
Don't offer me Juevos verde con jamón instead!



Richard i'm sure that was fun to write but give me shakespeare any day

ethan hawke did an modernised version with bill murray a few years back, but using the original text.

updating a text like hamlet would be a bold and questionable move, like that sweedish guy who decided he would write a sequel to Catcher in the Rye and promptly had his backside served to him by Salingers lawyers


Lynsey Sandyboy wrote: "i'm sure that was fun to write but give me shakespeare any day

ethan hawke did an modernised version with bill murray a few years back, but using the original text.

updating a text like hamlet w..."


Well, but Shakespeare is in the public domain, so in all fairness, people can really do anything that they want with it. SHOULD they? I'd say it's completely within their right. It just goes to show how Shakespeare, hundreds of years later, is so deeply ingrained into art and culture, that people are still doing modern takes or interpretations of it. There was a recently stylized modernization of a Shakespeare play put to film...can't remember if it was 'Much Ado About Nothing' or what, but I heard good things.

By the way, the poem's cute, but shouldn't it be spelled 'huevos'?


Richard Much Ado still runs with the original text. But yeah, it is meant to be very good and likely better than the Brannagh adaptation in the 1990's


Eric In the UK there was an enterprising publisher who published a series called Shakespeare Made Easy. They have the original text on one page and a modern version on the facing page. Ideal when the original seems obscure. The publisher was Hutchinson; not sure if they are still in print.


message 6: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken There should not be an update where one is unnecessary. Shakespeare needs no "update" as it is still relevant today in the original text. I look down upon "lowering the bar" for readers to digest something as essential as Shakespeare.


pink angel While I do not feel their should be an "update" I can not however disagree that their is a need of one. I understood and enjoyed the original text in all it's glory. It is my favorite of all of the Shakespearian plays. However if a modern update would allow others who do not fully understand or even care for Shakespeare to enjoy it as I have, then I could not see a reason for their not to be one. Almost ever writer will tell you the three reasons why they write, 1 themselves- to express ideas 2 others- simple joy of sharing stories 3 fate- some unknown force compels them to. Although I cannot speak for Shakespeare, I think he as a writer and a performer would want his work to be understood, enjoyed, and shared. The only thing we should be concerned with is an accurate to close translation, we don't want to cheapen the work just target a different audience with the same product, the commercials cannot be the same. I don't think it lowers the bar for readers, if you like the original read the original, if you like the modern one read the modern one. Heck read them both and cross reference if you want to. the goal shouldn't be to limit knowledge, but teach it so everyone can learn and lets face it, we do not all learn the same way, and one way is not necessarily better than the other. However it is the thought or message the works show that should be preserved. "We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far".
~Swami Vivekananda
Couldn't have said it better myself.


message 8: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken Dude or Miss, please check out "their/there/they're". Your post was difficult to read. Maybe English isn't your first language, in which case I am splitting hairs.

The problem with a modern version is promotion. A modern version is not what Shakespeare wrote. You could argue that a modern version is akin to a "Translation". I'd like to see that argument, actually.

You can't succeed in defending it as an "update". There are no "updates" of other classic works, such as Macchiavelli's The Prince, or Camus The Stranger. There aren't modern updates of Dante's Inferno, or TH White's Once and Future King. The only book I can call immediately to mind which has "updates" is The Bible. Arguably a work of fiction, or nonfiction. Nothing in fiction works with an update. Only translations.

It's not a question of making Shakespeare accessible. There is nothing wrong with publishing books that analyze and explain in modern language, the works of classics. However, there is inherently a problem with appropriating the original text and bastardizing it for a new audience, robbing it of all the poetry that it was constructed with.

So yes, read the modern text and the original text. But do NOT advocate for publishing the modern text as a valid edition of the original work. It must be construed and treated completely separately.


message 9: by Stephen (last edited Sep 20, 2013 03:05PM) (new) - added it

Stephen Kenneth wrote: "Dude or Miss, please check out "their/there/they're"...."

