Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Hamlet, part 1

First, if you need a refresher on the plot, I sure hope you'll check out this post summarizing Hamlet. that I put together last year. Of all the Shakespeare posts I put together, this is among my favorites.

One of the primary reasons I selected Hamlet to kick off this year's Brush Up Your Shakespeare Month, even though we covered it last year, is that I've seen two splendid interpretations of this play since then.

1. In November, I took my teenaged daughters with me to see Jude Law play the Danish prince on Broadway. To my great relief, both of the girls loved it. They followed the story with nary a problem, despite having refused to read or listen to anything I tried to provide them with ahead of time. I'm sure their attention was held in part by the dishy stars of the show, augmented in no small part because we were in the second row from the stage, and could therefore see every expression on the actors' faces quite clearly. We saw sweat fly when Law struck his forehead, we saw tears drip off Ophelia's chin, we saw spit fly from pretty much every character's mouth, and we could tell that Law as Hamlet really cried on at least two occasions, as did Horatio, played by Matt Ryan, there at the end. You can read more about the play in this post. I sincerely wish it were on film, so you could all see these terribly fine performances - Law was incandescent. You can see snippets of it in this short feature about the production, but boy, do I wish all of you could see Law's performance, and that of the rest of the company.

2. This spring in the U.S., and last fall in the U.K., the BBC/Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet starring David Tennant as the mournful Dane and Patrick Stewart in a dual role as Claudius and the ghost of Hamlet's father. (In the Jude Law production, Claudius was played by Kevin R. McNally, perhaps best known to audience members as Johnny Depp's first mate, Mr. Gibbs, in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.) The Tennant/Stewart version, which won raves when it was staged in London, was put on film and shown on television in the U.S. and U.K. The DVD is available, and you can bet I bought a copy as soon as it came out. This version is now widely available, including in Target stores, and it's not to be missed. The girls, who were perfectly willing to miss it, having seen the Broadway production, nonetheless found themselves pretty riveted by Tennant's performance. S found Tennant to be "weird-looking" at first, but after less than ten minutes of screen time, she was ready to profess him "totally hot." His Hamlet is quite a compelling character. And Patrick Stewart may be the evillest Claudius ever.

My other reason for posting about this play is that it simply will not leave me alone. I am haunted by lines from the play, and by thinking about the various characters - their situations and motivations, their conduct and meaning. And it's not just me, but it's poets I respect as well, including Eliot and Sandburg and more. I remain convinced that those who say one could spend a lifetime studying this play and never run out of material are correct.

So, now you have access to my prior summary of the play, as well as knowledge of what prompted me to post about it again. Tomorrow, more substantive posts on this particular topic!

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