From Goodreads: Hamlet is the story of the Prince of Denmark who learns of the death of his father at the hands of his uncle, Claudius. Claudius murders Hamlet’s father, his own brother, to take the throne of Denmark and to marry Hamlet’s widowed mother. Hamlet is sunk into a state of great despair as a result of discovering the murder of his father and the infidelity of his mother. Hamlet is torn between his great sadness and his desire for the revenge of his father’s murder.
Apparently I read Hamlet in high school. I also apparently went to see it with my class at a little theater somewhere, but my recollection of this is extremely vague and, as you can probably tell, didn’t impress me much. Of course, in high school there is so much drama and not enough time to really appreciate classic works, and I also don’t think I was mature enough to really understand anything going on within the text—nor did I care.
But that was then, and this is now. Over the holiday this year, I read Hamlet, thinking it was my first time ever, in preparation to teach it. I picked up a free copy for my Kindle and, in order to get the “play” experience, had my Kindle read it aloud to me as I followed along in my Folgers’ hardcover, annotating the text as I went. This isn’t very much fun, for those of you who haven’t tried it—don’t. But I did come across some very good stuff to talk about in class, such as the question of whether or not Hamlet was faking crazy, or really crazy, the treatment of women, etc… classic questions people have been analyzing for the last 400 years. But nothing really sunk in for me.
Then I went to school and began reading it aloud with my students. While I still think that actually seeing it performed would be the best way to learn and appreciate Shakespeare, I found that reading the text (two more times) aloud in class, listening to student questions, and asking some of my own, taught me a whole lot more about the text, and actually learned to enjoy it as well. Imagine that. I hope my students took away as much as I did from our class discussions…
Overall, I really like Hamlet. Yes, I walked into it griping and putting it off as long as possible—I really don’t like reading Shakespeare, only watching it—but it’s such a well written, cryptic play! Yes, the language is difficult and it really helps to have a version with translations, but it’s so well put together, with sonnets, soliloquies, murder, mayhem, saucy jokes… it’s just a great tragedy that I recommend others read, if they haven’t done so already. The characterization is superb, and though fictional, Shakespeare really knew his characters and where he wanted them to go. I wish he had written some novels as well… I bet those would be superb! Four stars.
I obtained my copies of this novel from school and from Amazon Kindle (free).