The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet

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A Divinity scholar at Wittenberg University, Horatio prides himself on his ability to argue both sides of any intellectual debate but is himself a skeptic, never fully believing in any philosophy. That is, until he meets the outrageous, provocative, and flamboyantly beautiful Prince of Denmark, who teaches him more about both Earth and Heaven than any of his books. But Hamlet is also irrationally haunted by intimations of a tragic destiny he believes is preordained.

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A Divinity scholar at Wittenberg University, Horatio prides himself on his ability to argue both sides of any intellectual debate but is himself a skeptic, never fully believing in any philosophy. That is, until he meets the outrageous, provocative, and flamboyantly beautiful Prince of Denmark, who teaches him more about both Earth and Heaven than any of his books. But Hamlet is also irrationally haunted by intimations of a tragic destiny he believes is preordained.

When a freelance translation job turns into a full-scale theatrical production, Horatio arranges for the theater-loving prince to act in the play-disguised as the heroine! This attracts the attention of Horatio's patroness, the dark and manipulative Lady Adriana. A voracious and astute reader of both books and people, she performs her own seductions to test whether the "platonic true-love" described in his poems is truly so platonic. But when a mysterious rival poet calling himself "Will Shake-speare" begins to court both Prince Hamlet and his Dark Lady, Horatio is forced to choose between his skepticism and his love.

Laced with quotes, references, and in-jokes, cross-dressing, bed-tricks, mistaken identity, and a bisexual love-triangle inspired by Shakespeare's own sonnets, this novel upends everything you thought you knew about Hamlet. Witty, insightful, playful, and truly wise about the greatest works of the Bard, THE LUNATIC, THE LOVER, AND THE POET is a delectable treat for people that have loved books like Stephen Greenblatt's WILL IN THE WORLD and John Updike's GERTRUDE AND CLAUDIUS.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It doesn't get any more meta than this odd prequel, which recounts Hamlet's early years as a student at Wittenberg University. After Horatio, who narrates and quickly becomes obsessed with the beautiful Hamlet, is asked to translate and stage a play by the wealthy merchant Baron de Maricourt and his wife, Lady Adriane (who shows a marked weakness for writers), Horatio casts Hamlet in a major role—that of a young woman—as a way of getting to spend time in his company. Soon, Horatio undertakes a series of sonnets to immortalize Hamlet, but when Adriane gets wind of Horatio's new project, she begins to interfere. Further complications arise with the arrival of a playwright named Will Shake-spear who threatens to usurp Horatio's position with Lady Adriane and Hamlet. Filled with out-of-context quotes from Hamlet, confusions in sexual identity more commonly found in Shakespeare's comedies, and cameo appearances by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the novel too self-consciously repurposes elements from Shakespeare's tragedy, rendering this a colorful if incidental prologue to the tragic events at Elsinore Castle. (Feb.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061805196
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/26/2010
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 365
  • Sales rank: 1,475,327
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet

    After my last foray into historical fiction, I was a little hesitant to get started on this one. What if I was dissapointed in this one as well? Would I be willing to try another historical fiction book if this one was a failure? I had first read a review of this book at Misfit Salon, and since then I've been dying to read it. Needless to say, once I got over my fear and started to read it, I loved it. It was everything I wanted it to be and more.

    Myrlin A. Hermes has a way with words that I could only dream of one day being even close to possessing. She picks each word carefuly and has fun with them, she is a master wordsmith in every sense. This book plays with words and their meanings. It uses them in such a way that as a reader, I found myself getting lost in the story, savoring the way each word felt on my tongue and the way they would roll around in my mind, gaining new meanings and layers as time went on. She uses them to describe life, love, and even sex in terms that makes them feel like new discoveries. Concepts that were familiar to me seemed new once again. The words almost take on a life of their own, almost becoming a character themselves.

    Words aren't the only thing that gets played with in the book, gender and sexuality get tossed around, like the proverbial beach ball, right along with them. Gender and sexuality almost feel fluid in this book. Horatio falls in love with a man who is impossible to marry and with a woman already married. He loves them both though on is more palatable to him over the other. He seems conflcited by both loves, at times he is disgusted by them and at others he craves their affection and approval. In Hamlet, Horatio finds everything that he doesn't find within himself. In Lady Adriane he finds a patroness and a seductress, she is the outlet of most of his unfilled desires for Hamlet. He wants them both and when circumstances and a new poet on the scene starts to interfere, he seems to be at a crossroads. I won't let you in on which fork he takes, though after reading the book you actually hope he walks away from both. Neither relationship is healthy, both are destructive and one can end in death.

    Hamlet and Adriane are both flawed characters that you can't help but like a little bit, despite what you think of them. They are both fickle and manipulative. They are control freaks who's own desires comes before anything else. They use deception and guile to get what they want, yet they both love in such a way that you can't help but be drawn in by them. Even when Adriane is dressing as a man to seduce another's lover, you understand it, if not empathize with her. They are flawed, human characters in every way.

    Now I'm not a huge fan of Shakespeare, never have been actually, and I'm not overly familiar with Hamlet. I know some reviewers felt like it was neccesary to be, I didn't think it was that much of a issue. I was able to enjoy the story for what it was, not what it was based off of. Now I am familiar with some of the sonnets that were used to come up with the whole bisexual nature of Shakespears that this story seems to have grown out of, so I was able to understand more of those references. It is a fascianting subject matter and one my review can not due justice too.

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  • Posted January 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    entertaining tale

    Horatio the scholar is a prideful intellect who enjoys debate at Wittenberg University. When he meets the impish, but darkly troubled student Prince Hamlet of Denmark, he feels passion for another person for the first time in his adult life. The royal is beautiful and Horatio desires him.

    Wealthy merchant Baron de Maricourt hires Horatio to stage a play in honor of his wife Adriane, who has the hots for writers and performers. Horatio persuades Hamlet to perform as a young woman. The philosopher begins to author sonnets to his Hamlet, but Adriane wants him to write about her beauty. As the relational triangle forms, some unknown playwright named Will Shakespeare makes an unethical bid to win favor of Adriane as his muse and that of Hamlet too; angering Horatio that a no talented nonentity would dare to attempt to replace him.

    Although some might insist a prequel to Hamlet is a tragedy, the aptly titled The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet makes for an entertaining tale. The story line is amusing as the lead triangle and the support cast (especially the cuckold spouse and the upstart bum wannabe bard) struggle with gender and sexual issues. The Hamlet citations are overused and abused, but overall fans will enjoy this tweaking of Shakespeare mindful that Tom Stoppard did likewise with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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