Hamlet – The Classics Bookshelf


The January 6 entry for Classics Bookclub is Hamlet. I downloaded this copy from Project Gutenberg to the Kindle to read. I also used this version which has a modern translation to the right. I’ve read Hamlet in school and definitely found it easier to understand after watching a dramatic presentation of it.

The questions recommended by 5 Minutes for Books:

  1. Did you read and/or listen and/or watch Hamlet
  2. Was this your first attempt at this play or at Shakespeare in general (outside the confines of a school assignment?
  3. What did you enjoy or dislike about it?
  4. What themes resonated with you?
  5. Were there any resources that helped you understand this play, or that you’ve used with Shakespeare in the past?
  6. Will you be trying out more Shakespeare in the future?

1. I read Hamlet on the Kindle using a version from the Gutenberg Project and on the computer for a modern translation. I have watched Hamlet before and it is definitely easier to understand when you hear someone saying the lines in a play.

2. Outside of school, I used to read through Shakespeare plays (Hamlet and Macbeth) with my dad. Kind of a strange thing I guess but it’s where I learned to read out loud, to read a few words ahead, etc. Beyond that, I don’t spend much time with Shakespeare plays.

3. My issue with Shakespeare has always been that the pace seemed really slow, lots of words without always having a purpose. I understand that Polonius uses a lot of words because he is a windbag. But some of the interactions seemed to take too long to get to the point. Makes me wonder if Shakespeare was paid by the word or the minute.

4. I can understand Hamlet being very distraught by his mother’s actions. Then learning that his uncle and mother were unfaithful (he has to start wondering if his mother was involved in the murder as well) and not trusting himself to act normally now that he knows this.

In Act III Scene 3 where Claudius has his soliloquy just before he kneels to pray, eNotes translates this line “May one be pardon’d and retain the offence?” like this “May one be forgiven a sin and still hold on to its benefits?” I find that an interesting line and can relate to it. He is now regretting the action (because of conscience or because he’s about to be caught and afraid of Hamlet?) but doesn’t want to give up the good things he has gotten (the very things for which he committed the sin). The King discusses our struggle to let go our petty pleasures and Hamlet discusses our eternal consequences.

The plot has obviously been used before and after. The one that kept coming to mind while I was reading this play was Lord of the Fire Lands: A Tale of the King’s Blades by Dave Duncan.

I also kept seeing Anne of Green Gables floating along as Ophelia and then sinking and clinging to the bridge until Gilbert rescues her (to her great shame).

5. I used a few resources. The version I read which included a commentary by George MacDonald, his footnotes and act summaries helped with unfamiliar words and to remember to keep up with the story and see character development. The modern translation at eNotes was very helpful. I also used the Wikipedia page that gave a plot summary and discussed some of the history of the play. I read the Hamlet story in Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lamb and Mary Lamb (brother and sister). The video guides at the eNotes website were a great overview. George MacDonald had a deeper understanding of the characters.

6. This seemed labor intensive, but I got a lot from the George MacDonald commentary and the Charles and Mary Lamb story. I would like to read more Shakespeare plays in the future.

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6 Responses to Hamlet – The Classics Bookshelf

  1. Nise' says:

    I watched some videos of the play after I read it and should have watched them before to get the flow of the language. Looking forward to watching it on DVD.

  2. Sounds like we used some of the same resources.

    I’m coveting your kindle. . . .

  3. Bluestocking says:

    So do you think Hamlet was mad? Come see my post.

    Bluestocking’s last blog post..Hamlet

  4. Kipi says:

    I used a Barnes and Noble edition with an excellent intro to both the play and to Shakespeare’s language. It also had the play on the left page with great notes on the right-hand page. I enjoy Shakespeare very much, and I found this version really helpful. I also watched Mel Gibson’s film…highly recommended!

    Kipi’s last blog post..Classics Bookclub – Hamlet

  5. Bluestocking says:

    Yes, you do have to work for Shakespeare. Do you think Hamlet was mad? Come see my post.

    Bluestocking’s last blog post..Hamlet

  6. Sarah Eriksen says:

    Haha, I like your curiosity over whether or not Shakespeare was paid by the word. I know that was the case with a lot of Dickens’ work. Sneaky, sneaky.
    Anyway, if you’re looking for a great resource on Hamlet, I’d recommend The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark at Shmoop. It’s a pretty funny and engaging take on literary analysis, but it doesn’t skimp on any of the tough questions.

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