Follow TV Tropes

Live Blog Shakespeare, Starships & Sonic Screwdrivers
Mort082011-11-02 15:57:47

Go To

Intro & Act 1, Scene 1

Hoo boy, am I gonna have a field day with this.

Originally performed circa 1605, William Shakespeare's "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark," better known as just "Hamlet," is one of his greatest, most beloved, most psychoanalyzed works. It gives us a compelling, timeless story that's way more entertaining than your English teacher would have you believe, numerous instances of Alternate Character Interpretation and what is, without a shadow of a doubt, THE most famous line in all of theater...

"I am but mad north-northwest. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw."

That's pure poetry right there. *sniff*

ANYWAY, now we come to the reason why this blog isn't in the Literature section. It should be a well-known fact that Shakespeare's plays were meant to be watched, not read. As a result, they have received many, many, many, MANY film adaptations, and Hamlet is no exception. So we're going to enjoy the Bard's classic tale by taking one of those movies for a spin.

As you may or may not have figured out by now, the version of Hamlet we'll be watching is the 2010 adaptation of a 2008 live performance, both done by the Royal Shakespeare Company. I have affectionately dubbed this version "The Nerds' Hamlet," for obvious reasons. Yes, this is the one with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart. I chose this one because;

  1. I'm a proud Fangirl of both Shakespeare and Doctor Who. I deserve to have a little fun with this.

  2. I know where it is on Youtube, and it's broken up into easily viewable chunks of 5 to 10 minutes each. Which is good, because even with all the cuts, this thing clocks in at over 3 hours.

  3. I haven't seen this version yet, and I've really wanted to. We'll be discovering it together.

  4. Come on, what idiot would pass up the chance to watch the Tenth Doctor and Captain Picard plot to kill each other while hurling creative insults at everyone? What more entertainment would you require?

Despite the pain it will bring me, I'll try to keep my squeeing and lame Shout-Outs at a minimum. It'll be best for everyone, trust me.

Ready? OKAY! Set course for Denmark! Warp 9, engage! Allons-y!

...Note how I only said I would try.

Act 1, Scene 1

Our first shot is of a lone guard walking down a hall, large gun in hand, watched by us through a security camera - did I mention this version has a modern setting? Not that important, but worth mentioning. He hears a voice call out:

"Who's there?"

"Nay, answer me," he responds, pointing his gun at the new arrival. "Stand and unfold yourself!" Turns out there's no need to plug anyone with lead - it's just a Changing of the Guard. The new guard, Bernardo, is quickly followed by two friends of his, Horatio and Marcellus. Once the first guard leaves, these three get down to business; Marcellus and Bernardo have been seeing a spook in this very hall for the last two nights, and Horatio thinks they're nutters.*

Well, they'll fix that!

"Tush, tush, 'twill not appear," Horatio insists, so Marcellus decides to give him the 411; "Last night of all, when yond same star that's westward from the pole had made his course to illume that part of heaven where now it burns, Marcellus and myself, the bell then beating one - "

DONG! Cue the Raimi Vision as the ghost makes his entrance.

Needless to say, everyone briefly gets freaked out. "Look where it comes again! In the same figure, like the king that's dead!" Luckily, Bernardo and Marcellus get a bright idea; they turn on Horatio and command him to speak to the thing. Haven't these guys watched Ghostbusters? Horatio agrees but, being terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought, can only come up with, "What art thou that usurp'st this time of night, together with that fair and warlike form in which the majesty of buried Denmark did sometimes march? By heaven I charge thee, speak!"

Ghostie gets offended and stalks off. This does not go without comment.*

After calming down, the guys start to wonder what the hell is going on; what is this thing, why does it look like the dead king, why is it walking down the same hall every night and why is it dressed for battle? Horatio starts telling a story about how the king once battled the forces of Norway and won, thanks to Hamlet. * Anyway, the prince of Norway, Fortinbras, is all grown up and getting together nobles to take back the conquered land and what is that behind Horatio?

At least this time we get to actually see the ghost.

The guards get freaked out again, but this time they try to corner the thing. Not that it works. Amusingly, we cut back to the camera POV at this moment, letting us see how there's nothing actually there for them to corner. Either way, the cock crows. The ghost turns around - hey, look, it's Patrick Stewart! - and goes back to whence he came, leaving the guards helplessly calling after it.

"It faded on the crowing of the cock," Marcellus remarks. He explains how the dawn is a sacred time that spirits must hide from. "So have I heard, and do in part believe it," Horatio answers. Taking charge of the situation, he announces his plan. "Break we our watch up; and by my advice, let us impart what we have seen to-night unto young Hamlet; for, upon my life, this spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him."


Nov 2nd 2011 at 6:23:44 AM
Patrick Stewart actually first played Claudius in an uncut BBC special series of every Shakespeare play, with Derek Jacobi as Hamlet. Amusingly, he'd go on to also play Claudius in Kenneth Branagh's film.

If nothing else, this is a far better modernization than the Ethan Hawke film with the ghost walking into a Pepsi One machine, and poor Julia Stiles having to try to convey everything Ophelia's feeling with almost all her lines cut.