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Hamlet by John Marsden: A Modern and Sensual Novel Based on Shakespeare's Classic


Hamlet by John Marsden: A Novel Adaptation of Shakespeare's Tragedy




Introduction




Hamlet is one of the most famous and influential plays ever written by William Shakespeare. It tells the story of Prince Hamlet of Denmark, who seeks revenge for his father's murder by his uncle Claudius, who has usurped the throne and married Hamlet's mother Gertrude. Along the way, Hamlet struggles with his own sanity, his love for Ophelia, and his fate as a tragic hero.




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But what if Hamlet was not a play, but a novel? What if we could enter the mind of Hamlet and see his thoughts and feelings in more detail? What if we could experience his world from a different perspective?


That is what John Marsden, an Australian author best known for his young adult novels, has done in his novel adaptation of Hamlet. In this book, he retells Shakespeare's tragedy in his own words, while staying faithful to the plot, the characters, and the themes of the original play.


What is Hamlet by John Marsden?




Hamlet by John Marsden is a novel that was published in 2008 by Candlewick Press. It is part of a series of novel adaptations of Shakespeare's plays that Marsden has written, including Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and The Merchant of Venice.


The novel follows the same structure as Shakespeare's play, divided into five acts and twenty scenes. However, it also adds some scenes and characters that are not in the original play, such as Hamlet's childhood friend Yorick, who appears as a ghost along with his father.


The novel also uses modern language and slang, making it more accessible and relatable to contemporary readers. For example, Hamlet calls Claudius "a rat" and "a snake", Ophelia calls Hamlet "my sweet prince", and Polonius says "OMG" when he hears about Hamlet's madness.


Why did John Marsden write Hamlet?




In an interview with Candlewick Press, John Marsden explained his motivation for writing Hamlet. He said that he wanted to "bring Shakespeare to life for young readers" and to "show them that Shakespeare was not a boring old dead guy who wrote incomprehensible stuff".


He also said that he wanted to "explore some of the mysteries and ambiguities" of Shakespeare's play, such as why Hamlet delays his revenge, why Ophelia goes mad, and why everyone dies at the end.


He said that he hoped that his novel would "encourage readers to go back to the original play" and to "appreciate its beauty and power". He also hoped that his novel would "inspire readers to think about their own lives and choices" and to "question the world around them".


How does Hamlet by John Marsden differ from Shakespeare's original play?




While Hamlet by John Marsden is faithful to the main plot and characters of Shakespeare's play, it also makes some changes and additions that give it a different tone and perspective.


One of the main differences is that the novel is narrated by Hamlet himself, in the first person. This allows the reader to see his inner thoughts and emotions, as well as his doubts and conflicts. For example, in the novel, Hamlet says:


"I wanted to be a king, man enough for anything. But I was a boy, a child, a baby. I couldn't make up my mind about anything. I couldn't even kill a rat."


Another difference is that the novel focuses more on the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia, giving it more depth and complexity. In the novel, Ophelia is not just a passive and obedient daughter, but a strong and independent woman who loves Hamlet passionately. For example, in the novel, Ophelia says:


"I don't care what they say, Hamlet. I don't care what they do. I love you more than anything in this world. You are my life, my soul, my everything."


A third difference is that the novel adds some scenes and characters that are not in the original play, such as Hamlet's childhood friend Yorick, who appears as a ghost along with his father. These scenes and characters provide more background and context to Hamlet's story, as well as some comic relief and irony. For example, in the novel, Yorick says:


"Hey, Hamlet, remember me? I'm Yorick, your old pal. The one who used to make you laugh with my jokes and tricks. The one who taught you how to swordfight and ride a horse. The one who died of the plague when we were twelve."


Summary of Hamlet by John Marsden




In this section, we will summarize the main events of Hamlet by John Marsden, following the same structure as Shakespeare's play.


Act 1: The Ghost and the Murder




The novel begins with Hamlet returning to Denmark from his studies in Germany, after hearing about his father's death and his mother's remarriage to his uncle Claudius. He is greeted by his friend Horatio, who tells him that he has seen a ghost that looks like his father on the castle ramparts.


Hamlet decides to go see the ghost for himself, and follows it to a secluded spot. There, the ghost reveals that he is indeed Hamlet's father, and that he was murdered by Claudius, who poured poison into his ear while he was sleeping. The ghost asks Hamlet to avenge his death, but not to harm his mother.


Hamlet swears to do so, but also wonders if the ghost is telling the truth or if it is a devil sent to deceive him. He decides to pretend to be mad, so that he can observe Claudius and find out more about his guilt.


