Audiobook Review: Hamlet

Audiobook Review: HamletHamlet by William Shakespeare
Length: 2 hrs, 51 mins
Published by Blackstone Audio on May 9, 2011
Genres: Historical
Source: Gifted

Blackstone Audio is proud to present the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's brilliant production of Shakespeare's disturbing and psychologically rich masterpiece Hamlet. Whether you're a Hamlet scholar or being exposed to this work for the first time, this stunning work of audio theater, fully dramatized with performances by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival cast, is a must-listen. In Denmark a king is dead. His brother, Claudius, has snatched the throne, and the widowed queen, yet life goes on--for everyone but Prince Hamlet. The prince, fixated on his uncle as the murderer, is charged by his father's ghost to avenge the wrong. Disconnected from the foul world around him, Hamlet strains under the weight of his task, descending into madness, both real and feigned.

Everyone knows Hamlet. Okay, maybe not everyone, but most people do. Now, if you were to ask me if I liked Hamlet, my short answer would probably be ‘no.’ Really, though, it’s not fair for me to encapsulate my feelings on Hamlet into such a simple answer. If Hamlet and I were in a relationship on facebook (assuming he it could ever decide whether to be in one…punned!), it would most definitely be complicated.

Here’s the thing: Hamlet is a great play. There’s no denying it. When I think about the play objectively, there’s a lot of amazing stuff in there. Shakespeare’s wit is fantastic; gotta love all of those dirty jokes he makes in here. And, of course, the language is completely gorgeous.

The characters I have never been particularly tied to, which is one reason Hamlet does not rank among my favorite plays; the tragedies often lack the sassy heroines you can find in the comedies. Hamlet’s indecisiveness frustrates me endlessly. Whine, whine, whine, think about doing something, wimp out, wine more. Cry moar, anon. Yoda judges you. Hamlet’s uncle father and his aunt mother are not especially likable, even if you don’t think they’re guilty of what Hamlet’s ghosty father accused them of (namely, turning him into a ghost). Ophelia isn’t the brightest; plus, her end does not for admiration make. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are probably my favorites, and that’s only because of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard.

Truly though, the reason that I don’t really like Hamlet is how prevalent it is. I just get so tired of always hearing this same play over and over. I mean, who didn’t have to read this in high school, and again in college?

This audiobook is the recording of a stage version of the play, performed by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival cast. They do a good job, and I imagine it was quite a fun performance that they did. It sounds like they did some interesting things with the characters, such as changing gender in some cases and some modernizing (thus the leather jacket Hamlet’s wearing).

Unfortunately, listening to a play and watching it just aren’t the same. Had I not already been very familiar with Hamlet, I have little doubt that I would at time have been confused by some of the quick scene changes or by which voice belonged to which character. Some of the actors did have rather similar sounding voices.

Between scenes, there is creepy dramatic music, which definitely set a mood, but I don’t think I liked. Nor did I care for the fact that the players rapped everything. That was kind of weird. At least Ophelia didn’t rap her crazyface songs. Speaking of Ophelia, she was my favorite part of the performance. Her voice and manner definitely reminded me of River Tam (Summer Glau’s character in Firefly, who has a couple of screws loose). What an awesome way to portray Ophelia. Now I kind of want to try to write some fan fiction with the characters from Firefly performing Hamlet. Maybe not.

One response to “Audiobook Review: Hamlet”

  1. Steena says:

    I’d read that fanfic. I’d be very interested to see how you cast it.

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