Recently they finally released Kenneth Branaugh’s full-text Hamlet on DVD. I’m wishing, of course, that it was Blu-Ray for how beautiful the cinematography, as well as the staging, the keen use of mirrored hallways and heavy tapestries to provide inspired replacements for classic stage props. Too often the fewer limits in cinema are nothing compared to the magic of the theater (except when Broadway uses spectacle—helicopters, cadillacs and entire mansion walls—to replace the magic of one’s own imagination), but Branaugh somehow bridged that gap by cleverly discovering or creating cinematic analogs.
Anyway, I come here to praise Hamlet, not deconstruct its production.
If this all seems familiar, well, I’ve talked about it before. And recently (pardon the masturblogging).
I’ve been reading Hamlet and marking each and every relevant passage—and by ‘relevant’, I mean personally so. To get an idea of how much Hamlet resonates with me, just take a look at the picture of my own copy of the book, using little Post-It thingies (yes, that’s the scientific term). Sometimes I want to remember a term because it’s just particularly beautiful. More often, though, Shakespeare expresses sentiments that I haven’t ever seen written down by anyone else—and let’s face it, that’s just sad for how much information is out there these days, to have to go back a few centuries to find a particular nuance of verbiage.
Whenever I read (or watch) Shakespeare, I find myself dropping into iambic pentameter in speech and in written word. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to begin to think with cadence, and even more surprised at where your mind takes you when when there’s a rhythm to your own thoughts. Trochees (the accented opposite of an iamb) just don’t seem to feel as right as iambs, and as science has since shown, a line of just a handful of words is the most comfortable for the human mind to follow and absorb.
Shakespeare breaks the laws of physics—and the precepts of many philosophies—in demonstrating an infinitude of wisdom in a finite body of work. It is said that something cannot arise from nothing, that that which has a beginning must therefore have an ending, but Shakespeare’s works effortlessly ignore time and tide, culture and creed, and beg at eternity’s door.<br/>