Agreed, grammar mistakes like that did make an otherwise cogent argument carry less weight.

There are no "updates" of other classic works...
I know that I'm taking you out of context but I would point out that A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley is a very successful update of the Lear story.

West Side Story was a very successful update of Romeo and Juliet and there are others.

Good writing and good theater is sturdy enough to accommodate a certain amount of remodeling. Some of the poetry may be lost but often new poetry is found or new audiences allowed to kindle an interest in things that they might otherwise ignore.

I know that I was more interested in exploring Jane Austen's works after seeing the movie version of Sense & Sensibility even though it's not the greatest version of the story.

Kenneth Brannaugh took some liberties with his Henry V, incorporating parts of Henry IV as well to make the story more accessible/understandable. I think that it worked very well.

David Levithan's book/screenplay Ten Things I Hate about You updated The Taming of the Shrew quite effectively.

Right now I'm enjoying the television series Elementary which does an update on the Sherlock Holmes character.

As to whether or not it's appropriate to update Shakespeare...

The Two Noble Kinsmen, is a play that most scholars attribute to William Shakespeare AND John Fletcher. The original plot of the story though is attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer

For that matter scholars are always arguing over which earlier works Shakespeare plundered for his characters and plots. e.g. The Merchant of Venice certainly contains many of the story elements of the 14th-century tale Il Pecorone by Giovanni Fiorentino

Perhaps turnabout is fair play.


message 10: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken Fair points here.

What I want to draw attention to is that in each of the above cases, the modern version is not meant to replace the original - just put a new spin on it. I think that's fine.

To me, it is as if replacing the Eiffel Tower with a hologram is suggested, that I get anxious. Surely, the 'modern' version could appeal to a new demographic. It could do things the original can't. But something is decidedly lost in the replacing. If, however, the original remains and a holographic exhibit is erected on a separate site, with a new and individual or tributary name, the value and message of the original remains and is augmented by the modern.


Daniel J. Nickolas I would even go so far as to argue that the “modernized” versions listed above, are their own independent stories that were simply influenced by Shakespeare. Ten Things I Hate about You is not really the Taming of the Shrew; West Side Story is not really Romeo and Juliet.

Shakespeare actually borrowed heavily from earlier works. Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, among many other things, explore the fallacies of the morality plays (look into it, it's very interesting). He also was inspired by many earlier works; references to Ovid are fairly frequent, but Shakespeare never retold any of Ovid’s tales, save the Pyramus and Thisbe play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


message 12: by Kathy (new) - rated it 1 star

Kathy It is updated every time it is shown on the stage. Every portrayal is different. Every producer or director sees it differently and then the actors chosen add more.

Can there ever be a more changed "Hamlet" than that movie (I can't remember the name) that was an interpretation of Hamlet in current times, but using the same language as Shakespeare's play? Boy was that a different intrepretation!!!

So it is actually rewritten every time a new production takes shape. And of course the productions are either reaching for the ideal example of the original play, or trying to step so far out to be different and unique.

And then there is the comment made by Felix. Even Shakespeare drew from stories to date for some of his ideas.


message 13: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken That is apologetics, Kathy.
The original text remains the same and it should be preserved as such. Of course each production differs. The source however remains. Consider in music the cover song. Many different versions. Some arguably better than the original. Yet the original is still untouchable, unreworkable, sacrilege to update. It is one thing to cover an Elvis song. Another to perform and present your version as the original. No one would dare suggest his music needs updating. It is implicitly understood that modern covers pay homage to the original but are separate entities, appealing to a modern audience but never replacing the original.


message 14: by Kathy (new) - rated it 1 star

Kathy Kenneth wrote: "That is apologetics, Kathy.
The original text remains the same and it should be preserved as such. Of course each production differs. The source however remains. Consider in music the cover song. ..."

Of course. I would not think of anyone messing with the original play. Of course unless we can read Olde English, probably have not read the original text. I know I read part of it in what was I think Middle English (or some such) and I missed most of.