Act 2: The Play and the Madness




In this act, Hamlet puts on an act of madness, confusing and upsetting everyone around him. He rejects Ophelia's love, insults Polonius (Ophelia's father and Claudius' advisor), and mocks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (his former friends who are sent by Claudius to spy on him).


He also devises a plan to test Claudius' conscience. He hires a group of actors to perform a play that reenacts his father's murder in front of Claudius and Gertrude. He hopes that by watching the play, Claudius will show some sign of guilt or remorse.


The plan works: Claudius is visibly shaken by the play, and leaves in a hurry. Hamlet follows him, intending to kill him while he is praying. However, he hesitates when he sees Claudius kneeling down, thinking that he might be repenting and go to heaven. He decides to wait for a better opportunity.


Act 3: The Closet and the Voyage




During the confrontation, Hamlet hears a noise behind a curtain and stabs it, thinking that it is Claudius. However, he discovers that he has killed Polonius instead, who was hiding there to eavesdrop on the conversation. Hamlet feels no remorse for killing Polonius, whom he considers a meddlesome fool.


Claudius, alarmed by Hamlet's actions, decides to send him to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, with a secret order to have him executed there. However, Hamlet discovers the order and replaces it with one that orders the execution of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern instead. He then escapes from the ship and returns to Denmark.


Act 4: The Graveyard and the Duel




In this act, Hamlet encounters a gravedigger who is digging a grave for Ophelia, who has drowned herself after going mad from Hamlet's rejection and her father's death. He also sees Laertes (Ophelia's brother and Polonius' son), who has returned from France to seek revenge for his family's deaths.


Hamlet and Laertes fight over Ophelia's grave, but are separated by Claudius and Gertrude. Claudius then proposes a duel between Hamlet and Laertes, with the pretext of reconciling them. However, he has a secret plan to kill Hamlet: he has poisoned the tip of Laertes' sword, and prepared a poisoned cup of wine for Hamlet to drink.


Act 5: The Bloodbath and the End




In this act, the duel takes place in front of the court. Hamlet and Laertes exchange blows, but Hamlet does not know that Laertes' sword is poisoned. During the fight, Gertrude drinks from the poisoned cup, intending to toast for Hamlet's victory. She dies shortly after.


Hamlet and Laertes wound each other with the same poisoned sword, and realize that they have been tricked by Claudius. Hamlet then stabs Claudius with the sword and forces him to drink from the poisoned cup. He dies as well.


Hamlet and Laertes forgive each other before they die. Hamlet asks Horatio to tell his story to the world, and names Fortinbras (the prince of Norway who has invaded Denmark) as his successor. He dies in Horatio's arms.


The novel ends with Fortinbras arriving at the scene and ordering a funeral for Hamlet. He says:


"Let four captains bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage; For he was likely, had he been put on, To have proved most royal."


Analysis of Hamlet by John Marsden




In this section, we will analyze some of the aspects of Hamlet by John Marsden, such as how he portrays Hamlet's character, how he depicts Ophelia's role, and how he explores the themes of revenge, madness, and death.


How does John Marsden portray Hamlet's character?




John Marsden portrays Hamlet as a complex and conflicted character, who is torn between his duty to avenge his father and his love for Ophelia. He also shows him as a young man who is struggling with his identity and his place in the world.


Marsden emphasizes Hamlet's intelligence and wit, as well as his creativity and imagination. He shows him as a lover of words and plays, who uses language as a weapon and a shield. He also shows him as a lover of nature and animals, who feels more at ease in the forest than in the court.


Marsden also highlights Hamlet's flaws and weaknesses, such as his indecision and procrastination, his impulsiveness and rashness, his cruelty and violence, and his despair and depression. He shows him as a victim of his own circumstances and choices, who is unable to escape his fate.


How does John Marsden depict Ophelia's role?




John Marsden depicts Ophelia as a more active and assertive role than in Shakespeare's play. He gives her more agency and voice, as well as more depth and complexity.


Marsden shows Ophelia as a strong and independent woman, who is not afraid to express her opinions and feelings. He shows her as a loyal and devoted lover, who is willing to risk everything for Hamlet. He also shows her as a rebellious and defiant daughter, who resists her father's and brother's control.


Marsden also shows Ophelia as a tragic and sympathetic character, who is driven to madness and death by Hamlet's rejection and her father's murder. He shows her as a victim of the patriarchal and corrupt society, who is unable to find happiness or peace.


How does John Marsden explore the themes of revenge, madness, and death?




John Marsden explores the themes of revenge, madness, and death in his novel, showing how they are intertwined and how they affect the characters and the plot.


