Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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Here's to Hamlet

Nothing like a little Shakespeare to get the analytical thoughts flowing.

I haven't been close to the Bard since 2008, when I saw a very decent production of TWELFTH NIGHT at Luzerne County Community College.

This weekend, I plan to take in a production of "Hamlet" by the fine folks at the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble. I saw "Macbeth" there several years ago, and they did a nice job. I anticipate good things this time around as well.

I have never seen "Hamlet" performed on stage. I recall seeing - and liking - Mel Gibson's movie version, but that's as far as it's gone. I've read "Hamlet" several times, however, and the prospect of seeing the play has me thinking about what I took away from those readings. Mostly, what I took away was an overwhelming sense of indecision. Indecision on my part and also on the part of Hamlet.

To backtrack slightly, I studied "Hamlet" almost 25 years ago when I took a Shakespeare class during my junior year abroad at the University of Leeds. I ended up reading the play several times as I studied for the final exam. The exam consisted of several essay questions and you could pick three of them to answer. Obviously, they weren't going to give you the questions in advance. So, the revision process consisted of looking at questions from previous final exams to get an idea of what types of questions might appear this time around.

One of the practice questions I pored over involved "Hamlet." At issue, did Hamlet have to die? Of course, he does die at the end of the play, killed by Laertes during a duel. But, is that how it had to end for the fair prince of Denmark? Could he have lived? Or, was there something in his nature that made Hamlet's death the inevitable end?

So, I read the play and decided that, yes, Hamlet had to die. But, was that the right answer? I read the play again and decided that, no, maybe he didn't have to die. I think I even read it a third time and decided that, yes, Hamlet really, truly, had to die. And, I think the reason I thought he had to die is because of what I perceived as his tragic flaw - his inability to make a decision. He could not act.

(As an aside, nothing remotely similar to this question appeared on the actual final exam. Now THAT'S a tragedy!)

At any rate, as I prepare to see BTE's performance of "Hamlet," I've been thinking about the play all over again. I've even started to read it again, but have only managed the first few scenes so far.

Will the BTE performance bear out my earlier analysis? Or, will I find something that makes me rethink my conclusions? If the production is any good, the answer in both cases will be yes.

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