I am always leery of "translations" as no matter what something is lost. So what we see today is probably mostly what was written, but probably wrong here and there in tiny little bits.

And bottom line, anyone can sit down and "rewrite" Shakespeare. That does not make him or the work Shakespeare. All these "versions" we see on stage and screen are only interpretations.

I would like to be Marilyn Monroe, but sadly even if I post her picture next to my name on Facebook.....Ain't happening.


message 15: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken Well said, agreed.

I think the key (if there is one) to reading ye Olde English is to imagine (or actually) read it aloud. There is so much lost in the odd spellings before the language became formalized. There are also odd idioms that we have to resort to context to suss out unless we've got the historically informed knowledge as to what they mean. It's certainly a challenge and not light reading.


Lesley Arrowsmith It's not written in Olde English - it's written in Early Modern English. Olde English gets you into Chaucer and Piers Plowman territory, and Gawain and the Green Knight, where you really do need a crib sheet to help you through. Like Kenneth says, it helps to read it aloud.


message 17: by Kathy (new) - rated it 1 star

Kathy Lesley wrote: "It's not written in Olde English - it's written in Early Modern English. Olde English gets you into Chaucer and Piers Plowman territory, and Gawain and the Green Knight, where you really do need a..."
Thanks. It is great advice from you and Kenneth. I never tried reading it aloud. One thing that always stumps me, in pretty much any language, is the street language and the regional dialects. Even when I read English authors (let's not even talk about Scotland!) I find that there are often terms that would only be understandable to someone from that part of England. But I check them out just so I will know what they mean next time.

And frankly I have some trouble understanding Chaucer in the current readable version. Although I have read some of his work and like it.


message 18: by Stephen (new) - added it

Stephen Lesley wrote: "It's not written in Olde English - it's written in Early Modern English. Olde English gets you into Chaucer and Piers Plowman territory, and Gawain and the Green Knight, where you really do need a crib sheet..."

Not to mention Beowulf! Although I loved the TV series West Wing when it was on TV, the one thing that always bugged be was the episode where Jed Bartlett asked Donna's teacher if when she'd taught Beowulf she'd taught it in the original Middle English


message 19: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken Lesley's right, I was too hasty in just lumping it in with other, accurately Old English simply because of the common difficulty of parsing that kind of writing by modern audiences.

I loved Chaucer, but Beowulf was so foreign. I suppose as the first important work in the English language, it would serve as a transition piece. I find that interesting.


message 20: by Stephen (new) - added it

Stephen As to the original Hamlet question....

If you haven't yet you really should hear this song based on the play... (Cheer Up Hamlet)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoZwIB...


Patrick Lesley wrote: "It's not written in Olde English - it's written in Early Modern English. Olde English gets you into Chaucer and Piers Plowman territory, and Gawain and the Green Knight, where you really do need a..."

Chaucer wrote in Middle English, which is still technically English. Old English (Auld Englisc) is indeed considered a different language entirely and more or less ended with the Norman conquest of 1066.


message 22: by Kathy (new) - rated it 1 star

Kathy Patrick wrote: "Lesley wrote: "It's not written in Olde English - it's written in Early Modern English. Olde English gets you into Chaucer and Piers Plowman territory, and Gawain and the Green Knight, where you r..."

It has been so very long since I was in college, that perhaps there have been changes in the names. I just remember checking out Chaucer in what the professor called Old English and then looking at something (might have been Shakespeare) in what he referred to as Middle Engish. It is possible that he felt at the time that we were too dense to understand all the terms used in these notes. So he simplified.


Becky Vitelli Why ask?


message 24: by P (new) - rated it 5 stars

P They already did. It was called Hamlet 2, starring Steve Coogan, and it was incredible.


Peter Whitaker “I think that we should all take a stab at rendering Hamlet in a more up to date style.”

