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William Shakespeare

average rating is 3 out of 5

Classics, Plays

R. Alex Jenkins

Hamlet was my first voluntary reading of a Shakespeare play as an adult.

There comes a time when you have to face the music or accept that you're not part of the literary elite and try not to bang the door on the way out.

This was a tough read and I was totally unprepared for it - more of a nightmare than a hey-nonny-no frolic round the maypole. Honestly! I thought this was the Piper of Hamelin and couldn't figure out where the flute player and rats were!

Hamlet, not Hamelin!

There are so many cast members jumping in and out, if you don't slow down and do some external research to try and figure out who's who, it's a tough and unrewarding experience. Imagine being on the school bus on the way to the Globe Theater, London, and deciding to flick popcorn into everyone's hair instead of getting down to serious study! As an adult your learn to get the basics out of the way first.

Hamlet discovers that his father was murdered by his uncle to be able to accede to the throne and marry his lovely mother for good measure. Naturally, Hamlet's not very happy about it, and the reason this play is universally considered Shakespeare's best work is because of how complex and political it is. Who's going to believe me, am I going out of my mind, where do I go? Do I fight or flee?

"To be or not to be, that is the question."

Sent by the murdering king into bloody battle, Hamlet survives and comes back home to exact his revenge.

Warning. I don't recommend reading this play as a gateway or introduction into Shakespeare. It's way too complex for that. Perhaps try reading a 'comedy' written before 1600, such as A Midsummer's Night Dream or The Merchant of Venice? Romeo and Juliet was written around this period too.

All of Shakespeare's complex tragedies date post-1600, which is when Shakespeare seems to be at his literary peak of erudite penmanship.

I still struggle with Shakespeare and view his work more like carrying the cross than anything remotely approaching enjoyment, but there's obviously a reason why this work has survived over 400 years and why people still read it today?

I'm now on the school bus and on my way back home. The popcorn's all finished and I didn't understand a word of it, but somewhere deep down inside, I'm figuring it all out!

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