I finished reading Hamlet today, as the third in the 100 book list I’m soldiering though. Yet again, I had read this play in high school. At the time, it reminded me of an asian movie, insofar as everyone dies at the end. This time, I didn’t much care for it at all.
I know that Hamlet is good and Shakespeare is good, but it just didn’t feel that way. The text was short, simplistic, and straightforward. Hamlet was the only character that underwent any significant emotional change over the course of the play. Going from regular-guy, to vengeful-son, to crazy-person, and finally following through on his vengeful-son role. Ophelia was the only other character worth mentioning, as her death/suicide galvanized Laertes to kill Hamlet. Everyone else are static characters there to play a specific role.
Although, perhaps as a play, the text isn’t supposed to be overwhelmingly compelling. Since it was meant to be acted out, with costumes and a set, the story would have carried more weight in that format. The text itself doesn’t need to be that great, because it’s more about the performance. The story would have meant far more to me if I had seen and heard Hamlet bellowing out his lines as he rushed across the stage to run his uncle through with the poisoned blade. It would have held my attention in an iron fist rather than wavering through archaic text.
A novel has to hold the reader’s attention with words alone. A play isn’t really about the words at all, but rather their delivery in the performance. So while I didn’t care for reading Hamlet, I imagine if I had attended a stage performance instead, it would have meant more to me.