Personally I do not think that a ‘more up to date style’ would add anything to the substance of the play. I know that there are people who cannot be bothered to learn the language of Shakespeare’s time but that is their choice and I see no reason to pander to laziness.


message 26: by Jen (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jen What's wrong with these people who want to alter other author's work just because they don't understand it. If you don't read the works as he wrote them, you miss the beauty, genius and wit of Shakespeare. It's a shame these works aren't protected from authors who have nothing better to do. Have these contemporary authors no imagination of their own that they have to rely on great author's work and then arrogantly alter them to suit their agenda? Are modern day readers incapable of pushing themselves to learn the beauty of Shakespeare that dumbed-down versions are the order of the day.

There are millions of books out there, read one of those if you don't get Shakespeare - just leave the Bard alone.

Sorry, I adore Shakespeare and this is one of my pet hates - rant over.


message 27: by Lucy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lucy Cyril I don't think that Hamlet should be updated. I mean, the thing in this is to read de classic and understan the epoc in where they live, the things that they had to live and how they express and react to that. To update a classic is a crime, no legally but morally. No book should be update, 'cause, what more beautiful that read the original and be transported to that epoc? and if you don't understand all that Shakespeare says, try to read more slowly and carefully, because his books are not from a fast reading.
I'm agree with Jem,if you don't read the works as he wrote them, you miss the beauty, genius and wit of Shakespeare.
The updaters of books like this are to lazy people who doesn't want to think all that he wrote.


Susie Schroeder Kathy wrote: "It is updated every time it is shown on the stage. Every portrayal is different. Every producer or director sees it differently and then the actors chosen add more.

Can there ever be a more ch..."
I fully agree with this. Modern dress Shakespeare is no slur on the original, it is just another spin on the story. As Harold Bloom wrote, "We are all equally standing listening through the wall at Elsinore." Hamlet is such a complex play that everyone who reads it thoughtfully will come away with a different view.

I a


message 29: by Mkfs (last edited May 21, 2014 06:34PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mkfs Stephen wrote: "The Two Noble Kinsmen, is a play that most scholars attribute to William Shakespeare AND John Fletcher. The original plot of the story though is attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer"

Even Hamlet had a predecessor in the Danish legend of Amleth.

With recycled narratives like this, you have to ask what it is about Hamlet that is specifically Shakespearean. There can really only be two answers: the depth of character study (which can be retained in a 'modernized' version), and the beauty of the language (which cannot). Is it Hamlet without the soliloquy?


Also, props to Pat (#24) for Hamlet 2, which answers the question, "How do you write a sequel to a story in which everyone dies?"


Daniel J. Nickolas Mkfs wrote: "Also, props to Pat (#24) for Hamlet 2"

Technically, the first "sequel" to Hamlet was the 1991 play Fortinbras by Lee Blessing.


message 31: by Mkfs (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mkfs Felix J. wrote: "Technically, the first "sequel" to Hamlet was the 1991 play Fortinbras by Lee Blessing."


The play includes almost every character from Hamlet returning as a ghost.

Wow, and I thought the time-travelling Jesus was a cop-out...


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

Updated? Well, as a play by Shakespeare it's DATED and that's as it should be. After all, the world didn't start with us ...


Laura Herzlos I understand the position expressed by Kenneth and others. I first read Hamlet as a child -translated to my native language- and loved it ever since. I have never been able to read it in English, sadly.
When possible, I prefer to read any books in the authors' original languages and avoid translations. My "current" English is very acceptable (at least according to my last TOEFL score), but not nearly enough for Shakespeare. In my case... I have to choose between reading it in English and understanding half of it or reading a translation and missing the richness of the original text. The advice of reading aloud may work, because I do understand most of the text when I hear it (movies or theatre), even though I'm not sure that I want to 'hear' Laertes with my own voice, hahaha.


