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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


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.

Hamlet John Marsden Pdf 26

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?