Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hamlet on Trial

Hamlet on Trial, I know it may seem lazy for me to choose an appropriation we were forced to familiarize ourselves with, but in realty I truly did think this rendition of Shakespeare’s Hamlet was intriguing. The fact that Justice Kennedy decided to rewrite the famous, bloody tragedy that, whether the reader liked it or not, gave absolute closure since nobody was left alive to leave any loose end not cut in order to keep Hamlet alive and stand trial for the act of murdering Polonius who was spying on him behind a curtain. It amazes me how people can think of these things! It’s truly shocking to know that people can sit down and develop an entirely new and brilliant play by using only small excerpts and details from an impervious and all powerful classic known as a Shakespeare drama. It reminds me of this stream that’s starts off as a tiny tributary to a mighty river that then begins to grow and flourish into a large and powerful river itself. Now, let me actually talk about the play. Supreme Justice Kennedy generates this idea almost two decades ago to create a drama based around the idea of putting Hamlet on Trial in order to both test his insanity, which his uncle claims is true, and-if proven sane- what his punishment should be for the killing of his beloved Ophelia’s father Polonius. Since this is set after the tragedy came to an end, Kennedy added his own little artistic addition and- through a newspaper article- brought Hamlet back to life by claiming the poison did not kill him. Obviously this is ludicrous, but for the setting to be exactly like the one in Kennedy’s head, it must be done and accepted by the audience of the house. The trial itself consists of real judges and lawyers all basing their cases off of the words that Hamlet speaks throughout the drama, tying in many elements of the original Shakespearean masterpiece. For an added flair, the jury is tied at six to six, which I personally think is comical. I don’t know why I just feel that with all of this work and risk taking Kennedy took in making this corollary to the tragedy that it ends in a stalemate. However, according to the play writer, this is extremely crucial to the meaning. In my opinion, the whole trial can be roughly compared to the literary world. The lawyers are the Shakespearean “experts” attempting, and I mean attempting, to proclaim to the jury, or the literate population, how Shakespeare really created Hamlet. The lawyers used direct quotations from Hamlet’s speech in the play in order to reinforce their own argument for or against his sanity, and this whole debacle between the two sides is almost futile because in the end the literary world will never be able to decide which side is correct. It may be a stretch, I don’t know, so I will attempt to back my theory with some direct quotations! Relating to the jury ending, Kennedy states that, “If the jury is divided, the enigma remains in us and with us. And I hope what the audience will take away is that there's richness in our literature, there's a richness in our heritage…” I believe that Kennedy is trying to say that since there is no unanimous decision relating towards any of Shakespeare’s true intentions, that the problem and adventures that come from this eternal conundrum is what makes Shakespeare so eternal and so important to our modern culture. I feel that it is crucial to say that a major reason Kennedy created this play was to promote more Shakespeare into the lives of the youth. When interviewed, one of the lawyers stated, “We are, in fact, using the same words, which is both the genius of Shakespeare and the genius of the dilemma of Hamlet. I mean, the same words that I am sure that the expert that the prosecution is going to call is going to be the words that our expert calls, and therein lies both the challenge and the adventure here.” Personally, I believe that because the lawyers are using the same language because they are just speaking the embodiment of their argument as though it was in academic writing. Clearly, all academic writing relies on facts, and in most cases the facts of literary academic writing is solely direct quotations.


  1. What do you think of Justice Kennedy's claim (echoed almost verbatim by ART director Diane Paulus speaking about her disco adaptation of Midsummer Night's Dream) that his project will make Shakespeare newly accessible to new audiences, folks who might not have been interested in Shakespeare before? 1) Will this work? 2) is it worth doing, and if so, why? (You don't have to answer, just something to think about.)

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  3. Personally, I think that his claim is probable and valid; however, I believe that he has this exaggerated glorification in regards to how effective this adaptation will be. I think it will work, just not to a great or even visible extent, which in my opinion should be considered a victory. I think it is worth trying because every little effort towards this goal is beneficial whether it is successful or not.