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

Hmm. I don't know. I adhere somewhat to the concept that we know where we are by knowing where we've been, that we judge the music we make in the present by the music made in the past. Laertes says in Act I, apropos of growing old, as certainly this play chronologically is, "Think it no more.
For nature crescent does not grow alone
In thews and bulk; but as this temple waxes,
The inward service of the mind and soul
Grows wide withal." So I'm thinking, perhaps as the script of the play, this temple, waxes in years, perhaps it provides an even greater space to service our minds and souls. What can be touched, or even observed, as the scientists like to point out, without effecting change, even unintended change? Who would update it without an agenda, without a point of view? I would suggest that the language be left alone, and the staging reconsidered, which has certainly been done. Perhaps it will seem inaccessible linguistically, to some, but that understanding may be something to strive for, to learn from, and to use as a springboard into the future? Just a thought. Just a thought.


message 35: by Mary (new) - rated it 1 star

Mary I don't care. I didn't like and I gave it one star.


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

Good for you, Mary. Much better reaction to disappointment than throwing yourself in the river!


Nicholas Bruce Why? Because we struggle with verse? Because we stumble over a few hundred words that have gone out of style? Because we struggle with paying attention to punctuation and grammar? I think we just need to pay attention in English class and we need better English education programming in school.

That being said. IF elizabethan speech is spoken properly (paying attention to meter, inflection, hitting the consonants and vowels and the ALL important punctuation and meter) there is no need to update because our version of english is still compliant with elizabethan. The key is it needs to be spoken by a proficient reader who is conscious of those facets. Our version of english is heavily reliant on the descriptive nature of prose. We lack the ear for verse therein missing the strength, power and subtlety of emotional content bound within his crafted verse.

The key is that Shakespeare (and his contemporaries) wrote in Iambic Pentameter for a reason. A reason bound by need. His actors were not the highly trained and educated. They needed the writing to be "fool proof". Iambic P when spoken properly as Will inclines (Speak the speech I pray thee) automatically forces the actor to portray the correct emotions.

Ok, I am off my soap box.


message 38: by Renee E (last edited Jul 03, 2014 08:11AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Renee E Felix J. wrote: "Mkfs wrote: "Also, props to Pat (#24) for Hamlet 2"

Technically, the first "sequel" to Hamlet was the 1991 play Fortinbras by Lee Blessing."


Not a sequel, but a parallel: Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

Translations, interpretations and updated versions take nothing away from the originals, and if encountering them inspires someone to tackle the original, isn't that a worthy outcome? Even if a reader (or viewer) never goes to the original they've been exposed to the themes and characters and a marker of western thought and civilization.

It's like when Ted Turner colorized all those old movies. Some were up in arms, but it opened them to a new era of viewers, and it's not like the originals were destroyed or even compromised in the process.


message 39: by Adriano (last edited Jul 03, 2014 08:24AM) (new) - added it

Adriano Bulla I'll start with from the premise that imitation is the best form of flattery (platitude, I know)... I think parodying Hamlet is a beautiful act. This said, I don't think the word 'updating' is what I'd subscribe to. I must say that this is my all-time favourite play; I personally think it's the best play ever written. I adore it. However, every time a play moves from text to performance, there needs be a shift from the original text, intentional or not. Even the most 'loyal' and 'faithful' performances of a play must by nature have a shift from the original.

As to changing the Bard's own words... I am not a fan of this. Not at all. I have read the sentences paraphrased at the beginning. Whilst I enjoyed the exercise, and see its validity... Shakespeare's use of language is in a league of its own. I argued somewhere (who knows where?), for example, on how the subtlety that the line 'To be or not to be...' Is not a pentameter, but a hendecasyllable and how this can cast a totally new meaning onto the famous soliloquy (especially in few of the twice repeated, 'Time is out of joint.') what Shakespeare does is akin of what we find in Metaphysical Poets, where even a comma can change the whole perception of the universe expressed in a poem. Changing the words of the Bard for the imperative that times have changed and we speak differently is, in my humble view, at high risk of maiming the beauty and complexity of his words... Where he invites us to create a tapestry of images, where he invites us to read meanings that appear through the translucence of his words, how far can a translator, however noble the intent of the translation, work? The risk if losing out is almost a certainty, as much a certainty as saying that on the morrow, dogs will still bark and not miaow, though everything is possible....

