The Study and Analysis of William Shakespeares Hamlet
Prescribed Question: If the text had been written in a different time or place or language or for a different audience, how and why might it differ?
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a) Place: The United States instead of Britain
b) Language: American English instead of the Kings English
c) Time: the 21st century instead of the 16th century
d) Audience: modern Americans instead of the 16th century Britons
5) The dramatic structure
6) Depth of character
7) Appearance of a ghost
Hamlet is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare at an approximate time between 1599 and 1602. The setting is the Kingdom of Denmark, where Prince Hamlet is instructed to carry out revenge for the murder of his father by his uncle Claudius. It is arguably one the best plays ever written. Looking at the time and place where the play was written, one may imagine how the play would have been different had it been written at a different time and place. The language and the audience of the play are also the points of interest. May differences would be distinguishable if the play was written using a different language and for a different audience. This essay strives to address these differences.
The play Hamlet would be different if it was written in the 21st century, in the United States, using American English and for the modern American audience. First of all, the rhythm would be different. This work of Shakespeare is written using the iambic pentameter, which is made up of a series of stressed and unstressed words. A play written in the current times would not be written in this style. The manner of speaking of the Americans is not poetic, and, for that reason, this style would not be portraying the modern reality. A playwright in this century would want to connect with his audience by using plain English, which is understandable to all. Furthermore, the main reason for writing in the 21st century is to make money, and the sales increase proportionally with the audiences understanding.
The second aspect that would change is the dramatic structure. In the Hamlet, Shakespeare did not necessarily follow the dramatic convention. According to Aristotle, the focus of drama should be mainly on the action rather than the character. This aspect is reversed in the play by the use of soliloquies (Newell). A modern writer would be more likely to follow the contemporary structure of drama. The length of the play would also be significant. In its original writing, the play takes four hours to deliver. The plays of the 21st century usually run for two hours. The writer would have to reduce the amount of words in the play in order to fit the specified time. Shakespeares literary devices used in the play are not very popular among the 21st century writers, which may cause additional differences. The roles played by the various characters may also change. The setting of the play is courtly, while in the modern American context, the focus would be on a democratic society, where everyone is engaged in politics. The monarchy in the play would most probably be replaced by democracy and the relevant struggles for power.
In addition, the depth of character in the play would most likely change. In the Hamlet, the characters appear real. An example is Gertrude, who, after feeling remorseful, decides to poison herself rather than live with having made a bad choice. In this way, she appears very human to the readers. Based on the values of people in the 21st century, this fact may not be the case. Since literature is representative of the values of society, the play would depict characters that are willing to live with their wrongdoing.
The appearance of a supernatural phenomenon in the form of the ghost of Hamlets father is an aspect that would most probably be missing in the play if it was written during the current times. The audience is more interested in watching a play that depicts reality. During the times of Hamlet, people believed in ghosts. The present-day Americans do not believe in ghosts. However, people are more into aliens from space visiting the earth. In the current times, Hamlets father may appear as an alien. The idea of a ghost appearing and talking to a person would not only be ludicrous, but also ridiculous.
In comparison to the modern day play, the language used in the Hamlet would be seen as complex and hard to understand. While its language is courtly, the current play would be plainer. The reason is the fact that the modern American culture does not have the social stratification that is characteristic of countries ruled by monarchs. Moreover, the unusual rhetorical devices such as hendiadys would not appear today. A writer who uses this kind of device many times may appear odd, especially at a time when a famous work of literature is usually put under great scrutiny.
In conclusion, Shakespeare play Hamlet in its modern form would obviously have some glaring differences from its counterpart of the 16th century. These differences are products of the time, place and language of writing. These distinctions show that literature does not exist in isolation, but rather as an important ingredient of the time when it is created.
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