The play’s the thing

Just saw a live performance of Hamlet. I don’t know why some people teach Shakespeare at school without encorporating the theatre aspect of it. It all comes alive on stage. “To be,” “Not a whit,” “what a piece of work is a man,” all the famous lines turn into something tangible and palpable to the point where it’s not just words on paper. You feel it stirring in your chest. 

The political parts were taken out—this version rested on familial tensions. In that, it felt more condensed, more personal, perhaps a touch more relatable. You understand Hamlet’s antic disposition. You feel shattered when you see Ophelia handing out flowers. Even Claudius, to some extent, catches a moment of empathy. 

It was a charismatic version, too. Not all dark and broody like some adaptations. Ambition, wit, and intelligence ran through the air. Movement was constant throughout—even when Hamlet stopped to speak his mind, you could feel the impermanence of it all—the words, the night, the play. To think! Four hundred years later, it’s still here! We’re still finding ways to interpret this character. We mull over his words and toy with them under our tongues to see how they fit. At times, they are too vast and heavy to hold. Then, when we least expect it, they slip in like fitted gloves, like a breath of understanding. 

The stage may be unlit, but we haven’t reached the end of the play yet. We haven’t met the silence.

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