Archive for the Hamlet Category

Hamlet’s Day Off

Posted in Hamlet, Performance with tags , , on 2014/03/21 by mattermind

Ferris Bueller

It will be awhile until I get to Hamlet. But performances, of course, are going on all the time.

I’m drawn to a new interpretation with an 80’s twist…or, as the article calls it, “Shakespeare meets John Hughes.”

I’m a big fan of everything Mr. Hughes ever did. He had a magic touch for capturing contemporary teen angst in a way most adults either quickly forget or never understood to begin with.

The angsty teen? Hamlet. The jock? Laertes. The waifish wallflower? Ophelia.

I’m not quite sure about bringing that same sensibility to a play with such heavy ethical and metaphysical overtones as Hamlet. Then again, Shakespeare has already been subjected to every permutation under the sun and somehow managed to survive. He, like everyone who actually lived through the 80’s, will humbly move on.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that each generation fuses its own iconic era with the evergreen qualities of Shakespeare. I chuckle aloud imagining his plays filtered through such 80’s classics as Say Anything, The Breakfast Club and Footloose.

Only one of these was created by the genius of John Hughes. But there really was a certain innocence and idealism to that decade which has long since given way to a hip, ironic, jaded sensibility.

The world is much too with us, as another famous poet once said. I would love to experience what Shakespeare looks and sounds like through Mr. Hughes’ heartfelt, iconic point of view.

For more info and a fun read on this version of Hamlet, click HERE.

London’s Globe Theatre Is Bringing Shakespeare To North Korea

Posted in Hamlet, Performance on 2014/03/17 by mattermind

Hamlet for Babies

Posted in Hamlet, YouTube with tags , on 2010/02/10 by mattermind

“To be or not to be… that is the question.”


Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead

Posted in Hamlet with tags on 2010/01/25 by mattermind

That has to be the best title I’ve heard in a lonnnnng time. The idea for a movie… not so much.

Who else but the purveyors of MTV to bring you this fine, high-quality entertainment for your (cough) enjoyment.


In the midst of the 2010 Sundance and Slamdance film festivals we’ve got good news regarding a film that premiered in Park City last year. Jordan Galland’s vampire movie “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead,” which has been described as a cross between Terry Gilliam, Woody Allen and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” has finally been picked up for distribution, according to Variety. Indican Pictures scored the rights, and currently plans to release the comedy in theaters on April 16 of this year.

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There Are More Plays than Are Dreamt of in Your Playbook, Chilly

Posted in Hamlet with tags on 2010/01/25 by mattermind

You’ve probably had enough of football — most of you, anyway. But I will post this and then get off the subject, just to prove that I wasn’t the only one thinking of Shakespeare in regards to the career of Brett Favre. But Hamlet? Um… I dunno.

(“Stratford-Upon-Kiln, Mississippi” was my alternate headline.)

Brett Favre: the Hero Without the Happy Ending

By John Feinstein
Monday, January 25, 2010

Perhaps the best way to describe the football career of Brett Favre is to say that he has come to embody Hamlet, Shakespeare’s greatest and most famous character.

There is no doubting that Favre is heroic. That was never more evident than in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s NFC Championship game, when he hobbled in and out of the Minnesota Vikings’ huddle but somehow managed to keep back-pedaling and scrambling away from pass rushers to throw laser beam passes while getting knocked down by the New Orleans Saints again and again.

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Calling Dr. Freud

Posted in Hamlet, Movie Reviews with tags , , , on 2010/01/22 by mattermind

Glenn Close is nine years older than Mel Gibson, give or take a few months. (Shhh — don’t tell her I said that.) This span of not even a decade makes them an odd pairing to be cast as mother and son.

What in tarnation possesses older men to insist on playing Hamlet?

That said, he hits the ball way out of the park in this version. Many a moment took my breath away. It’s a pure pleasure to watch from start to finish. But, me being me, there are still a few aspects with which I’d like to quibble.

First: I’m not terribly fond of how Helena Bonham Carter played Ophelia. Fine actress, no doubt. But her reading robbed the girl of a great measure of her innocence. She seemed far too knowing, far too insightful into Hamlet’s behavior than the role warrants.

Second: Most of the abridgements were handled smoothly, and didn’t call too much attention to their absence. Gone again, understanably, is the outer doubling with Fortinbras and the Norwegians. To the good, we have Rosencrantz and Guildenstern back, who were notably absent from Olivier’s. But I take umbrage at how the burial scene was mangled. This, I believe, is more than a quibble. Watching it, I even got angry.

