Hamlet is for the student of Shakespeare, whether in the theatre class or the literature class. It is for actors of Shakespeare, and for the directors. It is a practical guide and an insightful critique. It is also immensely readable.
Each essay is preceded by a succinct summary of what will be presented, and falls into broader sections that discuss themes, plot and structure, historical context, characters, and staging and film interpretation. The same foreword appears in each title, followed by an introduction geared to the specific play, then a biographical overview of Shakespeare. The books listed in "For Further Reading" include general critical Shakespeare studies, books on Elizabethan theater, and sources about the specific play. Readings on Macbeth even lists and describes several Shakespeare societies that have information or publications that may be of interest to the reader. These titles will be welcome additions for students doing research on Shakespeare and these plays in particular. Index. Map. Source Notes. Further Reading. Chronology.
Note: this review was written and published to address three titles-Readings on Hamlet, Readings on MacBeth, and Readings on Romeo and Juliet. VOYA Codes: 3Q 1P J S (Readable without serious defects, No YA will read unless forced to for assignments, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
This Hamlet struts and frets his role through moody, watercolor paintings that effectively convey both action and emotion using the classic period setting and dress. Panel boundaries and narrative flow vary on each page, manga style, which allows a striking depiction of the entire "To be or not to be" soliloquy with Hamlet striding through a vaulted, shadowed gallery. Much has been cut in the adaptation, and the continuity sometimes suffers, but what's left is all muscular and artful Shakespeare. No character cameos precede, but a brief profile of Shakespeare ends the work. This fine adaptation is suitable for teens and up and first appeared in 1990 from First Publishing/Berkley Publishing. Consider also Neil Babra's more complete Hamlet in the "No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels" series (Spark Notes), with evocative, modern black-and-white art suggesting Craig Thompson's Blankets.
Read an Excerpt
By William Shakespeare
Washington Square PressCopyright © 1992 William Shakespeare
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAct 3
* * *
enter Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern
Claudius And can you, by no drift of conference, Get from him why he puts on this confusion, Grating so harshly all his days of quiet With turbulent and dangerous lunacy?
5 Rosencrantz He does confess he feels himself distracted, But from what cause he will by no means speak.
Guildenstern Nor do we find him forward to be sounded, But with a crafty madness keeps aloof When we would bring him on to some confession Of his true state.
10 Gertrude Did he receive you well?
Rosencrantz Most like a gentleman.
Guildenstern But with much forcing of his disposition.
Rosencrantz Niggard of question, but of our demands Most free in his reply.
Gertrude Did you assay him 15 To any pastime?
Rosencrantz Madam, it so fell out that certain players We o'er-raught on the way. Of these we told him, And there did seem in him a kind of joy To hear of it. They are about the court 20 And, as I think, they have already order This night to play before him.
Polonius 'Tis most true, And he beseeched me to entreat your majesties To hear and see the matter.
Claudius With all my heart, and it doth much content me 25 To hear him so inclined. Good gentlemen, give him a further edge And drive his purpose into these delights.
Rosencrantz We shall, my lord.
exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Claudius Sweet Gertrude, leave us too, For we have closely sent for Hamlet hither, 30 That he, as 'twere by accident, may here Affront Ophelia. Her father and myself, lawful espials, Will so bestow ourselves that, seeing, unseen, We may of their encounter frankly judge 35 And gather by him, as he is behaved, If 't be th' affliction of his love or no That thus he suffers for.
Gertrude I shall obey you. And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish That your good beauties be the happy cause 40 Of Hamlet's wildness. So shall I hope your virtues Will bring him to his wonted way again, To both your honors.
Ophelia Madam, I wish it may.
Polonius Ophelia, walk you here. - Gracious so please you, We will bestow ourselves. (to Ophelia) Read on this book, 45 That show of such an exercise may color Your loneliness. We are oft to blame in this: 'Tis too much proved that with devotion's visage And pious action we do sugar o'er The devil himself.
Claudius (aside) O, 'tis too true! 50 How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience! The harlot's cheek, beautied with plastering art, Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it Than is my deed to my most painted word. O heavy burden!
55 Polonius I hear him coming. Let's withdraw, my lord.
exeunt Claudius and Polonius
enter Hamlet (thinking himself alone)
Hamlet To be, or not to be: that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, 60 And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep No more, and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep - 65 To sleep, perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub, For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil Must give us pause. There's the respect That makes calamity of so long life - 70 For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law's delay, The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of th' unworthy takes, 75 When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscovered country from whose bourn 80 No traveller returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all, And thus the native hue of resolution 85 Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pitch and moment With this regard their currents turn awry And lose the name of action. - Soft you now, The fair Ophelia! - Nymph, in thy orisons Be all my sins remembered.
