Monday, August 8, 2016

Hamlet - Shakespeare

I blogged about Hamlet, all the way back in Year One here

I've been stuck on how exactly to blog about 'Hamlet' since I don't know what else to say about it.  After reading it again, I'm still struck by how ambiguous the evidence is that Hamlet is asked to work with.  He's emotionally wrenched over the death of his father and the betrayal of his mother.  A figure appears to him (and him only!) and asks him to kill the king out of revenge.  We don't know if this is real or a figment of his imagination.  We don't know if Hamlet's actions are madness or him pretending to be mad.
We do (eventually) find out that Claudius, the new king, is indeed guilty of murder and I can't help but wonder if that helps the story or not.  We never find out if Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, is complicit or not.  We see little of what passes between Hamlet and Ophelia.  Their relationship comes to us through the twisted lens of Ophelia's father, Polonius.  To an extraordinary extent, 'Hamlet' asks us to fill in the gaps of what is happening.

A few years back, I ran across a story of someone who reads 'Hamlet' again and again.  I thought of that many times while rereading here.  There is just so much that is happening here, that it's tough to get your arms around it all.  The editor in my brain wanted to cut down the story to make it more manageable.  Perhaps, with so many rereadings, the rest would fit into some kind of place. 
This isn't the only play of Shakespeare's that I feel could use that approach.  I don't feel like I have a good handle on 'King Lear' for instance.  With both plays, I want to walk around and look at them from many different angles and see what pieces begin to fit together.  They both give me the inescapable feeling that I'm not seeing the whole.
There is a related feeling that makes me want to return to the other tragedies.  I can understand what happens in 'Othello' and in 'Romeo and Juliet'.  'Macbeth' isn't hard to understand from a high level, though, like the others, there are gems that require some digging.  For a bit, I wondered if we could somehow start Shakespeare from zero, would 'Hamlet' still rise to the heights that it has?  Then I remembered that as other cultures have discovered Shakespeare, 'Hamlet' has risen.  It has a power that is far bigger than that of the weight of tradition.

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