Hamlet by William Shakespeare

We all know about Romeo and Juliet. The famous star-crossed teenage lovers and “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art that Romeo?” sort of stuff. Personally, I didn’t like the play. Romeo and Juliet, as actual characters, were plain and the best character is Mercutio, who not only dies halfway through, but is the reason why the play became a tragedy.

On the other hand, I really liked Shakespeare’s style of writing. He writes all about death, blood and of the era when stories of knights and magic were popular. So I thought, “gee, is there a story that is dark, has fantasy and a lot of blood and death, but also has a decent romance and lively characters? And I didn’t have to look any farther than Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

For those who like dark themes, like myself, there is a lot in this play from duels and poison to talking to skulls. Hamlet, the main character of this play, is told by the ghost of his father that he was murdered by Hamlet’s uncle, who is not only the new king of Denmark, but is married to Hamlet’s mother (a sinful act in its time). Hamlet spends the rest of the play not only facing the burden of a promise that he is not sure to keep, but additionally has to deal with the depression and suicidal thoughts leading up to the start of the play, something that a lot of teenagers could possibly relate to. And of course, it’s one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, so almost all of the named characters die by the end. There’s a lot of troubled minds to question and analyze, so fans of psychology would love this play. On top of that, despite the frequency of death, “Hamlet” is actually a better love story than “Romeo and Juliet.” Hamlet and Ophelia are the only link to each other’s sanity.

Finally, the characters are amazing. I loved their development throughout the play and how they appeal to the audience in their decisions. Ophelia, although a dutiful daughter in the end, sasses her father and brother when they tell her to stay away from Hamlet. Polonius, being the nosy parent, spies on everyone and knows their private business. Hamlet, who not only has the role of the emo teenager, but also is clever enough to make fun of every single character in the play. And poor Horatio, who wonders how he got caught up in this mess.

All in all I really enjoyed this play and hope that you get the chance to read it.

Hamlet, and all of its printed and film incarnations, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

Book Review: Macbeth by William Shakespeare

macbethWilliam Shakespeare, the great English playwright, is renowned for his many works, ranging from plays to poetry to sonnets. However, Macbeth is considered to be his best achievement, known for its dark and powerful theme.

Also Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, Macbeth tells the story of a brave Scottish general named Macbeth. When he receives a prophecy from three witches that declares he will be the King of Scotland, Macbeth becomes consumed with his growing ambition. With the urge of his wife, Macbeth commits a horrible murder in order to take the throne for himself. This terrible deed soon triggers a chain of multiple actions that eventually lead to a civil war that throws Macbeth and Lady Macbeth into a world of treachery, madness, and death.

Compared to the other Shakespearean plays that I have read, Macbeth was fairly easy to follow, as it had a plot line that was intriguing, almost like a novel. I found it interesting how Macbeth, who was once an honorable general, transformed into a heartless monster, whose ambition made him lose all sense of right and wrong. Overcome with guilt and paranoia, Macbeth begins to slowly mentally break down, to the point where he sees ghosts, as well as Lady Macbeth, who becomes convinced that her hands are permanently stained with the blood of the person they murdered.

All in all, I would certainly recommend this play to anyone who thinks Shakespeare is frustrating and difficult to read. Macbeth gave me a new insight on the writings of Shakespeare, and surprisingly, was very enjoyable. For those who have trouble understanding Shakespeare’s language, I would suggest finding a version with footnotes that explain and help in comprehending the Early Modern English. Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s works that everyone must read during their lifetime, and it reminds us about the danger of ambition and the evil that lurks in every single one of us.

-Kaylie W., 10th grade

Shakespeare? Or Nah?

shakespeare_or_nahNow, I know that a lot of you guys are hardcore literature lovers, and thus would be fundamentally incapable of comprehending why and how people could ever dislike the works of William Shakespeare. I know; frankly, I am right there among you.

But recently, I read about a study that revealed that only a small percentage of teenagers like/enjoy/appreciate Shakespeare’s works. To me, this is sad and disappointing, but I have also discovered it to be a hard, distinct truth of reality. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that students are forced to study his works in school and thus the requirement of doing so makes it unfavorable; maybe it has something to do with laziness, and not having the capability or attention span to dissect his extravagant use of language; or maybe because of all the modern, contemporary ways of passing leisure time, reading to comprehend the works of the Bard is an activity viewed upon as trivial, inconsequential, and pointless.