90 Ophelia Good my lord, How does your honor for this many a day?
Hamlet I humbly thank you. Well, well, well.
Ophelia My lord, I have remembrances of yours, That I have longed long to re-deliver. I pray you now receive them.
95 Hamlet No, not I I never gave you aught.
Ophelia My honored lord, you know right well you did, And with them words of so sweet breath composed As made the things more rich. Their perfume lost, 100 Take these again, for to the noble mind Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind. There, my lord.
SHE GIVES HIM BACK HIS GIFTS
Hamlet Ha, ha! Are you honest?
Ophelia My lord?
105 Hamlet Are you fair?
Ophelia What means your lordship?
Hamlet That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty.
110 Ophelia Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with honesty?
Hamlet Ay, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness. This was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives it proof. I did love you 115 once.
Ophelia Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.
Hamlet You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I loved you not.
120 Ophelia I was the more deceived.
Hamlet Get thee to a nunnery Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me. I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with 125 more offences at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in. What should such fellows as I do, crawling between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves, all: believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery. Where's your father?
130 Ophelia At home, my lord.
Hamlet Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool nowhere but in's own house. Farewell.
Ophelia O, help him, you sweet heavens!
Hamlet If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for thy 135 dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go: farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them. To a nunnery, go, and quickly too. Farewell.
140 Ophelia O heavenly powers, restore him!
Hamlet I have heard of your paintings too, well enough. God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another. You jig, you amble, and you lisp, and nickname God's creatures, and make your wantonness your ignorance. Go 145 to, I'll no more on't; it hath made me mad. I say, we will have no mo marriage. Those that are married already - all but one - shall live. The rest shall keep as they are. To a nunnery, go.
Ophelia O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown! 150 The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye - tongue - sword, Th' expectancy and rose of the fair state, The glass of fashion and the mold of form, Th' observed of all observers, quite, quite down! And I, of ladies most deject and wretched, 155 That sucked the honey of his musicked vows, Now see that noble and most sovereign reason, Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh, That unmatched form and feature of blown youth Blasted with ecstasy. O, woe is me, 160 T' have seen what I have seen, see what I see!
enter Claudius and Polonius
Claudius Love? His affections do not that way tend, Nor what he spake, though it lacked form a little, Was not like madness. There's something in his soul, O'er which his melancholy sits on brood, 165 And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose Will be some danger, which for to prevent I have in quick determination Thus set it down. He shall with speed to England, For the demand of our neglected tribute. 170 Haply the seas and countries different, With variable objects, shall expel This something-settled matter in his heart, Whereon his brains still beating puts him thus From fashion of himself. What think you on't?
175 Polonius It shall do well. But yet do I believe The origin and commencement of his grief Sprung from neglected love. (to his daughter) How now, Ophelia! You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said: We heard it all. (to the King) My lord, do as you please, 180 But, if you hold it fit, after the play Let his queen mother all alone entreat him To show his grief. Let her be round with him; And I'll be placed, so please you, in the ear Of all their conference. If she find him not, 185 To England send him, or confine him where Your wisdom best shall think.
Claudius It shall be so: Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.
Chapter TwoSCENE 2 The castle
enter Hamlet and Players
Hamlet Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand - thus - but 5 use all gently, for in the very torrent, tempest, and - as I may say - the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of 10 the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumbshows and noise. I would have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant. It out-herods Herod. Pray you, avoid it.
First Player I warrant your honor.
15 Hamlet Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action-with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so o'erdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, 20 was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature, to virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and of the time his form and pressure. Now this overdone, or come off, though it make the unskilful laugh cannot but make the judicious grieve - the censure of the which 25 one must in your allowance o'erweigh a whole theater of others. O, there be players that I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly - not to speak it profanely - that, neither having th' accent of Christians nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed that 30 I have thought some of nature's journeymen had made men, and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.
First Player I hope we have reformed that indifferently with us, sir.
35 Hamlet O, reform it altogether. And let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them, for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too, though, in the meantime, some necessary question of the play be then to be 40 considered. That's villanous, and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it. Go, make you ready.
enter Polonius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern
(to Polonius) How now, my lord! Will the king hear this piece of work?
Polonius And the queen too, and that presently.
45 Hamlet (to Polonius) Bid the players make haste.
Will you two help to hasten them?
Rosencrantz Ay, my lord.
exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Hamlet What ho! Horatio!
Horatio Here, sweet lord, at your service.
50 Hamlet Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man As e'er my conversation coped withal.
Excerpted from Hamlet by William Shakespeare Copyright © 1992 by William Shakespeare. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Roma Gill, the series editor, taught Shakespeare to all levels. She acted in and directed Shakespeare's plays throughout Britain and lectured on Shakespeare all over the world and was awarded the OBE in 1994 for services to English Literature. Roma Gill died earlier this year.
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