Book #79: Hamlet (1603)

hamletAuthor: William Shakespeare
Production: 2012, LibriVox
Language: English
Length: 222 minutes (3 hours 42 minutes)
Finished listening on: 9 Dec 2014

I haven’t properly read Hamlet since high school, nor really any other Shakespeare, so it was interesting to reintroduce myself to it. This was found on a free audiobooks site called LibriVox, which is similar to Project Gutenberg.

On the site, volunteers record themselves reading texts, and it can be uploaded to the site. There were more than one version of many different classic texts. Of course, for plays it is eminently suitable to essentially make an amateur production of the work, which is what’s happened here. The voice work was very variable: some of the actors were very expressive and lent a certain energy to their parts, while others would just read their parts in a monotone. This was especially true of the voice reading the stage directions, as I’d admittedly expect. It was obvious, if not from the variance in accents, that the actors were not in the same room, but recording their parts separately.

I also enjoyed the gender variance of some of the actors. In particular, the actor who played Hamlet was a woman, so it had the effect of making it sound like a lesbian drama between her and Ophelia. Well… almost. Hamlet’s excessively vile misogyny kind of gives the game away, I should think.

Anyway, after having read Ryan North’s take on Hamlet, it was good to refresh myself with the real story. For instance, North made a big deal out of the pirates in the fourth or fifth act, which I couldn’t remember before and thought was just a brief footnote in the real story, but was actually described in more detail than I thought.

One of the other things I thought a lot while listening to this is that it feels a lot more relatable now that I’ve had a bit more life experience under my belt, since the time that I studied it almost ten years ago. I should perhaps clarify, not the horrific misogyny part, but more just the parts pertaining to adult relationships and the like.

Overall, it was an inherently flawed performance, but it was a nice reintroduction to Shakespeare in a more natural way than reading the plays as books would have been. Perhaps I should keep up this intellectual streak.

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