Monday, February 27, 2023

Recent reading: "Hamlet"

I have three classes this semester and they're going to involve a lot of reading, writing, and viewing. First up, Hamlet for my Shakespeare class.

Hamlet is the story of a Danish prince charged by the ghost of his father to avenge the late king's murder. The ghost reveals that he was poisoned by his brother, who then married the widowed queen and assumed the throne. Unfortunately, Hamlet isn't quite up to the task. Despite the fact that the ghost is crystal clear about his untimely death and desire for revenge, Hamlet finds ways to delay the unpleasant act, feigning madness to the distress of all around him, staging a play for the court that features the late king's murder, and even overhearing his uncle, King Claudius, confessing his sin. And yet he finds reason after reason to delay avenging his father. In the process, he drags pretty much everyone around him down the drain with him. 
This being a Shakespearean tragedy, no one will come out unscathed. Hamlet's mad prince act drives his beloved Ophelia into her own genuine madness, resulting in her death. Claudius will eventually pay the price, but so will almost everyone else in the story

For the class, we are covering one of Shakespeare's plays every two weeks and part of the work is not only reading the plays, but viewing a film version. We were given the choice of various Hamlets and of course, I chose Laurence Olivier's version. This 1948 film won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Actor for Olivier, although he lost Best Director to John Huston for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. It was interesting reading along while I watched because Olivier made some pretty bold choices. He rearranged some scenes, edited the dialogue, and completely eliminated the characters of Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Fortinbras, and the thing still ran 2-1/2 hours. It was really good, though. Olivier's performance was spectacular. He did a lot of Shakespeare on stage and it must have been unbelievable to see him live.
This week, a research paper on Hamlet. Next up: Richard III!

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