"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."
How good is it to be in autumn? Let me tell you - it's SO GOOD. A cup of tea, a book, and a breeze is really all I need in life. I'm really having fun on Instagram getting creative with all of nature's bright decor. But that's not what this post is about.
I've decided to begin a new series called "Leafing Through," and it's not just for me. Anyone can join in. The purpose of this series is not to have "required reading" like a typical book club. It's simply a way to share with each other about what we're reading and what we think.
I will post about what I've just read as I go, trying to keep as current as possible. You can see what book is coming up next by looking to my sidebar for what I'm currently reading. The posts will be documented in their own page in the menu at the top of the blog, and you'll be able to see archives in the categories tab on the sidebar.
And I would love to have a group of folks join me! If you'd like to share you thoughts (I'd like to hear them), post on social media using #leafingthrough. If you blog about it, link back to this post and please feel free to leave a comment on Meanderblog with a link to your post. Let's get the conversation going!
This month began with my all-time favorite of Shakespeare's plays, Hamlet.
Uncut, this play rounds out at about four hours (!), making it one of Shakespeare's longer plays, and, according to my professor, the version we have today is sort of the "director's cut" which Shakespeare and his company released to combat sales of inaccurate bootleg editions of their shortened two-hour production. Thank you, bootleggers. Because of your criminal schemes we now have DOUBLE THE HAMLET (fist pump).
I don't intend to include a thorough synopsis or summarize the works I share here, since I always find it frustrating to accidentally stumble upon a spoiler when I just wanted a little context. Instead, I want to talk about Shakespeare himself, and what inspired Hamlet and its themes, and why I love it so much.
Shakespeare and his wife, Anne, had three children: Susanna, Judith, and Hamnet.
His only son, Hamnet, died of unknown causes in 1596. Hamlet was released a few years later, around 1600.
Hamlet the play is primarily about a son who has a lot of questions, a lot of anger, a lot of doubt. He's mourning the death of his father and wants revenge, but doesn't know what to do with that. Many say that it's a play about a guy who does nothing but talk and think; I disagree (he does tons of stuff), but I also think that talking and thinking is an incredibly vital process of mourning.
Hamlet asks a lot of heavy questions about mortality -
"Are there angels and demons, ghosts and gods?
Or is this all in my head?
Am I mad?
What happened to my father?"
The reason the image of Hamlet holding up a skull is so famous is because it symbolizes his ultimate question:
"What happens when we die?
Is there a Heaven? Is there a Hell?
Or, after all is said and done, are we nothing more than dirt and dust and food for the worms?"
I like to think of these as Shakespeare's questions; and the one he held most dear, the one that pushed him to write, write, until he reached a desperate answer:
"What happened to my boy?"
It's nice to note that, after this phase of Shakespeare's writing, he went on to create fantastical, joyful plays. He found solace in his art; "Who knows what's real or not, but in the theatre, anything is possible."
This is why I have treasured my copy of Hamlet since I first read it in high school. This is why I think you would love it too.
It's a little difficult to get through some of the elevated language Shakespeare was so fond of, though, which is why, if you're not into 16th/17th century reading, I seriously recommend this novel version instead. It's in modern language and is so well done; PLUS it comes in audiobook format, masterfully performed by Richard Armitage. Seriously, so good.
Also incredible is the Royal Shakespeare Company's film adaptation of Hamlet, starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart (yeah, it's that good), which shakes out to be the best $5 you've ever spent. Another film option stars Mel Gibson, who does a stellar job as well. These alternative options do excellent jobs at bringing the play to life.
And if you're interested, this is the version of Hamlet that I read.
Thanks for reading, and I do hope you get value from this series. My hope is that these posts strike up some dialogues about these stories and what they mean to each of us. Get in touch with me on Instagram, Twitter, or comment below - I would love to hear from you!