Today’s assignment: “Boil down Hamlet, Shakespeare’s longest play, to a tweet (140 characters)
I am an avid consumer of Twitter, but my output on that particular social network forum leaves a bit to be desired. I marvel at people like @NeinQuarterly and @colinmochrie who can just fling out erudite and concise language in a small space. I’m just a verbose person in a succinct twitter universe.
I possess a decent background in Shakespeare due to my late mother. She was an avid fan of the bard, and I remember a rather large, dog eared, two volume tome of his plays on her bedroom shelf. She would tell me her introduction to Shakespeare was a childhood book of his writings that included beautiful illustrations of famous scenes from the particular play or sonnet. My introduction was a high school production of Midsummer’s Night Dream. While the language went a bit beyond my 8 year old vocabulary, the magic grabbed my heart and soul.
My mother had two rules for experiencing Shakespeare. It should be experienced in a performance rather than read and two, done in “period costumes”. I will concur with the first one: reading Julius Caesar in English class is not comparable to watching it performed (Even if your teacher lets you read Cassius’ lines; yes I got to be the lean and hungry Roman who thinks too much). I don’t agree with her on the second one though. The best performance of Coriolanus I experienced was done with a mix of modern and steam punk costuming and it was powerful in its impact.
But onto Hamlet. Its not one of my favorite plays, perhaps because so much of the language has become performance cliches: “To be or not to be”, “Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well”, “The play’s the thing”. If you’re looking for royal intrigue, I think Macbeth is a bit more interesting, plus it has some great witches. In all honesty I probably should go back and watch a performance of Hamlet, and give it a second chance. The last one I saw was that horrendous version with Mel Gibson in which everyone seemed to eat the scenery for their midday meal.
But back to the assignment:
Hamlet’s sad. Dad a ghost. Uncle guilty. Polonius dies, Hamlet’s buds die, Ophelia dies, Laertes dies, Gertrude dies, Claudius dies. The end.
Ok, Hamlet apparently has enough deaths and psychological drama to make a decent Quentin Tarantino movie. Who knew!