The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (RSC Edition) by William Shakespeare

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Play

Medium: Paperback

Synopsis: After only two months of mourning, Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude, marries his father’s brother.  Hamlet is bereft, clad in black out of respect for his father and spite for his uncle.  Enter Horatio.  Horatio hath just seen a ghost–one that looks an awful like the late King Hamlet.  When Hamlet learns that his uncle hath murdered his own father, he must first decide whether this ghost is truly his father or a hellish figure preying on his grief.  Surrounded by his love Ophelia and friends from his school days, Hamlet is forced to make decisions that will effect not only himself but everyone who loves him.

Review: This makes my third time reading this, and I’m reviewing this after having just seen it performed, so I’ll do my best to keep it about the words.  This is also the third edition of Hamlet that I’ve read, however it’s probably the first time that I’ve really gone in depth and truly understood what it’s about (read: I had to read this in high school and I didn’t give it the proper attention it deserved).

I think we all know about Hamlet enough to make our own decisions over whether we liked it or not.  However, I will say that I think that Hamlet should be required reading for everyone under the sun.  Even if you really didn’t like high school and don’t like Shakespeare and don’t like plays.  This is because Hamlet has quite the cultural capitol in western culture.  Skulls?  Poor Yorick.  The Lion King?  Defs Hamlet.  Ghosts?  King Hamlet.  Flowers?  Ophelia.

That being said, let’s talk about the Royal Shakespeare Company edition!  You know how in lots of classic reads, there’ll be an introduction, and sometimes a few essays that take up about a quarter of the book?  Well, one of my Shakespeare professors from college said, “There are people that actually write those, you know.  I’m one of them.  I made a check for five dollars the other day for something I wrote fifteen years ago.”  So now that I’m out of college and I don’t have to read a book a week, I’m now delving into the introductions and acknowledgements–the things we normally skip over.

The Royal Shakespeare Company edition really gives great insight to Hamlet.  Just in the introduction, they discuss themes such as revenge, conscience, and Hamlet’s questions.  This provides a good basis of insight for reading the play, especially if this is the first time you’re reading it.  One of the observations was how Hamlet is actually a very feminine character–something I’d never really thought about before and am now intrigued by.  In addition to this, they also discuss their reasoning behind using certain lines from the Folios and the Quartos, while also providing the cut lines after the play.  Additionally, they also interviewed three directors and asked them to recount their productions and why they made certain decisions.

Overall, this edition is a very informative and intriguing one, and I’d urge you to get this copy if you happen to see it.

“…the devil hath power / T’assume a pleasing shape…” (II.ii.611-12)

“Lord, we know what we are, but / know not what we may be.”  (IV.iv.43-4).

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