I pray you, do not let the hustle and bustle you see around you step between yourselves and the pleasure of your visit. These are but actions that a man might play; in faith, they are the trappings and the suits of a movie never to be made.
For what you see before you, friends, is a stage set for a virtual enactment of the Prince of Denmark's tragedy; the greatest tragedy – nay, the greatest piece of literature ever writ, be it tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral; scene individable, or poem unlimited.
Yes, another enactment of "Hamlet."
Only, 'tis one that must needs be limited to this venue. For I have not the skill, and indeed, I lack advancement in the world of theatrics and moviemaking sufficient to ever contemplate a realisation of my vision of the play in any other form.
Of course you might argue that the world needs yet another interpretation of "Hamlet" about as much as the Prince of Denmark needs another problem to solve. Well, I won't bore you with waxing poetically why art in general, and Shakespeare's works in particular, are so conjunctive to my life and soul – and in faith, I do believe, to many folks' lives and souls – that, as the star moves not but in his sphere, I could not but by them. Or why life is about more than our daily routines of eating, sleeping, and working; of material concerns and survival in the world "out there."
But, you see, although I've grown up with the notion that art – be it literature, music, movies or the theatre – is something for me to enjoy passively, not to participate in actively (because you have to live in the real world, don't you? You have to create a solid foundation for your life ...) this just is no longer enough for me. Oh sure, there have been instances where that creativity already tried to break out in the past: much the usual thing, I suspect – stories begun and aborted even as a kid; attempts to direct and stage-manage the neighbourhood children's games; sketches for screenplays (whether freely invented or literature adaptations); extensive mail correspondence with like-minded friends; and most recently, reviews written on my other website (Themis-Athena.info) and on Amazon.com. But now that spirit wants to assert itself even more forcefully; and the internet, my virtue or my plague, be it either which, affords me this opportunity, at least up to a point. And while there are and have been many enactments of the Prince of Denmark's story that I profoundly and unabashedly admire, at some point I began to realise that none of them really represents the way I would tell that story down to its very last detail: however much I might agree with their approach in part or in general, there is always some thing or things that I would do differently; some emphasis I would set in a different way; some other setting I would use; some different way I'd have a line spoken, and so forth.
So again, welcome. Take your seats and peruse the cast list or the program (you'll find some stacks on yonder table) or help yourselves to a map and take a stroll about the grounds (pray, show some care when seeing a virtual camera rolling; step not into the middle of a scene or make a noise); and most of all, enjoy your visit.
One word more, out of necessity, before you set out here on your own:
Through my other website (Themis-Athena.info), which is dedicated to literature, music and movie reviews and has a decidedly broader focus than this site here, I sometimes receive inquiries from students to ghostwrite school papers they have been tasked with. Such inquiries go unanswered there, and they shall likewise here; it's a form of flattery I can very well do without. Moreover, be you warned, what you find here is solely my own interpretation of "Hamlet." I am not an expert on Shakespeare, nor a literary scholar, nor in any way qualified to speak with any other authority than that of a fan and admirer – of all of the Bard's works, but of this play in particular. I have not discussed any of the opinions expressed here with anybody of greater insight than my own; and quite frankly, I couldn't care less if all of Shakespearean scholardom were to disagree with me (or if, for that matter, someone told me that my insights are as old as Methusaleah's beard is long). Some cheek, you say? Ah, but I'm only taking up the invitation made to all the world almost 400 years ago by the publishers of the 1623 "First Folio", Shakespeare's fellow actors John Hemmings and Henry Condell, who concluded their introduction to that first (and still largely authoritative) compilation of 36 of the Bard's plays with the emphasis that readers should not only enjoy Shakespeare's works but should also feel entitled to reach an understanding of their own:
I am, however, not aspiring to lead others in this, as Messrs. Hemmings and Condell suggested – and not only because, without any scholarly or acting credits of my own, I'd find that utterly presumptuous indeed:
Hamlet, both the character and the play, has been debated by the greatest scholarly and literary minds almost from the time of its first enactment. For all that discussion, to me, the Prince of Denmark is a living, breathing human being; and so are all the play's other characters. I strongly believe that the only persons who will ever truly understand them are the actors who slip into their skins night by night on stage, or in the weeks and months of a movie production. Only those who have been through the doubtlessly grueling experience of a theatrical season of the full four-hour play, or through the trials and tribulations of a cinematic adapation, can know what really goes through Hamlet's mind when he confronts his father's Ghost, when he ponders questions as old as life and death in "To be, or not to be," when he mistakenly kills Polonius after the play designed to "catch the conscience of the King ," when he sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to a pointless death, and when he finally comes face to face with his own mortality, holding Yorick's skull and, later, in his duel with Laertes. Only they can know how the Ghost feels about walking through a world he is no longer part of and where he (once a King!) can no longer directly make an impact – not even to warn his erstwhile queen to stay away from his murderous brother – and how he feels about trying to reconnect with his son from beyond the grave. Only they can know how cunning and ruthless Claudius is, and how much capacity for guilt and remorse is left in him. Only they can know what Gertrude feels when Hamlet confronts her over her "o'erhasty marriage" to the murderer of her first husband – the rightful King – his own brother. Only they can know how things truly stood between Hamlet and Ophelia before Polonius and Laertes stepped in, what Hamlet's intrusion into Ophelia's bedchamber did to her, why she turns mad, and what images she sees before her mind's eye during her ravings and prophecies. Only they can know whether Polonius truly is the "foolish prating knave" that Hamlet takes him for. Only they can know how Horatio feels about everything he has witnessed; what goes through Laertes's mind when he lets Claudius corrupt him with his venomous talk of yet another murder (and probably that of his childhood friend, no less); what role, if any, besides being "sent for" Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have to play; and what lessons, if any, Fortinbras will learn from Hamlet's fate. And doubtlessly they all have their own particular view on these, and on the play's many other questions.
If I were ever given the unlikely opportunity to discuss my take on the Prince of Denmark's world with anybody who has been involved with it in the aforesaid fashion, I'd seize that opportunity with both hands. The rest shall keep as they are: no doubt this play will go on to be discussed, debated, and marvelled over in the centuries to come; and that's just as it should be. For myself, let my voice be just one in the chorus (or the choir) – no more but so. I pray you, do keep this in your memory lock'd as you proceed. I humbly thank you.
Copyright 2002 – 2009: Ulrike Böhm, all rights reserved.