Hamlet is the inspiration for our second play in the BARD HEADS series, Call Me Oz. Osric, a courtier in the court of King Claudius, is made much fun of by Prince Hamlet but is one of the only survivors of the infamous Danish massacre. Nearly Forty-Five years later, Osric (sorry, Oz) reveals all in a series of media interviews. In celebration of this week's performance we've compiled a list of fascinating facts about the play behind the play, Hamlet.
1. THE LION KING...IT'S HAMLET
The Lion King was famously billed as Disney's first animated original story, rather than being based on an existing tale. But even to the novice Shakespeare fan The Lion King is obviously based on the epic play, Hamlet. Okay, they made it about lions, set it in the African Savanna, and it had a much happier ending...but the rest of the film. Well...its a pretty clear copy and paste job.
2. GENDER SWAPPING...IT'S PART OF THE PLAY'S HERITAGE
There's a lot of hype these days about the gender-swapping of various iconic roles, but it's actually been happening for years...centuries in fact. Famed female actor, Sarah Siddons played the Danish Prince no fewer that nine times over her thirty year career (1775-1805) and Elizabeth Powell became the first woman to play the role on a London stage in 1796.
The 21st Century isn't as progressive as it thinks it is! It's all been done before.
3. IT'S BEEN TRANSLATED INTO KLINGON
Yep. Hamlet even has a place in sci-fi history having been translated into Klingon. Star Trek has always been one of the most progressive shows on TV so it is no surprise that they embrace all manner of culture and experience from across the (fictional) universe. We're not sure if a live theatrical production has ever been staged in full Klingon, but why on earth shouldn't it be?
4. HAMLET IS MEANT TO BE BETWEEN 16 AND 30.
You wouldn't know it but Hamlet's actually meant to be quite young. The simplest argument for Hamlet being portrayed as a young man is that if weren't, he'd be King! Despite this and the numerous academic arguments and sources, the role is often played by much older actors. Ian McKellen announced he would play the role at the age of 81!
Ethan Hawke was probably the most high-profile age appropriate actor to play the role at the age of 29 in the 2000 modern adaptation film version.
5. SHAKESPEARE USED THE PLAY TO SETTLE SCORES
Shakespeare might have been brilliant but he was also vindictive. It's said that in 1599 he and long time collaborator, William Kempe, had a major falling out and Kempe left the Lord Chamberlain's Men to pursue a solo career. In Hamlet, Shakespeare takes a pretty obvious swipe at his former friend.
"O, reform it altogether! And let those that play
your clowns speak no more than is set down for
them, for there be of them that will themselves
laugh to set on some quantity of barren
spectators to laugh too, though in the meantime
some necessary question of the play be then to
be considered. That’s villainous, and shows a
most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it."
Which translated into modern-day English means...
"Don't let the bloody Clown improvise, pull focus and get people laughing and what's not in the script."
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