He shows how revenge is a destructive and futile force, that leads to more violence and suffering. He shows how Hamlet's quest for revenge consumes him and alienates him from everyone he loves. He also shows how Claudius' guilt for his crime haunts him and drives him to more evil deeds.


He shows how madness is a coping mechanism and a form of resistance, that allows the characters to escape from reality and express their true selves. He shows how Hamlet's madness is both real and feigned, and how it helps him to uncover the truth and to challenge the authority. He also shows how Ophelia's madness is both a result of her grief and a sign of her strength, and how it frees her from the constraints of society.


He shows how death is a constant presence and a final destination, that shapes the characters' actions and decisions. He shows how Hamlet's awareness of death makes him question the meaning and value of life. He also shows how Ophelia's death affects Hamlet and Laertes, and how it triggers the final catastrophe.


Conclusion




In conclusion, Hamlet by John Marsden is a novel adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy that retells the story in a modern and accessible language, while staying faithful to the plot, the characters, and the themes of the original play.


The novel offers a different perspective on Hamlet's story, by narrating it from his point of view, by focusing more on his relationship with Ophelia, and by adding some scenes and characters that are not in the original play.


The novel also encourages the readers to think about their own lives and choices, and to question the world around them. It invites them to appreciate Shakespeare's beauty and power, as well as John Marsden's creativity and skill.


What are the strengths and weaknesses of Hamlet by John Marsden?




Some of the strengths of Hamlet by John Marsden are:



  • It makes Shakespeare's play more accessible and relatable to contemporary readers, especially young adults.



  • It gives more depth and complexity to Hamlet's character, by showing his inner thoughts and emotions.



  • It gives more agency and voice to Ophelia's role, by showing her as a strong and independent woman.



  • It explores some of the mysteries and ambiguities of Shakespeare's play, such as why Hamlet delays his revenge, why Ophelia goes mad, and why everyone dies at the end.



Some of the weaknesses of Hamlet by John Marsden are:



  • It loses some of the poetic and dramatic quality of Shakespeare's language, by using modern slang and colloquialisms.



  • It changes some of the details and events of Shakespeare's play, such as adding Yorick as a ghost character, which might confuse or annoy some purists or critics.



  • It simplifies some of the themes and issues of Shakespeare's play, such as the political and religious context, which might reduce some of its richness and relevance.



Who is Hamlet by John Marsden for?




Hamlet by John Marsden is for anyone who loves Shakespeare's play, or who wants to discover it for the first time. It is especially suitable for young adult readers, who might find it more engaging and appealing than the original play.


It is also for anyone who enjoys a good story, with complex characters, intense emotions, thrilling action, dark humor, and tragic endings. It is a novel that will make you laugh, cry, think, and feel.


Frequently Asked Questions




Here are some frequently asked questions about Hamlet by John Marsden:



  • Where can I find Hamlet by John Marsden?



online platforms, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble. You can also find it in some libraries or schools.


  • How long is Hamlet by John Marsden?



Hamlet by John Marsden is about 228 pages long, depending on the edition and format. It is shorter than Shakespeare's play, which is about 300 pages long.


  • Is Hamlet by John Marsden suitable for children?



Hamlet by John Marsden is suitable for older children and teenagers, who can handle the mature and violent content of the story. It is not recommended for younger children, who might find it too scary or disturbing.


  • What are some other novel adaptations of Shakespeare's plays?



Some other novel adaptations of Shakespeare's plays are:



  • Macbeth by John Marsden, which retells the story of the Scottish king who is corrupted by ambition and prophecy.



  • Romeo and Juliet by John Marsden, which retells the story of the star-crossed lovers who defy their families and fate.



  • The Merchant of Venice by John Marsden, which retells the story of the Jewish moneylender who demands a pound of flesh from his debtor.



  • Othello by Tracy Chevalier, which retells the story of the Moorish general who is deceived by his jealous ensign.



  • New Boy by Tracy Chevalier, which retells the story of Othello in a modern-day school setting.



  • Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood, which retells the story of The Tempest in a prison theater program.



  • Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, which retells the story of The Taming of the Shrew in a contemporary family business.



  • What are some other works by John Marsden?



Some other works by John Marsden are:



  • The Tomorrow series, which is a series of seven novels that follow a group of teenagers who fight against an invading army in Australia.



  • The Ellie Chronicles, which is a series of three novels that continue the story of Ellie Linton, the main character of the Tomorrow series.



  • So Much to Tell You, which is a novel that tells the story of Marina, a girl who suffers from facial disfigurement and selective mutism after an acid attack by her father.



  • Letters from the Inside, which is a novel that tells the story of Tracey and Mandy, two girls who become pen pals and share their secrets and problems.



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