Today we finished Hamlet and with the help Mel Gibson, David Tennant, and Danny DeVito I think my students understood (as Ben Jonson once said), “Shakespeare is not for an age, but for all time.”
Laurence Olivier is undoubtedly considered a master actor; however, his is not the version of choice when teaching Shakespeare’s Hamlet to a current generation. Sifting through various versions, and there are numerous, I decided Ahnold would suffice in keeping their attention.
Overall opinion is this is how Hamlet should have handled stuff when he got home from college. On the other hand, you can see how short the show became when he went from inaction to a “Last Action Hero” (how many recognized the clip?)
Yeah, teaching Hamlet, a four-hour play of a college kid who doesn’t know how to handle his dysfunctional family( one that would rival any modern reality television program) to a roomful of teenagers is a challenge. Don’t get me wrong– Hamlet is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. My problem is how to get my students who thrive on the likes of 300 and Aliens and Cowboys as entertainment to appreciate the play as much as I do, or at least see the reason why it is still relevant for today, even though it is about 200 hundred years old. So I gave it over to a master teacher to introduce my students to the likes of the Elsinore gang.
Actually, the movie did help my students understand Hamlet better. They saw how it improved the lives of the DDs, and comprehended that Shakespeare is a great way to sharpen critical thinking skills. They may never read another Shakespeare play in their lives, yet, as I always I tell my students, if they can comprehend Old English they can comprehend anything they come across, from a diesel engine manual to putting together their new barbeue.
As we traveled through the emotions, intrigue, and the nitty-gritty of family life gone wrong, my students saw that the interests of the Elizabethan theater crowed wasn’t too much different from today: sex, violence, love and death.
Sometimes only a little is lost in translation.