Thursday, June 2, 2011
Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray
This is, of course, a modernized version of Hamlet. I was looking forward to reading this and wondering how it was going to be done. I'm not giving anything away, since it says it right on the excerpt on the back, that Ophelia doesn't die in this story. It's her story, which I loved, because Ophelia is such an interesting character who is paid very little attention. In the play, we don't see very much of her. She's there, and then suddenly she's crazy flinging flowers about and then she's dead. Unfortunately, in most of the versions of Hamlet I've seen, Ophelia is played as a hysterical madwoman, which I never really liked. It was great to see Ophelia become such a complex character through this story, and understand all that she was dealing with.
Ophelia loves Hamlet. He also loves her father and her brother. She wants to be a good daughter. She wants the queen to like her but knows how manipulative Gertrude is. She wants lots of different things, but a many of her choices are made for her, and she has to constantly be aware of people trying to take her picture or exploit her. As Hamlet becomes more erratic, Ophelia is torn. She wants to help him, but helping him is taking a toll on her. She doesn't do anything else except be with him, and nothing seems to bring him out of his depression. He's occasionally cruel to her. She doesn't know if she wants to be with him or not.
Gertrude also became a fascinating character through this telling. She was demanding, cruel and manipulative. She wanted to be the most important person to her son. She was jealous of Ophelia. It was hard to say if she knew what had really happened to her husband or not, but was willing to do some terrible things. There was a lot more to her then met the eye.
I was wondering how the final scene was going to be translated. If you're not familiar with Hamlet, in the final scene, within like five minutes, almost every single main character is dead, and the setting is duel between Hamlet and Ophelia's brother Laertes. I was concerned it was going to become a big shoot-out in the modern setting, but Ray had something much more original in mind: a lacrosse match. It was a little weird, but it kind of work. Hamlet and Laertes are the team captains and are roughing each other up. Claudius tries to kill Hamlet with a poisoned drink that Gertrude drinks instead, just like in the play. Laertes cuts Hamlet with a knife in his lacrosse stick (which was a little odd but I was willing to go with it) and, well, you'll have to read the book (or play).
If you have read the play, it was really fun to see how all the original elements factored in to this retelling. Every scene from the play was represented in some way.
Of course, one of the reasons that it worked so well is that Hamlet is one of those timeless plays that taps in so well to people's emotions it works in any setting or time period. And I think Ray did an excellent job modernizing it and giving a fascinating look at the female characters.
I would say I like the cover, except it makes me uncomfortable that you can totally see her ass. Seriously, look in to pants.
Falling for Hamlet comes out July 5.