Here’s why: Laertes’s actions are in part driven by the cold-heartedness of the Priest, who insists that Ophelia did not deserve a Christian burial, and indeed, was only receiving anything more than a pauper’s burial because of her connections. Laertes, in reply, defends his sister’s purity and honor, saying she’ll be among the angels singing in heaven while he rots away in hell. It’s powerful stuff.

Maybe Mel didn’t like it because he’s a devout Cathlolic. But the tone of the scene turns wrong from the moment the funeral procession comes in singing a requiem. The Priest’s lines state specifically that she didn’t get one because she didn’t deserve one, at least according to the letter of the law.

Shakespeare indicates that there is stealth to the procession, that it has to occur under a cloak of secrecy due to the circumstances. Yet in they come, this long freight train of mourners, singing away.

Laertes does not jump into the grave. And his passionate words are not what motivate Hamlet to reveal himself in a bit of a pissy who-loved-her-more sort of a duel. Leaping into the grave and grappling in the midst of a burial — yeah, that’s over the top. But it also foreshadows the duel ahead and the ever-spiraling tragedy engulfing them. It’s one of my favorite moments of the play, and this telling did not do it justice.

The finale, however, was a huge improvement over Olivier’s — with one exception. The swordfight, the death of the King, Hamlet’s final speech… these were all superlative and fitting. But whoa whoa whoa, I did not like the alternative reading of the Queen’s innocent victimhood with the poisoned wine. It’s a viable option and it deserves credence. But it sounds a sour note in my heart.

Gertrude’s pivotal moment occured just prior, when Hamlet serves as a mirror to repent and change her ways. That she does so, we can see in her tenderness for Ophelia, her devotion to her son, and (we can only interpolate) her withdrawl of affections for the King.

It would in part explain why Claudius puts up such faint-hearted resistence when she takes the cup to drink. But then again, he’s such a foul and corrupted man at this point, all he really cares about is saving his own skin.

I’m not saying that there’s definitive proof in the text for either reading. Certainly a case can be made for Gertrude’s shock and surprise at the level of treachery uncovered by her own unwitting demise. There is poetic justice in her falling victim to her own husband’s trickery.

But I guess what I miss is her own immolation as a form of ultimate repentence. That’s the note that feels more right in Olivier’s telling. First, she suspects that Claudius is up to no good yet again. Second, she willingly intercepts the cup and sacrifices herself, in her mind with the hope of saving her son.

Take that away, she becomes yet another pawn in the villainy.

But maybe that’s just me.

I recommend both Zefirelli (Gibson) and Olivier DVDs very highly. If I protest, I do protest too much. I am cruel only to be kind.

Hamlet Marathon on TNT

Posted in Hamlet, Movie Reviews with tags , , , on 2010/01/22 by mattermind

Actually, no.

In case you hadn’t guessed, that’s an obscure reference to one of my favorite lines from Alan Ball’s American Beauty. With it, Lester expresses his displeasure at being dragged to a high school basketball game to watch his daughter cheer. He’s irritated because the act feels obligatory, plus there’s a Bond marathon on TNT.

And then his world went blonde.

I mention this because I’m in the midst of catching up on a pair of Hamlet movies so I don’t get yelled at for clogging up the Netflix queue.

I watched the Olivier version last night. My initial reaction can best be summed up by this factoid from Wikipedia:

Eileen Herlie, who plays Hamlet’s mother, was 28 years old when the movie was filmed. Olivier, who plays her son, was 41.


Hamlet, um, is a student at the University of Wittemburg, people… What’s this creepy fascination to play him so old? I mean, I realize it’s a great part and all but c’mon!

Aside from the obvious age-related casting issues, I liked this filmed version all-in-all. The castle looked a wee bit too Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but then hey, it’s a play with a ghost. I’m down with that.

But what I didn’t like, however, was how the final act played out.

The King’s murder seemed like an afterthought, hardly worthy of a mention. The gory multiple stabbings were decidedly not indicated by Shakespeare’s direction.

Hamlet did not force Claudius to drink from the same cup as his mother. We don’t even get to see the reactions of either Hamlet or the King as all the underhandedness is finally avenged.

Olivier directed it. I praise him for his emphasis on the Queen, bringing out her intential act of what suggests suicide.

But I fault Olivier for staging a flat finale that seemed to be more about Hamlet’s demise and, incidentally, his last soliloquy.

My favorite casting in this filmed version was of Laertes. Unlike Horatio, who was preposterously too old as well and looked a bit like a Latin Lothario; and Ophelia, who seemed a little too blonde for my tastes.

The ghost, it should be mentioned, was superbly done.

The Mel Gibson version “airs” tonight.