This has been my summer of Shakespeare, particularly of “Hamlet.”
My obsession with the play began when I learned that our June tour of Scandinavia would take us to Kronborg Castle in Denmark, Shakespeare’s inspiration for Elsinore in “Hamlet.” Shortly before we left the U.S., I’d picked up the book, “Hamlet Globe to Globe,” subtitled, “Two Years, 190,000 Miles, 197 Countries, One Play” from my public library. It tells the story of a small group of actors from London’s famous Globe Theatre who performed “Hamlet” in nearly every country of the world, even in refugee camps. I was immediately hooked on the powerful prose of author Dominic Dromgoole, the way he connected the play to the histories of the countries where the actors were performing (for example, the Killing Fields of Cambodia and Hamlet’s attitude toward murder), and the reactions of different audiences to the performances. I made a promise to read “Hamlet” as soon as we returned home.
We were to tour the castle on a dreary day. The wet weather made the walk from the bus to Kronborg seem long. Hamlet was less on my mind than finding refuge from the rain.
It wasn’t our first Danish castle nor our first European castle. After you wander through a few castles they start to look the same: mile-long hallways, too many rooms to count and too few windows in them, enough spare bedrooms to accommodate my entire high school graduating class of 526, and no central heating.
Seeing this niche at the entrance pleased me; still it was just another castle. That is, until I began to pay attention to other people strolling through the halls and popping up in various rooms. They were clearly not tourists. Nor were they locals, unless locals were fond of late 16th century dress. They were actors.
I nudged my husband. “Look. Do you think that woman is Ophelia?”
She was. And we were no longer in an ordinary castle. We wandered into another room. Soon, the actors were not just hanging around, but acting.
I took the next three photos while watching this exchange between Hamlet and Ophelia.
H: “I did love you once.”
O. “Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.”
H. “You should not have believ’d me…I loved you not.”
O. “I was the more deceiv’d.”
H. “Get thee to a nunn’ry…”
Since Denmark, I have read Hamlet once, though it merits multiple readings, attended a “Shakespeare in the Park” performance, ordered another Hamlet-related book by Dromgoole, and watched a summer TV series called “Will,” about Shakespeare’s early entry into the world of London theatre. I own two other books about Shakespeare’s life and soon will move them from the bookshelf to my nightstand.
If you must have an obsession, even if just for the summer, it might as well be about the man considered by many the greatest writer in the English language.
For “the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” and spur our own interest in Shakespeare.