Dr. Who, Star Trek, Will and Me!

I love watching Will Shakespeare’s plays. There, I said it.

It may be that you’re groaning and ready to click, but just give me a little minute. I discovered the other day how PBS has uploaded my favorite Hamlet so that you can watch the whole three-hour production online for free. David Tennant (The 10th Doctor, Dr. Who) stars as Hamlet and Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek) as Claudius.

I have seen many productions of this play and this one is by far the best and I am not alone.

Edward T. Oakes argues that this release of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Hamlet (first on stage, then on the BBC and PBS, and on DVD), “…is a Hamlet that finally makes sense.” He says it is “by far the freshest and most arresting interpretation I have ever seen of the play.”

“To my mind,” he writes, “the success of this new RSC production stems from a host of factors, all of which work together in such a way that, the play now finally makes sense.”

Here are his points in outline:

  • First of all, each line is so freshly delivered that it sounds new (quite a feat for this play!)…
  • Second (and this is a negative virtue), this production eschews any Freudian interpretation, which by now has become an empty cliché, and even an embarrassment…
  • Third, the setting of the play is the contemporary national-security state, with CCTV cameras everywhere, and from whose tapes we see some of the action (interestingly, the ghost’s outline does not register on the tapes). As world literature’s most famous neurotic, Hamlet’s unstable personality is already sufficiently known by almost any audience; but in this production there is an added reason for Hamlet’s incipient madness besides his own volatile temper…
  • Fourth, the soliloquies are not treated as the dramaturgical equivalent of operatic arias, but flow naturally out of the action…
  • Which brings me to the fifth and last great merit of this version: here Hamlet truly displays the dilemmas of his personality. It is one of the great mysteries of this play how Shakespeare manages to get the audience to sympathize with his protagonist…

Read the whole thing for more detailed interaction with this new version, then set aside a bit over three hours and watch an amazing play!

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