Hamlet has many faces

Last week I blogged about the importance of William Shakespeare, a man whose works will continue to outlive him for still many more years to come. This week’s assigned text and film only strengthened this point of mine, offering two more examples of how Shakespearean works can still be made relevant today. Both the graphic novel Kill Shakespeare and the movie A Midwinter’s Tale are very entertaining and interesting examples of modern works that were inspired by Shakespeare and incorporated aspects of his stories into their own plots. These works focus in particular on Shakespeare’s character Hamlet. When one Google image searches “Hamlet,” many different faces will appear: Laurence Olivier, Branagh’s Hamlet, and so on and so forth. Two less known, and less frequently referred to “Hamlets” are those found in Kill Shakespeare and A Midwinter’s Tale. 

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Kill Shakespeare had Hamlet as the unlikely hero of this creative story, which intertwined multiple characters and plot details from Shakespeare plays such as Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and many more. The story took off from the point in the play Hamlet in which he is banished to England after accidentally murdering Polonius. From this point on, however, there is little fidelity to the original play aside from the fact that his father’s ghost continues to haunts him. While the only works of Shakespeare that I have read are Hamlet (obviously) and Romeo and Juliet, this lack of faithfulness was apparent for both of these works, and I’m assuming the other plays that it referenced as well. Because of this, reading this graphic novel may not be the best way to study Shakespeare or understand his plays, however, the comic is nevertheless very entertaining. Kill Shakespeare illustrates that the writing of Shakespeare can be adapted in new and interesting ways that will continue to keep his works alive.

A Midwinter’s Tale is a quite different example but is equally as entertaining. This film is not an adaptation of the story of Hamlet, but rather it is the story of a group of actors who put on a production of the play. We see parts of the play throughout the movie and there are references to past interpretations of the play, such as Olivier’s film version, but otherwise the film has a plot of its own that is unrelated to Hamlet. In this film, our Hamlet is played by the director of the production, a loveable struggling actor with a strong love for the play Hamlet. Branagh was the director of this film, as well as his own adaptation of Hamlet, which had many well-known actors and which was quite successful. This illustrates the fact that the story of Hamlet, unlike its author, is far from dead.

Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most famous works. It has been adapted countless times in the past and it will likely be adapted many more times in the future. Theaters will continue to put on productions of Hamlet, classes will continue to study the play, and directors will continue to create film-versions that approach the story in a new and innovative way. Hamlet, and therefore Shakespeare, will remain relevant for many more years to come.

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