Honors in Oxford: Tutorial Essay #3
“There are more things in heaven and earth…than are dreamt of in your philosophy” until I saw Hamlet. For those that do not know, Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most illustrious plays. It tells a tragedy of a man named Hamlet seeking to avenge his father’s death, which ultimately leads to his own demise.
Creation Theatre’s new rendition of Hamlet was performed outside in University Parks. The play provided the perfect synthesis between the modern visual cues to successfully bridge the script and the preservation of the original Shakespearean language. The vernacular of Shakespearean English is central to understanding Shakespeare’s writing because it creates depth in the development of the characters. His distinct rhythmic structure allows their dialogues to become more realistic, creates comical affects, and reveals the character’s mental stability.
To recap: the play follows the plot of the original story with only a few minor changes: after the passing of Hamlet’s father, the former King of Denmark, Hamlet abides by his father’s apparition to avenge his father’s death by killing Claudius. Upon seeing his father’s ghost, Hamlet goes mad and his maddening insults towards Ophelia, like deserving to live in a nunnery, drove her nearly to depression. Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, marries Claudius, the brother of Hamlet’s father, and thus a coronation ceremony is held, crowning him as the new King. Hamlet then devises a plan to prove that Claudius was the true murderer and succeeds. When he finally has the chance to speak to his mother, he notices someone eavesdropping and immediately shoots the eavesdropper. Unfortunately, expecting it to be Claudius, Hamlet realized it was Polonius, in this case, Ophelia’s mother. Infuriated by the death of Polonius, Claudius orders Hamlet to be exiled and killed with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as his escorts. However, Hamlet escapes and instead leads his two comrades to death. Back in Denmark, Ophelia mourns over her mother’s loss and allegedly commits suicide. Laertes, Ophelia’s brother, swears he will seek revenge against Hamlet by challenging him to a sword duel. Claudius then prepares a poisoned drink for Hamlet. However, during the duel, Gertrude drinks the potion and dies. Eventually, the duel between Laertes and Hamlet results in the former’s death. Ultimately, Hamlet fulfills his father’s commands and murders Claudius. With his last breath, Hamlet tells his friend, Horatio, to continue his legacy.
The play began with a vintage van cruising along the path of the park. The van was the vehicle that transported the entire story onto the field for everyone to see. Vandalized on one side of the van were some of Shakespeare’s other well-known plays including Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet. As the actors assembled their props, rock music played in the background. Their choice in goth-like clothing and style of music added a touch of modernity and a sense of foreshadowing a tragedy. Their music and clothes represented the shadow of doubts in thoughts of suicide and murder. The stark colors represent an eerie gloomy presence of death looming in the air. Of course, that’s not to say that all dark clothing is doomed to death, but the skulls painted on their faces was a key identification.
The use of guns was neatly integrated throughout the story. Like most modern plays, these guns were never loaded with bullets. Firing a blank never diminished the dramatic affects, but it also allowed the a quick and easy transition from one scene to the next. Frequently seen, guns made their first appearance when Hamlet contemplated on committing suicide. However, when Laertes asked Hamlet for the duel, it was not like the epic duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, rather it brought us back even further in history when the use of swords and daggers were common. By reverting back to swords, it stalled the scene, making the audience sit on the edge of their seat in anticipation for their next move. Nonetheless, when Hamlet killed Claudius, the sword was not needed for extra dramatization. The gun that shot Claudius appalled the viewers. The mixture was a nice addition to the overall story and never left the audience unsatisfied.
Additionally, the use of cell phones and other telephones appeared frequently in the show. It allowed the audience to relate to the situation more. Instead of using human messengers like they did in the past, the playwrights added the use of phones to send texts and make phone calls from one person to another in order to make the process of delivering and receiving messages more efficient. For instance, Hamlet was able to send Claudius a text via cell phone. By sending a text message to Claudius, it significantly reduced the amount of time spent on the delivering process of the message. Regardless of the medium Hamlet used to deliver his message, whether it be a text or by a human messenger, to Claudius, the message never lost its intended purpose.
Simultaneously, however, Creation Theatres incorporated a healthy balance of both mediums of transporting messages in order to retain the intended meaning behind the action. For example, Hamlet continued to write hand-written correspondences to Ophelia. The idea of hand writing letters, in this case, makes the letter more sentimental and personal. Hand writing letters to a loved one never fails to convey the love one has for another.
In order to maintain the audience’s attention, they were able to cut down a typical six-hour play to merely two hours, with a twenty-minute intermission. In doing so, one could argue that some of the meaning was lost due to the significant time that was lost. But this was not the case. Creation Theatre effectively incorporated ad libs to clarify the shortened prose so that even with a condensed play, the meaning would remain intact. To illustrate, Hamlet’s and Claudius’ monologues were abbreviated, yet the quality or the purpose of the message was never compromised.
With only six men and women collectively, many actors and actresses had to double up in roles, even leading to a woman having to play Horatio, Polonius, Gravedigger and Guildenstern. She mastered all the roles with ease. Moreover, because they lacked members, some of the scenes were also abridged or cut to compensate for the lack of roles available. For example, instead of Laertes instigating the idea of a duel between Hamlet and himself, the original play has Osric, a member of the court, create rules for the fencing match. Even with the short-handed staff, they were still able to convey the message clearly, thus the duel was set. In the essence of time, some of the minute details were removed, yet the clear and concise plot never failed to follow Shakespeare’s intentions.
By keeping Shakespeare’s prose rich and dramatic, we can truly enjoy his parlance. Even more so, the modern addition aided in the transition and kept the audience on their feet. Creation Theater’s rendition of Hamlet was impeccably written and played. Even though most of the play had been dramatically abridged and many scenes were deleted (like most of the long Shakespearean plays nowadays) they were all necessary revisions. With high ratings and an experienced cast and crew, they did not fail to provide another award winning show. “Hamlet” was riveting and provided a perfect amalgamation of modernity and Shakespeare’s timeless prose to create a worthwhile source of entertainment.