Alas, poor Hamlet… I thought I knew him, Horatio. But I guess I didn’t. It seems Hamlet is actually about 45 years old, balding, and likes red sneakers.
I got the chance to see Paul Giamatti play Hamlet at the Yale Rep Theater this week. He was really good at being the young/not-so-young prince. He gave the character of Hamlet life, and made me remember how many phrases Shakespeare’s play has contributed to our culture:
‘the quick and the dead’
‘to thine own self be true’
‘the lady doth protest too much’
‘sweets to the sweet’
There’s so much more – basically, the entire play will be familiar to you, even if you’ve never heard/read/seen it. It’s a long play – this one stayed faithful to the text, and ran about 3 1/2 hours.
It dragged in some parts (any time Paul Giamatti or the enjoyable Polonius wasn’t onstage). Unfortunately, while Giamatti became Hamlet and gave him richness and depth, the rest of the cast seemed to rush through their lines, almost just saying something until it was time for Giamatti to speak again.
It was definitely worth watching – the play alone is soo good, and Giamatti was a wonderful Hamlet. I do wish the King and Queen had taken more time with their lines, given them a more natural pace, with more natural speech. They have important things to say, but it was hard to be drawn in when they were speaking – I believed Giamatti was Hamlet. Not so much with the King and Queen.
My favorite Shakespeare play is “Romeo & Juliet.” I was once asked what book I’d give to an alien newly arrived on Earth – something that would tell them about the human race. I took a minute to think, and my answer was: Romeo & Juliet. And I still think that’s true – it has love, hate, confusion, fighting, embracing, pettiness, and honesty. It’s sad and funny and happy and bitter. I actually recommended it to a friend’s 12-year-old daughter this week, and the girl is loving it, apparently. My work here is done.
A recent book called “How Shakespeare Changed Everything” by Stephen Marche is a really good read, and it talks about all the things – terms, concepts, ideas – Shakespeare’s play have given our culture. It’s an easy, enjoyable read, and really interesting. He invented the name Jessica! Read more about this book here, then check it out! You’ll be glad you did.