Favourite Showcase – Hamlet by Shakespeare

The ghost of the King of Denmark tells his son Hamlet to avenge his murder by killing the new King, Hamlet’s uncle. Hamlet feigns madness, contemplates life and death, and seeks revenge. His uncle, fearing for his life, also devises plots to kill Hamlet. The play ends with a duel, during which the King, Queen, Hamlet’s opponent and Hamlet himself are all killed. – Summary taken from http://www.shakespeare.org.uk Hamlet page.

Age when first read – 17

Importance – It might be difficult to imagine why someone who is both dyslexic and has problems processing would take on something written by Shakespeare. In a nutshell, I read Hamlet at school and he was part of an open book exam for my AS levels. However, I had already discovered my love for Shakespeare the year before when we had studied Richard III which has become my all-time favourite Shakespeare play. I clearly thought Hamlet was stupid, as you can see I wrote it on the cover of the book! This book has remained important to me for it was another milestone in terms of my difficulties while reading. I managed to read this play and remain alert and understanding of what was happening – for the most part. Shakespeare’s language, style and wording is a hard sell and often tripped me up or had me cursing his name but I was successful in reading this play and even understood enough to get a good grade on my exam.

When it comes to reading his other works however, I am afraid I hid in cowardice and eventually bought a set of his works aimed at a much younger audience (10 year-olds), so that I could read and understand what was happening and not want to throw the book against the wall in anger.

What was learnt – At 17, what I took away from reading Hamlet was that Shakespeare was a gloomy man who suffered from the same disposition I did when in junior school – the obsession to kill all characters off. In fact when I was in junior school my Mum got called in to see my teacher for they were concerned that every story I wrote ended in a brutal and often gruesome death. The truth was, when asked to write a story, I would get so caught up in my imaginary world that when the teacher would call ‘five minutes left’ I would be halfway through an elaborate story and as such the only way to tie up loose ends was to kill everyone. Of course, I’m not saying that Shakespeare had the same problem but I think he did get a little too kill happy in this particular play. As an adult I can understand the actions of the characters a little more, though I still believe they acted rather stupidly.

Reading as an adult – I must admit I have only reread this once or twice since I studied it at 17 and it was more hard going than when I was younger. I don’t know whether that means I’ve gotten sloppy at reading difficult languages or whether my excitement over Shakespeare has waned slightly. I do try to see a production of Shakespeare each year and this year I am starting with a production of Twelfth Night which I will be seeing in June and then I’m seeing Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe in August.

Overall Rating – 6.5. I love the story – minus all the deaths – but am still at war (slightly) with the language used. Despite the rather low overall rating, this still holds a spot in my top 10 books.

Hannah xoxo

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