As an English major, I have my favourites and my throwaways. I do dabble in Victorian literature. My bookshelf is lined up with Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen texts. I also enjoy the occasional Indigenous text or Romantic period book. However, when I tell people how far up the list Shakespearean texts are, the question that always prevails is, “What’s your favourite play?”
Trust me, being an English major with a favourite Shakespearean play is never easy to decipher. There probably aren’t any that I hate, however, the best of them all is Hamlet, which I had the chance to read again in ENG220 this year.
The real story of Hamlet starts when he decides to take revenge on his uncle-turned-stepfather based on the ghost of his father coming back from the dead to inform to do so, because he was killed by said uncle-turned-stepfather.
There’s never an in-between with Hamlet. People either tell me they’ve been absolutely whirled by its framework or they’ve found it to be too long—especially with such narcissistic characters and ambiguous concepts.
Hamlet himself is a catalyst for both sides. He’s indecisive and depressed, but also sort of a raging lunatic—if you choose to believe he is. What about him is so alluring but also causes people to have such a mutiny over his personality? What makes Hamlet alluring yet complicated is that although Shakespeare was terrifyingly adept at understanding the human condition and questions we have about ourselves, he laced this into the character of Hamlet eloquently.
Through this, Hamlet is a character we love to hate. He’s like Ross from Friends, or Kimmy Gibbler on Full House. He’s such a train-wreck that when we close our eyes to shield our vision from him, we have to open them just a bit to see what ends up happening to him.
Maybe Hamlet isn’t mad like the play suggests, but he’s certainly a mad genius if you want to give him that. In order to find out if his uncle is really guilty of murder, he stages a play recreating the scenes of his father’s murder. This is done so that Hamlet can watch his uncle’s reaction.
In this case, actions usually speak louder than words—unless you’re a young prince bound to a dysfunctional family with a healthy appetite for revenge.