(Review) Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Publisher and Publication Date: Yale University Press. 2003. First published 1603.
Genre: A tragedy in five acts. Play.
Pages: 249.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Classic readers. Readers of Shakespeare.
Rating: Excellent.

Hamlet is a tragedy in five acts.
I have read this a second time because of a historical fiction book: A Man of Honor by J.A. Nelson. It is also a tragedy read for The Classics Club challenge.

The original title: The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

The play is available to read for free at MIT and The Folger Shakespeare.

To read more information:
Royal Shakespeare Company

Title page of 1605 printing.
Horatio, Hamlet, and the ghost. Artist is Henry Fuseli. 1789.


Denmark. Early 1500s. The royal house of Denmark.
Hamlet is the prince of Denmark. His father is King Hamlet. His mother is Gertrude. His father’s brother, Claudius, murdered King Hamlet. Claudius became king and married Gertrude.
A ghost appears to Hamlet. The ghost tells his story. Hamlet seeks revenge.

My Thoughts:

Hamlet is one of my three favorite tragedies of Shakespeare. The other two are Macbeth and Julius Caesar. I’ve read several others but these three are my favorites.

To read Hamlet is not the same as to “experience” the drama unfolding visually. To experience Hamlet is to take it all in with the senses.

I am not an actor, but it helps to read aloud the tragedies of Shakespeare. I feel the same way about poetry. Reading poetry aloud is better than to read it silently.

Several reasons why I love Hamlet:
1. Hamlet is absorbing, emotional, and evocative.
2. Hamlet is memorable because of the characters, dialogue, plot, conflicts, mood, and setting.
3. Hamlet requires thought. For example, some questions and thoughts I had while reading: Is Hamlet truly mad? The other characters seem to believe he is mad. They have conversations wondering if he is mad. Does Shakespeare want me to believe he is mad? Is this a distraction in Hamlet? Is this a ploy?
4. I feel empathy for some of the characters. However, I do not feel any of them are people I admire. They are not characters who I can say I love. They are certainly memorable.
5. The language of Shakespeare is sweet music to my mouth and ears.
6. I love several lines from Hamlet.
“Murder most foul, as in the best it is, But this most foul, strange and unnatural.” -Ghost. Page 43.
“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,” –Hamlet. Page 98.
“Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest! Why does the drum come hither?” -Horatio. Page 225.


(Review) Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague by Maggie O’Farrell

Publisher and Publication Date: Alfred A. Knopf. 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction. Women and literature. Shakespeare.
Pages: 321.
Source: Borrowed library eBook copy.
Audience: Historical fiction readers.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon link

Hamnet is the story of Shakespeare’s family life. His life at home growing up, his early relationship with Agnes, marriage, children, and his departure away from family and to London.
The center of the story is the plague infiltrating the family home and its outcome of despair.

My Thoughts:
I originally was drawn to the book because of the front cover; and secondly because of the specific people and themes in the story.

Some examples of themes are ambition, loyalty, courage, death, honesty, love, and perseverance.

What I found interesting and brilliant is Shakespeare is not named perse. He is a larger than life historical figure who is not the hero of this story.
He is a husband and family man. Then, he is a man who left his family to follow a dream to London leaving his family behind.
I feel it is his wife, Agnes, who is the stand-out character in the story. She is an unusual woman because she is resilient and independent during an era when women were dependent on men. She has a unique gift. She encouraged and supported her husband to follow his dream. At least until the unspeakable happened.
The story has dual time periods. Reflections are made to the past to share the courting of Agnes and Shakespeare. It shares the problems in Shakespeare’s childhood home. It shares the births of their children. The present time period is the plague and its impact on the children, family unity, and marriage.
I love the structure of the story. Its form and shape in how it is told. Instead of the focus on Shakespeare (the expected), it is his wife and family who has the spotlight. Shakespeare is not even named.
Hamnet is the story of how people grieve. Different forms of grief are shown. In other words, different aspects of how people grieve and what they do to avoid grieving is displayed.