I wholeheartedly believe this to be untrue. For one, Shakespeare is an unprecedented phenomenon; no one since has been able to harness the English language as brilliantly as he did. We all know that his plays are world-renowned, but the real question is: Why should we choose to read Hamlet when we can SparkNote the play in candid, easy-to-understand, modern-style English in only a few precious seconds?

Michael Mack, an Associate English Professor from the Catholic University of America once compared reading Shakespeare to listening to music. As a self-proclaimed professional music listener, I declare this statement to be surprisingly accurate. The first time we hear a song we notice things like beat, repetition, genre, and whether or not we’d be able to dance to it. It is not until we have listened to the song many times that we begin to recognize the singer/songwriter’s message and start to discover the lyrics’ true meaning.

If you have never tried to read anything written by Will Shakespeare, I encourage you to pick up Romeo and Juliet (a story most everyone pretty much already knows) and read it in its original, non-abridged version. See if you like it. I hope you do. If you don’t, then I digress. I remain the type of person who (re)reads Shakespeare on the weekends for fun.

For those of you who have tried and not been able to navigate the Shakespearean language (no one blames you, trust me) there are also versions of the plays called “Shakespeare Made Easy” which includes the original and a modernized version of the text, along with explanatory footnotes that can be very useful, especially if you are reading for school. These are great reading tools and I encourage you to utilize them.

My advice: Defy society. Read Shakespeare in public.

-Danielle K., 8th grade

Play Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare

midsummer_nights_dreamLast month, I performed in my school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I played the part of Puck, and as I know the majority of the script by heart, I decided to right a review on this whimsical and unusual play by Will Shakespeare.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a fantastical fairy-tale comedy that tells the story of four young lovers named Hermia, Lysander, Helena, and Demetrius. Long story short, both the men love Hermia but Hermia only loves Lysander (and Helena loves Demetrius, who doesn’t love her in return). Hermia’s mother, however, feels that Hermia should marry Demetrius. When Lysander and Hermia decide to run away together in order to avoid this fate, they are followed by Demetrius who is followed by the faithful Helena. Upon observing Demetrius’ cruelty towards Helena, Oberon (the king of the fairies that live in a nearby forest) sends his servant, Puck, to put a spell on him to make him fall in love with Helena.

Unfortunately, Puck is revealed to be a careless (and also very mischievous) fairy and he accidentally puts the spell on the wrong man. From this point on, the story follows the amused Puck as he reluctantly sets off to correct his mistakes and restore peace to Athens and regularity to the lovers.

I was ecstatic when I found out that my drama class was going to be doing this play, and it proved to be just as fun as I thought it would be. Puck is a very unique and confusing fairy with a ton of dialogue, which made it fun (and challenging) to learn and play the character.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is very exciting. There are numerous unexpected plot twists and the characters are unique and strangely captivating. It is also a very good play/ book to have read to be able to reference in essays and whatnot. I recommend A Midsummer Night’s Dream to anyone who enjoys theatre, Shakespeare, or fantasy novels.

-Danielle K., 8th grade

Book Review: As YOU Like It

as_you_like_itShakespeare was great. No contest.

But in my opinion, his best comedy is As You Like It. It is an amazing play, where all the characters end up falling in love and getting married because of one person: a teenage girl named Rosalind. She wants to find out if the guy she likes really loves her, so she dresses up like a guy and offers to give her crush love lessons.

In this play there are two jesters, two shepherds, two peasant girls, two rich cousins, two brothers, and two dukes. It is an amazing play. No one in the play seems to want to do much with court life. Half of them are banished to the forest of Arden (Robin Hood’s supposed forest) and they spend their time having fun. It is thought Shakespeare pretty much wrote this play to show off, because it has no real morals. The entire point of the play is to give people love advice and show them how stupid lovers can be. One of my favorite quotes that Rosalind says is, “Love is merely a madness, and I tell you, deserves as well a dark house and whip as madmen do; and the reason why they are not so punish’d and cur’d is, that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too.” 3:2

I know a lot of you are probably thinking “Shakespeare… Romeo and Juliet… Olden sounding words like thee and whilst… Dead chicks like Ophelia and Juliet. Not fun.” But if you enjoy rom-coms, this is just an olden day version. You can even look up the SparkNotes summary before you read it, just in case. But please, don’t knock it ’til you try it.

-Becka O., 8th grade