Monday, September 06, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 33

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

by William Shakespeare

Hamlet (The New Folger Library Shakespeare)Most readers are familiar with the play Hamlet; if not the actual play, or the script for the play, then one of the movie versions. The basic plot is: king of Denmark dies, his ghost visits his son and seeks vengeance, madness and bloody chaos ensues as the son goes after his father's killer.

Okay, it's obviously more complicated than that, but I always fear giving away too much for those who don't know a story, especially as great a story as this.

Hamlet has always been my favorite of Shakespeare's tragedies, though MacBeth is a close second and I do have some fondness for Romeo and Juliet. For the curious, my favorite of Shakespeare's comedies is Much Ado About Nothing.

Why do I love Hamlet so much?

As with many such thing, it's complicated.

For one, I tend to like ensemble pieces in which everyone dies in the end. The Wild Bunch. Reservoir Dogs. Those kinds of stories. What sick, twisted side of me is it that likes these tales? I'm not sure. Perhaps it's a darker side of me that is reflective of a certain amount of chaos, futility and banality in our lives. Not to get all existential, and not that I'm a constant downer kind of guy bordering on emo or goth (I'm definitely not), but I do find those aspects of humanity intriguing to study. Maybe I'll even do such a story some day.

Another element I like of Hamlet is the possibility of madness within the main character, Hamlet himself. In the play, after a certain point Hamlet tries to portray himself as insane. But as the story grows deeper and darker, the viewer or reader is left wondering if Hamlet hasn't truly crossed the borders into insanity. Is Hamlet insane, or is he acting? It's a question that can never be answered, perhaps not even by Shakespeare himself. To my way of thought, Hamlet had to be at least a little bonkers just to follow through with many of his actions in this tale.

If you like darker tales, play, or are just a fan of Shakespeare, you need to read this play, or see it performed. I personally love to see it performed nowadays, having read it a couple of times already in this lifetime.

And my favorite movie version? Actually, Mel Gibson's portrayal, though he's obviously 20 years to old to play the lead character.

Up next: Captain America #226

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I always have a hard time reading plays because they have "less" of what I read for. As in action. but Hamlet is a pretty decent read in its own right, and a very fascinating story for sure.