‘Hamlet’ is William Shakespeare’s latest offering, a comedy-drama that takes us behind the scenes at the royal court of Denmark. It features a motley crew of characters led by Hamlet, a tediously depressed prince, his slutty mother, and a cartoon-villain step father. Oh, and a ghost.
In an opening sequence riddled with soap opera clichés, Hamlet’s father’s ghost appears to him, telling him that he was murdered by his brother. Instead of just taking his word for it, and confronting his step-father, Hamlet develops a convoluted plan to prove his uncle’s guilt. The bloody, and frankly un-funny, ending is predictable from the start. *Yawn*
But what is most disappointing about this comedy are the characters Shakespeare has created. It’s hard to root for someone when you think he’s a whining, self-obsessed, pompous ass. But, sadly, that’s what Shakespeare gives us in Hamlet. Clearly Shakespeare’s alter ego, Hamlet’s abusive behaviour toward Ophelia is very disturbing. Yet Shakespeare obviously thinks this kind of behaviour is acceptable – even ‘romantic’ and cute! Of course his depiction of Ophelia, based entirely on Shakespeare’s on again/off again relationship with Ann Hathaway, demonstrates his vitriolic misogyny. I’m not the first to say that Shakespeare can’t write women, but why does he think ALL WOMEN are mentally unstable? Anyone else remember Lady MacBeth and her obsessive/compulsive hand washing disorder? In ‘Hamlet’, Ophelia develops an unhealthy obsession with herbs, which is completely unlikely given her social class. Wouldn’t she have servants to do the gardening? Geez, Shakespeare, get a clue.
The real problem is that we don’t care about these people. And why should we? The whole ‘royal court of Denmark’ is far too inside baseball. They’re not doctors, or lawyers. They’re celebrity royals! Not to mention the fact that they take themselves far too seriously. Hamlet spends all his time contemplating death which, in a romantic hero, just does not work. And what’s with this obsession with his mother? Why does Shakespeare think that’s funny? Of course, Shakespeare’s inability to bring the humour is at the heart of the problem with the whole ‘show within a show’. Pouring poison into someone’s ear? Where’s the humour in that? In fact, as someone working in the industry, the whole thing just makes me cringe. I mean, are we expected to believe that a troop of travelling players would agree to perform a play written by some no-hoper adolescent prince? Uh, no, Shakespeare. That’s just embarrassingly unrealistic.
And at last, after a laugh-less three hours, we reach the end; a painful melodrama that leaves almost everyone on stage dead. Is it shocking? Hardly. In fact, it’s completely predictable. Hamlet’s such a screw up from the start that you know it’s all going to end in a bloody mess. Funny? Not really. In fact it’s pretty tragic – especially for the ratings.
*looks innocent and whistles*