I have a confession to make, one that may forever change the way you feel about me.
I hate Shakespeare.
All right, I don’t hate him, but I am not really a fan. I like the sonnets just fine, and I have an affection for Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night. But I have no love for, or desire to read the tragedies. Maybe it is the sadness, maybe it is the overblown enthusiasm of many people who do not seem to understand them. Maybe I just don’t really understand them.
I can say with absolute certainty, a large part of the blame comes from Romeo and Juliet, a story that is billed as a tragedy, works as an old cautionary tale, and has been deemed a romance by the rest of the world. I suppose disney ruined me, but I fail to see romance in the story of two spoiled teenagers who are willing to kill themselves over someone they just met. It’s a different world now so I can’t help but think of many, many, many other solutions to their problems that are all infinitely better than suicide.
Whatever the reason, Shakespeare tastes sour to me. It is perhaps one of the reasons I was not necessarily looking forward to this book.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Where did I get the book and how many pages?
This 151 page version of the play was available on a free book app for my iPad.
Have I read this book before?
I am honestly not sure. Maybe? Shakespeare is the one area where my high school did not fail me. I know we studied the sonnets, Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, and Macbeth. We may have also done Othello and Hamlet, but I cannot remember. It all gets a little fuzzy over time. Additionally, I went through a phase in high school somewhere in my sophomore and junior year where I read a lot of Shakespeare. I know, it’s a bit of a turn around from my feelings on the subject now, but at the time I was tired of being thought of as a dumb blonde. I felt reading Shakespeare all the time, and in public, would make me seem smarter. In retrospect I should have expanded the collection to other classics I would actually enjoy, but I was young and searching.
What did I already know?
I am fairly familiar with the story, which is one of the reasons I am not sure if I read it. Hamlet’s father is dead, his uncle killed him with ear poison and married his mother. The old king haunts the castle, telling Hamlet what happened. Everyone thinks Hamlet is going crazy and it ends with everyone dying. Clearly a cheery tale of family fun.
What do I think now?
I knew it was one of the more quoted plays, but I missed exactly how quoted. I had either forgotten or not realized how many of the Shakespearian quotes come from this one play. The story is not bad, as far as a tragedy goes. No one is really innocent or a good guy, so you don’t feel too bad for them when they start dying. Mostly it seems strange because you realize how much of this tragedy came from one idiotic grasp for power.
Should you read this book before you die?
I think for the most part, Shakespeare is not for me. I can appreciate it for what it is, a tragedy, but at the same time I get little to no joy out of reading it. I think everyone should try Shakespeare at some point in their life, even if it is only to understand what the hype is about. I personally would recommend a comedy, but if you must try a tragedy, this is as good as any other.
All right, if people are done scoffing and/or preparing the lynch mob for the person with no official literary credentials who insulted Shakespeare, I hope you will allow me the benefit of my own opinion as we move onto the next books.
I am reading one more shorter book before tackling another longer one, which will give us first Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, followed by Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. If you are still with me after this post, I hope you are ready for more!