Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"To be or not to be...," that is not my favorite line. My favorite is: "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times."
It's that recollection of innocent days that gets me every time, because you know Hamlet is being swept up in a vortex of innocence lost.
STUPID ADULTS! They screw up everything!
I grew up in a truly idyllic setting. As childhoods go, mine was a joy. But then you grow up and you wake up to reality.
My introduction to Hamlet came during high school in my early teen years. It's murderous plot of family deceit and infidelity struck home, my family being likewise stricken with such maladies. The parallels were all too similar and I love/hated the play for driving it all home.
Mel Gibson's movie version came out at this time, and its over-simplification and emotional heightening was a perfect fit for a simple-minded, emotionally-blinded teen. Less than stellar, the movie nonetheless had its effect upon me, furthering the torment.
Luckily my family drama was not as murdery as Hamlet's, although if the personalities of some of the principle players were slightly more volatile, there could easily have been a bloodbath of Hamlet-esque proportions. In my reality, we all got over it, sorted it out, and moved on with our lives wherever they led. The beauty of fiction is to see the deepest of fantasies played out. It gives us - I hesitate to use the melodramatic "victims" here, but that is essentially what we amount to - it gives us release from the pent up anger when we see the wrong-doers get their comeuppance.
For that reason, I doubt I'll ever been able to view this work through a truly unbiased, critical lens. Just because it's a "classic" doesn't mean you have to adorn it with a 5-star laurel wreath, but - for what it means to me - I do.