To read, or not to read? That is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of Shakespeare’s outrageous language, or to take arms against a sea of metaphors, and by SparkNotes-ing understand them.
This is, of course, a reference to perhaps one of the most famous scenes in literary history: Hamlet’s soliloquy in the Shakespearean play of the same name. This is the story of Hamlet, prince of Denmark, who, in his quest to prove his uncle murdered his father in order to ascend to the throne, faces obstacles both external and personal that cause his (and the majority of the characters’) downfall.
However, looking beyond the scenario as it is presented, Shakespeare’s characterization captures ideas that permeated throughout society then and still exist in society today. The character flaw that is acute indecision plagues all people in a multitude of ways. Though it may not end in complete misfortune like it does in Hamlet, there are still times when we are paralyzed while making a big decision, and this hesitancy ends up costing us.
Additionally, for those coming from Romeo and Juliet, be forewarned: Hamlet is not a book of romance. While Hamlet and Ophelia are shown to be in love, Hamlet ends up using Ophelia in his quest to avenge his father, driving her to madness in one of the most tragic events of the play. Hamlet is, first and foremost, a play about appearances versus reality, loyalties and betrayals, and the overarching fear of death and the afterlife.
Hamlet balances these heavy elements with intermittent light-hearted scenes that keep the audience’s attention (after all, this was originally meant to be an Elizabethan-era play), and this creates a book well-worth reading. By doing so, the reader will not only be exposed to one of Shakespeare’s finest works, but also to his most famous lines, many of which originated from Hamlet.
– Mahak M.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.