13 articles The Play’s the Thing

Reviews and discussions of past Hamlets on stage and film.

Transforming Whitewashing

Othello is one of my favourite plays. I’ve taught it repeatedly and directed it twice – once in 1996, in a highly condensed three-person Fringe production, and once in 2003, with the cast expanded to six. I love its language, which soars to epic similes and plunges into grotesque raunch, sometimes in the same line;…

Transforming Kushner

“In this world, there is a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead.” Yesterday, slate.com published an “oral history” of Angels in America, Tony Kushner’s magnum opus and perhaps the single most celebrated work of American art in the past quarter century. Since I recently wrote about my love…

Cumberbatch and the Shakesbrats

It’s not every day I can lay claim to having actual Hamlet news, but this is a special occasion. The most anticipated production of any Shakespeare play this year is the Barbican’s production of Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness, some Hobbit film or other). I enjoy Cumberbatch whenever I see him…

Hamlet on Film: 1921 with Asta Nielsen

In the internet age, it’s a marvel how something like Svend Gade and Heinze Schall’s 1921 silent Hamlet can be simultaneously ubiquitous and unheard of. The complete film is available on YouTube, making it probably the most instantly accessible film version of the play. Yet it’s not uncommon to see even detailed commentaries on the…

H2016: Hamlet Shall Sleep No More

Now my project has actual humans involved in it, with actual faces and interests and (judging from Facebook) loads of excitement. In light of this, my Line by Line posting seems a bit tedious, especially since, at the rate I’m going, I’ll be stuck on Act 1, Scene 1 until at least September — and…

Hamlet in Ink: Classics Illustrated

This is another one of my earliest encounters with Hamlet, although I’m having trouble figuring out exactly when I would have run into it. Part of the problem is the convoluted history of just about any major comics publishing line, but particularly the history of Classics Illustrated. From the Wikipedia page: Classics Illustrated is a…

Ham and Sharp: Hamlet on Stage, 1992

As I have already described, my first exposure to Hamlet (after Games Magazine, and the Black Swan) was almost certainly Zeffirelli’s film version, in 1990. I soon followed it with Kevin Kline’s version (on VHS). But it could be argued that you can’t really experience Hamlet until you’ve seen it performed on the stage. The…

That’s the Question: Soliloquy or Speech?

Now it’s time to tackle one of the Big Questions in Hamlet — or, well, maybe we’re not ready to tackle it quite yet. But we’re definitely going to walk straight up and tweak it on the nose. Take that, question! Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy, of course, is the one that begins, “To be or…

Hamlet on Film: Kevin Kline, 1990

Released the same year as Franco Zeffirelli and Mel Gibson’s film version, Kevin Kline’s Hamlet stands as its equal and perfect opposite. Where Zeffirelli is operatic, Kline is utilitarian; where Zeffirelli is historically authentic, Kline is unapologetically modern; where Z. encourages his cast to indulge in histrionics, K. and his supporting cast dial it down,…