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Hamlet, John Phillip Kemble as Hamlet, Drury Lane Theatre, 1785

Hamlet has a uniquely rich and complex stage history reflecting the fascination which the principal character has aroused in every kind of critic, partly because the exceptional use of his soliloquies draws compelling attention to his elusive subjective identity. The ambiguities of the hero and the plot have opened infinite interpretative options, and it is possible that this diversity provides a challenge deliberately created by the playwright to incite audience interest. After all, like the Oedipus of Sophocles, this play has elements of one of the great literary forms: the detective story. It appears that a major crime has been committed in the state which the hero is compelled to investigate, but in the process he finds that his own integrity is severely challenged by his own involvement in homicide. The recurring uncertainty of proving concealed guilt and of responding to what is uncovered may well be the real subject of both plays, and might be more stressed as a major concern of the play. The play's multiple structure invites this view, since it presents no fewer than four children losing fathers through violence, each responding in significantly different ways: Ophelia by losing her sanity in suicide, Laertes by pursuing injudicious violence against others, and only Fortinbras ultimately surviving to achieve his goals without further crime. One possible production option may be not to surrender entirely to the hero's point of view, but to recognize and enjoy the script's fascinating shifts of tone and situation, while recognizing in the end that, if Hamlet is killed, by that point he has achieved some greater awareness of a less hectic and distraught response to life's vicissitudes than he began with.

Hamlet, Tokyo Globe, 1991
Hamlet, Rio de Janerio, 2001
Hamlet, Stratford Festival of Canada, 1957
Hamlet, Old Vic Players, 1937
Hamlet: Charles Rock as First Grave-Digger
Hamlet: Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) as Hamlet
Laurence Olivier as Hamlet
Leslie Howard as Hamlet, New York, 1939
Hamlet: Richard Burton as Hamlet
Hamlet: Orita/Isozaki, Tokyo Globe, September 1991
Hamlet: Orita/Isozaki, Tokyo Globe, September 1991
Stratford Festival, Ontario, Hamlet, 1957.
Les Productions Deschamps-Lelarge Inc., Canada: Hamlet, prince du Québec 1968.
Hamlet, prince du Québec (1968) Les Productions Deschamps-Lelarge Inc., Canada)



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