There is also a form of hubris in modern Mankind which I object to on ethical and ideological bases: we believe we are the centre of the universe, much more so than how, allegedly, Medieval people believed (not true, God was). What I mean by this is that we regard ourselves as the final product of our culture, as the ones to which all the roads of civilisation lead. No, we are not Rome, the next generation, on the most basic level of argument, may feel the same, that makes us a step in the evolution of Mankind, not the final goal. The idea that everything should be adapted to our perceptive ways is, in my opinion, misguided, ethically dangerous and reductive. We should have the humility to try to understand those before us in their own right, not as a part of the process that led to us. If there had been greater playwrights than Shakespeare, then we might even have a claim (still misguided) in reading him as 'part of the process', but as the very reality of our culture shows us that the apexes of our civilisation in different areas have occurred at different times, Shakespeare being one of them, this turns a misguided argument into hubris.


message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

Hamlet is a mystery and best left mysterious.


message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

Agree!


message 42: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark Elswick Updated? NO! When it was redone w/Mel Gipson & Glen Close, they topped out. Why add something tragic? That version did it justice.


Sally Atwell Williams Absolutely not!!!


message 44: by Renee E (last edited Jan 03, 2015 08:09PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Renee E It speaks to Shakespeare's genius grasp of the elemental human nature that his works DO lend themselves easily to translation to other times and other locales.

Do they need it?

No, not at all, but the interpretations do nothing to diminish the original, and they can be inspired, as well as piquing curiosity about the originals.


message 45: by Karen (new)

Karen Stephen wrote: "I think that we should all take a stab at rendering Hamlet in a more up to date style.

Here's my Suessical approach I like to call Green Eggs and Hamlet.

I do not like ova chartreuse anymore. I ..."


This is good- one of my favorite songwriters, Richard Thompson, wrote and performs sometimes his 3 minute version of Hamlet- it's very funny.


message 46: by Karen (new)

Karen Renee wrote;
"Translations, interpretations and updated versions take nothing away from the originals, and if encountering them inspires someone to tackle the original, isn't that a worthy outcome? Even if a reader (or viewer) never goes to the original they've been exposed to the themes and characters and a marker of western thought and civilization.

It's like when Ted Turner colorized all those old movies. Some were up in arms, but it opened them to a new era of viewers, and it's not like the originals were destroyed or even compromised in the process."

Good point Renee! Especially true for kids who need the exposure.


Renee E Karen wrote: "... This is good- one of my favorite songwriters, Richard Thompson, wrote and performs sometimes his 3 minute version of Hamlet- it's very funny.
"


I've always like Robin Williams' "Midsummer Night's Meltdown." :D


message 48: by Stephen (new) - added it

Stephen Also true classics provide a fertile jumping off ground for new stories and movies. From "West Side Story" (a retelling of the Romeo & Juliet story) to Clueless (A retelling of Jane Austen's Emma) even Jane Slayre: The Literary Classic with a Blood-Sucking Twist, Never let aesthetics (or the truth) stand in the way of a good story!


Philip Lee While he doesn't answer this question directly, I think what Derek Jacobi says about any actor - even female - being able to take on the part of Hamlet implies that the play constantly updates itself.

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/vide...

I saw Jacobi in one of the two 1970's productions he mentions in this interview (at London's Old Vic theatre, 1978). In comparison, Mel Gibson's fussy portrayal is just a rehash of his Fletcher Christian.


Renee E Stephen wrote: "Also true classics provide a fertile jumping off ground for new stories and movies. From "West Side Story" (a retelling of the Romeo & Juliet story) to Clueless (A retelling of Jane Austen's Emma) ..."

Have you watched "Ten Things I Hate About You?"


« previous 1
back to top