Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Teaching Hamlet

Today I finished up teaching Hamlet in my Shakespeare class.  I love Hamlet (and Hamlet--alas for my crush on the pre-goth, pre-emo, emo/goth grad student!). The play never fails to move me to tears, no matter how many times I've read it or teach it.  There is something that breaks my heart when Hamlet dies--his struggle through the whole play is to survive and bring Claudius to justice. He fails in the former.  The struggle to do the right thing in the right way in a corrupt world among weak, corrupt, or evil people simply moves me.  "Now cracks a noble heart," indeed.  

And, the older I get, the more I feel for Ophelia. When her brother leaps into the grave, I can't help but roll my eyes, just a little bit, but when he tells the priest that she will be a "ministering angel" while he "liest howling," I believe that he is right. The limited rites she gets in death because she *might* be a suicide smack of hypocrisy and ruthlessness.  

I studied Hamlet extensively my senior year in college, writing my senior thesis on some of the films. Early in the fall semester, my mother died. By spring, my father was dating someone else. It was nothing as untoward or ugly as Claudius, and indeed she proved to be wonderful for my dad, and is now my step-mom without any of the wicked Disney connotations.  Still, there were times I had to step away from the play, for obvious reasons. But it stayed with me, all this time, and the struggles of the characters seem so real to me.  I hope I did it justice for my students!  

1 comment:

  1. Does it make sense to love a play and yet despise all the characters (except Laertes)?

    Whether it makes sense or not, that's how I feel about Hamlet. And while I didn't cry while reading it, I *did* cry during Ophelia's funeral scene when I watched the movie version.

    A theatre major, I geek out about Shakespeare excessively. :) I also firmly believe that plays should be seen and/or performed, not only read, because with a few exceptions the stage was the medium they were written for. I remember my AP Lit teacher senior year showing us clips of 3 different movie versions of Hamlet (Branaugh, Gibson, & Olivier). It made a HUGE difference on my opinion & perception of the play ... as well as showing all the ambiguities and different choices actors and directors can make with Hamlet.