Why should you read "Hamlet"? - Iseult Gillespie
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Shakespeare’s use of bad timing and delayed action throughout the play suggests that the path to revenge is never straightforward. Although we are generally encouraged to sympathize with Hamlet, Shakespeare offers us two other characters who have different approaches to revenge: the invading prince of Norway Fortinbras, whose father was killed in battle with Denmark; and the determined Laertes, who arrives to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding his own father’s death. These focused figures heighten our fear that Hamlet’s schemes are spiraling out of control.
The story and characters of Hamlet have created a rich mine for screen adaptation and interpretation – from Laurence Olivier’s epic traditional take – see his “to be or not to be here” – to Disney’s The Lion King and the acclaimed adaptation by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, translated into English as The Bad Sleep Well. References to Hamlet’s language and plot are also threaded through pop culture, as this article explains.
Hamlet, of course, has a rich stage history – an overview of which can be found in this Royal Shakespeare Company piece. You can watch this documentary to learn about the joys and challenges of staging and interpreting Hamlet; then listen to this conversation amongst some of the actors who have recently played the moody prince. There is a long history of women playing Hamlet, too.
But title character is not the only one who provides a fascinating template for actors and a rich personal history for the audience. The character of Ophelia has been cause for particular debate among audiences, readers and critic – visit this page for an examination of what we can learn about fictionalized madness, gender, and changing conceptions of female sexuality, read this visual essay on some iconic depictions of Ophelia in art (find more on this topic here), and this personal essay on the author’s love of Ophelia as unlikely icon.
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