“That I, the son of a dear father murder’d, prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell…”
This one line explains why Hamlet is and will always be my favourite play written by the legendary William Shakespeare. In these times of smartphone popping, Starbucks drinking and selfie clicking- we have all gotten a little rusty on our Shakespeare. But few of his plays are still considered the epitomes of human emotions- generously sprinkled with unfair betrayal, obssessive revenge, thoughtless violence and not-so-happy endings. If I ever manage to become an actor Hamlet will be the role I will slice up others and be willing to kill myself for. It is a role that eats you up and consumes you whole- when you play Hamlet, your life, love and relationships take an unfortunate turn. The integral darkness, thoughts of revenge and wicked cruelty fill your mind and body turning you into a modern madman. That is why it is considered one of the most challenging roles in the history of drama, you don’t become Hamlet- Hamlet becomes you.
I have never had the privelege to see any stage production of Hamlet but I seen them online and if the actors can give me goosebumps through a screen, I wonder what will happen if I see them live. Kenneth Branagh (Professor Gildroy Lockhart he he) brought a powerful, determined Hamlet to the stage who knew what he was doing. His goals were crystal clear, his ambitions were the only thing he cared about and he had the ability to make risky decisions. He is how adults who enjoy reading Shakespeare in their leisure time would have pictured Hamlet like.
Ben Winshaw (swoon!) had a slight body, thin arms, sharp wit and killer looks. He is exactly the Hamlet I pictured in my head when I read it. Young, dashing, clever and dangerous, a madman hiding underneath a genius. No wonder this role catapulted him to fame, he did a magnificent job of flooring us with Hamlet’s pain and suffering and frightening us wit his thoughtless murderous streak.
Then there was David Tennant, one of the greatest stage actors of our generations- the Time Lord himself took to the stage and brought us a Hamlet who was a pure psychopath. His Hamlet was far more psychologically damaged than all others, he was beyond the point of return to sanity. While Branagh was delightfully devilish, Winshaw was teetering on the edge of vulnerability and power and struck the balance perfectly- Tennant was sheer madness. Maybe this is exactly how Shakespeare pictured him.
The reason why Hamlet is my favourite play is because it tells the tragic story of a man who suffered but who was also the cause of his own suffering, he almost deserved it. He was not a typical protagonist or a cliched anti-hero. He was just different than all the characters ever written. Every character who played Hamlet played him differently, he is a dynamic character. It is a character like no other, you have to let your guard down and let it slither into your brain and grow like a disease. I believe whenever someone plays Hamlet it reveals the deepest fears and darkest regrets of the actor himself- that is the right way to play Hamlet, you have to take it personally. Now with Benedict Cumberbatch playing Hamlet, there will be more secrets revealed.