Thursday, September 15, 2011


Back when I was in high school me and my friends rejoiced in Mel Gibson and all of his he quite frequently showed them off, and we were teenage girls. I'm not sure if we would have picked up his Hamlet if it hadn't been for Lethal Weapon, but there we were, holding a copy of Hamlet. I remember feeling the language was quite foreign, but still very close to my heart, and I loved every second of it. And that scene where he's holding the scull, was legendary even to us Shakespeare virgins. In one way or another, people in the western world has touched Shakespeare (if nothing more than with one line, or one quote), which was the general feeling then as well. It wasn't foreign at all, it was familiar. I think, however, that it kind of struck me harder, that archaic language, and the complexity of the stories. What really dawned on me, even back then, was that I wanted more.

Mel Gibson as Hamlet

1994 was the most brilliant summer. First there was the U2 concert on Valle Hovin in Oslo (according to my brother, a guilty pleasure as my taste in music is somewhat changed), and then there was the trip to London with my family, traveling with us was my best friend.
My friend and I were grumpy teenagers at the time (obviously late teens...), and wanted most of all to be left alone to go check out the nice looking bar man at a bar we found in Covent Garden. But my parents, bless them, managed to convince us to visit Barbican Theatre. You must think I'm about to tell you that the play we saw was Hamlet, but I'm not... We sat way back in this enormous Theatre (the people on stage were the size of lego-men), and figured..."yeah, this is gonna be fun..." And, would you know, it was. It took us both about ten minutes to get into the old way of speaking, and come on, Bergerac was on stage as the king in A Winters Tale. A love that will follow me my entire life was strengthened right there and then. "I adore Shakespeare!" Slowly this has driven me to where I am today with an almost religious look upon the texts and the plays.

Just Mel GIbson... I mean, can you blame me, he was a looker:) And Australian... I'll get back to that... I think a lot of good stuff came out of Australia... Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Chris Hemsworth, among others...

Did any of you know that Shakespeare had a son who died? And this child had a rather unusual name (dramatic pause), Hamnet. I'm prepared to bet good money (all though I am only speculating here) on the fact (still speculating...) that Shakespeare is dealing with some unresolved emotions in regards to the death of his son. We have Hamlet talking to the ghost of his father, and "To be or not to be", is a soliloquy about death and whether there is something afterwords, or if this life here and now is all there is. I will deal with this particular part of Hamlet in a bit!

All though I know what the story is about, I still feel a bit confused, and I think that's because of the complexity of the story. Layers! I'll be peeling this onion till I'm old and grey, I think. I'll still try to give a short summary, and feel free to comment if I'm out way out of line;-)

Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark. He is summoned home for the funeral of his father, and the wedding of his uncle to his grief struck mother, Gertrude. His uncle, Claudio, has ascended the throne as the new king.
Hamlet is visited by a ghost, baring much resemblance to his father. And through this ghost he learns that his father was murdered by the hand of Claudio.
Hamlet's mental health is questioned. But to himself his reasoning is completely rational. And now enters a series of events that sort of happens in an intense period of time (I think...).
He causes the death of the "Prime Minister".
Hamlet is the reason the innocent Ophelia goes mad, probably because his emotions towards her are more than unclear. He loves her, then he doesn't, then he loves her... She eventually takes her life, forcing her brother to seek revenge, as a proper brother least in Shakespearean times.
Hamlet directs a play within a play. A traveling Theatre Group comes visiting the castle, and Hamlet makes them perform a play describing in detail what he figures happened between his father and his uncle. And then he watches his uncles reactions to the performance.
He drives his friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, away, and leave them to a rather nasty destiny, of war, in England, if my memory serves me well (though I will tolerate correction this is from the top of my head, and I might have mixed events up a bit...). On the last page they are reported dead, I checked...
Through the entire play, and certainly after the visit of the ghost, it is clear that Hamlet wants to get rid of his uncle, I think we are talking about a rather substantial hate. He schemes, plots and he makes plans within plans to kill Claudio. And all the time, lurking in the back an unnatural (in the bad way) relationship between Hamlet and his mother which is complicating things further.
He finally fulfill his need for revenge on the murderous uncle, but at a rather high cost. Almost every principal character dies, including the queen and Hamlet himself. So, obviously this is one of the tragic tragedies.
Now, in the Gibson movie I remember vividly the last fight between Ophelia's brother, Laertes, and Hamlet. And I remember crying as Mel sighed his last sigh...
But even when I include the Hamlet of "my man", Kenneth Branagh,

Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet

 along with the one Mel made, there has (in my mind) never been a better Hamlet than Dr.Who.

David Tennant as Doctor Who

Confused? Why on earth? You are about to be enlightened. ;-)

David Tennant as Hamlet

David Tennant, Scottish actor, played The Doctor for four years, and as I found David, I also found the best version of Hamlet there is. It even has Professor X, or Captain Picard, as Claudio...(for those of you who have no clue as to who Professor X or Captain Picard are, I am now referring to characters of films and series and comics. The two characters in question are both played, rather brilliantly, by the British actor, Patrick Stewart).

Professor x as Claudio and Doctor Who as Hamlet... what a show that would make!!!

But David Tennant... My, oh, my! What an asset to Shakespearian interpretation. I am literally shivering with excitement for his coming performance in Much Ado About Nothing, and I'm sure he will bring something new to Benedick, as he did with Hamlet (they did it in on stage this summer, but I heard news that they would film that version, and I'm alive with delight over those news.). Where both Mel Gibson and Kenneth Branagh chose to give Hamlet the classic and expected wrapping (a little fun fact, though, Kenneth Branagh's movie is the only version that has every single line that Shakespeare wrote. David Tennant's soliloquy is cut short...), David brought, like I said, something new.  He adds humor.  And to be honest, he could stand there in jeans, a T-shirt with an image of Silver Surfer, his hair all over the place, and I still would forget his name was David Tennant, because he was Hamlet personified.
To elaborate just for a second, I have to clarify what I deem as an actor of high class.
If I, at any time during a performance, become aware that the person is an actor, that he or she is acting, then it's a bad actor. If I forget that the person is an actor, then it's a good actor. If I believe the person is the character, that the character comes to life, then it's a brilliant actor. Having seen Hamlet with David Tennant I felt I needed to attend his funeral, Hamlet's funeral, it was awful, I think I cried for an hour, but I felt elevated. I felt as if I had been in touch with divinity, and that feeling is quite rare.

I said I was going to deal with the famous To be or not to be, but I can see that this particular part will need an entire entry on its own as I have so many incredibly fascinating insights on the matter. So, I'll leave you for now with what I think should be the ending line (and in David Tennant's Hamlet is is...), Horatio (Hamlet's chum) last words to his friend.

Horatio: Now, cracks a noble heart, - Good night, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

1 comment:

  1. Dear Silje!

    Should thy hair grow grey, thou shoulds`t dye thine hair. Thus grantinting you even more years to ponder upon Shakespearean works.