It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything for my blog “Masterpieces”, but since DU is currently on its six week winter break, I have a few new posts to publish for the Clarion.
My last post was published midsummer and I wrote about the film “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”. I’ll move in a different direction this time.
It’s only appropriate that in a blog on literary and visual masterpieces that I discuss at least some of the work of William Shakespeare.
Now, that name may trigger cringes from both adults who have dismissed the indecipherable texts and from young people with painful memories of high school English classes. Hear me out, though, because Shakespeare really is fascinating—you just have to approach it in the right way.
I’m writing about “The Tragedy of Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark,” which, like other works I’ve already posted about, I first encountered in high school.
Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, meets the ghost of his recently deceased father, the King.
The ghost warns that the new king, Claudius, is the man who killed Hamlet’s father and Hamlet swears that he will avenge the death of his father.
The play, one of Shakespeare’s longest, carries out five acts filled with murder, a play within a play, love and plenty of betrayal.
I mentioned that you have to approach Shakespeare in the right way.
It’s a pretty tall order to inspire people to read Shakespeare during their school breaks, but it doesn’t have to be a challenge. This applies to all literature, but especially Shakespeare: don’t approach it as an academic work or a puzzle to solve (unless of course you want to study and analyze it.
Approach Shakespeare as if it’s any other book; read through it at a mostly normal pace and don’t get tripped up by the language and nuances that you don’t understand. The play is in English, after all, and there’s nothing to stop you from reading “Hamlet” if you so desire. (Besides, if you’re just reading for fun and find yourself really stuck or confused, just let the internet do its job.)
After reading “Hamlet”, I recommend trying to find a theater performing it live.
All plays are meant to be seen and experienced, so seeing “Hamlet” (or any other Shakespeare play, for that matter), would be a great opportunity.
“Hamlet” is particularly interesting because there are multiple spin-off plays inspired by the original. A comedy by Tom Stoppard, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”, is a story inspired by minor characters in Hamlet.
The DU Department of Theatre performed another spin-off during the spring quarter of 2016 called “Hamletmachine,” which was written by Heiner Müller. This version is basically an incredibly strange postmodernist adaptation of “Hamlet”.
Many cities do Shakespeare festivals annually, especially in the summer months, so find something near you. For my DU friends, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival happens every summer near the University of Colorado-Boulder campus. For my New York friends, there are often events in Rochester and other cities nearby.
Feel free to also find a movie adaptation of “Hamlet”. There are many to choose from, including versions starring Kenneth Branagh, Mel Gibson, Ethan Hawke, Laurence Olivier, or David Tennant as Prince Hamlet.
Thanks for reading, and happy Shakespearing!
Great Quotation: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”
- William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”