The Shakespeare Blog has a great post on the production of Hamlet currently going on at the Young Vic in London. For those of us who can’t travel to London to see it, we have to be content just reading about it. It sounds amazing to me. If you want to read more about it, go to this review in The Guardian.
I love the idea of this play because it points out so many interesting things about the character of Hamlet himself. I admit there are problems with it, but let’s concentrate on the good stuff: Hamlet is insane. In fact, he is imprisoned in a mental institution.
Think about that. Go through the play with that in mind. Polonius is no longer an advisor to the King. He is Hamlet’s clinical therapist. The Ghost just may be a figment of Hamlet’s imagination. Sure, he wonder about that in the play, but here, it is highlighted. The Guardian review says this:
But the acid test of any concept is whether it liberates the play and, for me, this doesn’t. It may be intellectually ingenious but its practical effect is to present the action through the prism of Hamlet’s personal anxiety.
But I am left to wonder: why is presenting the action through the prism of Hamlet’s personal anxiety a bad thing, and what exactly does it mean to “liberate” a play, anyway? The Guardian continues:
If the play is the Freudian fantasy of a confined patient, it reduces the other characters to elements in his dream…What you lose, in short, are the play’s politics and the idea that the hero’s troubles are one aspect of a turbulent society initially on a war footing.
Well, yes, I can see that, but the fact is that most of read the play as about Hamlet himself. He is the title character, after all. Our high school English teacher taught it that way. It’s not called The Fall of Denmark or Invade the Danes or something like that: it is The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Shakespeare knew what he was doing when he titled the thing, after all. Now don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that the play is not about “one aspect of a turbulent society initially on a war footing,” but if we concentrate on Hamlet himself, that’s okay too.
I like the idea of this production, and I hope something like it is performed closer to home, so I can go see it.
If you need more on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, see our Cheat Sheet study guide.