+ “Hamlet” With a Galactic Edge

Olivier's Hamlet

The consummate Hamlet?

“Hamlet” With a Galactic Edge
by Patricia Moloney Dugas

In the royal bedchamber, the Royal Dane leapt upon the bed of his confounded mother, queen Gertrude, and with hair flung wild, jaw clenched tight, and eyes bulged wide, he harassed her, howled at her, shook her writhing body, and, wrenching her garments, threatened her very existence. Not a Great Dane leaping, but Hamlet, the Royal Prince of Denmark. This was a scene from PBS’s contemporary television adaptation of Shakespeare’s wondrous tragedy, “Hamlet”.

With blood running cold, poor Hamlet had just slain the intrusive, meddlesome Polonius who hid himself behind an arras to keep watch on them. Alarmed, Hamlet ran him through as he rustled there. It seems this meddler’s daughter Ophelia has gone quite mad because this Royal Dane, her once professed lover, who, in his own madness, has rejected her, and snarling, commands her off to a nunnery. Thus she is set adrift. (Oh, sorry about that careless remark…)

Our new-age personification of the prince did not brood, nor lay upon his bed steeped in unmanly grief. Instead, this thespian youth in a rumpled tuxedo, howled and gamboled like a deranged primate, from bed to floor then back again, eyes bugging out of his fiery, half-crazed royal countenance. The queen is left sobbing in fear and disbelief.

Nay, nay, poor Hamlet. She is thy royal mum. Do not reproach her harshly. So what if she married your royal uncle who murdered your royal dad, the queen’s noble, sun-crowned husband king, then wedded and bedded this murderous beast, this mildew’d ear, and left you, her princely babe, beside yourself in woesome, lonesome grief. Oh, what noble woe.

While this modern, fiery, bug-eyed Hamlet lept and wailed ‘gainst his queenly mum, I thought I could hear the once knighted Sir Lawrence Olivier, a former princely player now resting in his solitary grave, flipping asunder and mournfully lamenting; “Oh, that the too, too solid flesh of this clown would
melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew. Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon ‘gainst thespian slaughter. That it should come to this…

That ‘Doctor Who’ has lept from the BBC to the PBS queen’s incestuous
sheets!”

Who, you say, is ‘Doctor Who’? Why ‘tis BBC’s David Tennant who was recruited away from his inter-galactic personification of ‘Dr. Who’ and turned into our Royal Dane. As ‘Dr. Who’, he learned to wild his hair, flare his nostrils, and widen his eyes to face the onslaught of inter-galactic alien hoards.

Then, who called in Captain Picard from Star Trek’s inter-planetary
adventures to play the dastardly uncle/king? How didst this doublet of sc-fi
knaves happen to Elsinore? While the captain, Patrick Stewart portrayed Claudius most admirably with tone and temperament in splendid Elizabethan manner, there was an overplay gone amiss. Who gave the Royal Shakespeare Company sanction to re-define the Royal Bard’s pensive, brooding, medieval wimp, Hamlet? Hmm? Was this new Hamlet’s fearsome bluster needed to present a fresher, more frantic, fearsome face with widened eyes, gaunted cheeks, and smoldering fire in his youthful belly? Was this royal revision to be sustenance for the frenzied appetite of uptight Avatarian theatre today? Pray it is not so.

Note the curious costuming deviations as things grow dark. From formal dress to jacketless tuxedos with prominent unleashed black bowties carefully askew! Like a dance team on break? A message I failed to grasp here. I did miss legendary tunics and trappings, velvet capes, feathered caps, crossbows, swords and helmets. (If they kept the words and phrases faithful, why not the trappings as well?)

Most confounding, this comely Hamlet appears, (oh literary gasp!), in a red, labeled tee-shirt and jeans in the weighty scene where he confronts Ophelia to admonish her, decrying he never loved her! Tuxedos and t-shirts while
the kingdom is rent asunder? Oh, doubly, double woe.

Horatio in corduroy!
And this I could not bear; Ophelia in Capri pants and ponytail! How darest they
speak the sacred texts mockingly in garb as befits the urchins of the streets?
What a falling out there has been. Didst the noble Bard also tossle in his
eternal slumber?

Indeed, all this did deeply grieve my heart, mine eye and ear, jarring my classic literary nerve. Alas it cannot come to good, but break my heart, for must I hold my tongue?

Hell no!
This leaping and growling far o’r ran the delicacy of the bard’s intended verse. Our adolescent offender has spent too much time bounding about in his British medium, the red phone booth, to suitably express the oral delicacies of our royal Dane’s lamentations, torments and travails.

Send him packing, I say! Call up a gentler player more fit to companion the approbations of Picard’s lecherous Claudius and ghostly apparition. I swear…
Shuffle off your mortal coil, alien intruder.

Laertes, you served us well. You slay him down – silencing his rabid provocations.

Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. I am avenged.
This prancing plebeian prince is dead.

Pat Dugas

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