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My foray into Shakespeare

August 25, 2012
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

I was first introduced to Shakespeare back in freshman year of high school with "Romeo and Juliet." My English teacher was a self-professed Shakespeare nut (well, I don't think he gave himself that title, but we as his students sure would've). I remember celebrating the bard's birthday in one of my advanced English classes (I had to buy the party hats). Yes, we also got to see Zeffirelli's 1968 movie with Romeo's bare behind (so risque for us freshmen). It was a sweet, yet tragic romantic movie, but you have to admit that those two were just kinda young.

I read "King Lear" in that advanced English class in high school. Yep, nothing like another tragedy to bone up on. And I've read "Hamlet" on a couple of different occasions. The only problem is that I didn't absorb it that much.

Yeah, I now get that Hamlet was avenging the death of his father after his uncle Claudius swiftly married Queen Gertrude and became king. Hamlet's in love with Ophelia and vice versa, but we know where that "romance" goes - "get thee to a nunnery."

In all these years, I never really knew how Claudius killed his brother. And since Ross played that particular role in Marshall Area Stage Company's production of "Hamlet," now I do - by dumping poison in the elder Hamlet's ear while he was napping. Sneaky. But Claudius was just a ruthless guy in general. Look how things end up in the final act.

Last week I said I was helping Ross run lines while we were going to and coming back from the Twins game. Here I was stumbling over the other characters' lines while he's trying to rattle his lines off from memory. I just have to admire all those who can memorize Shakespeare, especially if they have a big role, like Macbeth, Hamlet or Juliet. I couldn't even get out simple words, like "the."

So now that I've finally seen "Hamlet" live on stage, I want to delve more into it. Maybe watch Kenneth Branagh's four-hour epic movie. So far, I've just downloaded the 2009 movie of the Royal Shakespeare Company's version of "Hamlet," starring David Tennant of "Dr. Who" fame in the title role. And there's also Patrick Stewart as Claudius. And it's only a three-hour version. MASC whittled down "Hamlet" to a little more than two-and-a-half hours. In its version, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were not dead, they were basically non-existent as their roles went on the chopping block. In my random searching on Claudius, Gertrude and others, I came across a John Updike novel "Gertrude and Claudius," which is his telling of what happens before "Hamlet." I just checked it out from the library, so I have yet to break into it. I've never read Updike; hope I can get into it.



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