Hamlet- An Essay Assigned by Two Highschool English Teachers, Which Is Meant To Be A Personal Essay,

Surprisingly, I’m not that nervous. Performing in front of people, any people, gives me the jitters. After my performance as Iago, I walked away with my knees shaking. In fourth grade, I had an improvisational jazz solo in front of a huge audience, and I performed with tears streaming down my cheeks. I am a Daisy dropout, a Girl Scout flunkie, because I was too scared to get on stage in front of the parents and sing about cookies. I have crippling stage fright. But while preparing to go on as Ophelia, Act One, Scene Three, I’m not that scared. Everything’s fine.
Until I notice that one of our party is missing. Bianca and I glance around, “Where is he?” “Will we have to go tomorrow?” and I spot him talking to Mr. Bell and Mr. Lessing. I start to get nervous when Nate walks towards us with his book in hand. Things are not fine. We have a major, major problem. My stomach hurts.
Actually onstage, it’s not as horrible as it had the potential of being. Bianca is a wonderful Laertes, speaking her lines and performing the actions we thought would be best suited for our interpretation of the scene. I don’t have much to do, but when I actually have something to say, I end up forgetting the one segment I’d previously had absolutely no trouble with. I’m mortified, ashamed. But I push through. I have to. I’m only worried now about what everyone else will think.
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Hamlet- The Prince of Denmark: Day Two.
There is nothing to be worried about. This awe-inspiring group of performers has completely blown everything else out of the water. All of it, all the acts and performances, is sheer brilliance. I am amazed, everyone is amazed, the teachers appear to be dumbfounded, and no one will think about us. I’m not thinking about us. I’m thinking about how awesome I’ve realized this whole spectacle has become.


Hamlet, unless one is very well versed in Shakespeare and/or has a great knowledge of plays in general, is quite hard to understand. Particularly so for the average highschooler. When I first picked up Hamlet and began to read, I was either totally lost, or at the point where I could understand the play at the most basic level. This persisted throughout the entire time the class was reading individually, and not yet performing/group reading the play. This play, in book format, was only black marks on beige paper. It had no meaning to me. I didn’t even know that Polonius was supposed to be funny until Mr. Bell said so. I hadn’t understood that Ophelia was lonely. I didn’t understand who the characters were as people at all- we were supposed to find out what they wanted, what their goals were in every scene and I had the hardest time with that. I could never tell. Heck, I thought Ophelia was somewhat braindead, followed the every whim of her brother and father, had no backbone whatsoever, and wasn’t interesting at all until she went stark raving mad.

Then, of course, the performances began and BOOM! Enlightenment! Throughout the planning and the actual performing, I began to notice little things about the people we were portraying. Ophelia wasn’t a braindead, simpering blemish on the face of strong females everywhere; she’s actually a lonely, lovesick young girl who is powerless to stand up to the patriarchy of her times, though she appears to desperately want to. Polonius is actually a bit scatterbrained, and contradicts himself all the time, not quite the droning stuffed shirt I thought he was (though he is still sometimes a droning old man). For example, in Act Two, Scene Two, Part Two, where Nora really made Polonius come to life. Through her, Polonius became frustrated with the ‘mad’ Hamlet, and irritated, even to the point where he makes a little noise of annoyance/disgust when thanked by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern after pointing out Hamlet to them. “Ehn.” He says, that noise your mom makes when she’s just about had it with you, and is prepared to ship you off to your Great-Aunt Berta’s old-person apartment for the summer. Polonius, while a bit oblivious and very much a blabbermouth, goes through the same range of emotions any living, breathing person would after dealing with a crazy and petulant young Prince. And the Prince himself! Portrayed by one of the many Emily’s, I have found it much easier to see some of how his mind works, how he switches from thought to thought in the blink of an eye, and how he seems on edge, fragile, distracted. Hamlet’s become human. His interactions with people, the way he can switch so easily from annoying Prince Prat to welcoming friend, he’s much more alive than he was on just paper. Just in paper, he was mourning, certainly, and angry, certainly, but it seemed those were the only emotions he had. He was so very static. But on stage, when speaking to the King, the Queen, Polonius, and his old friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he was amazing! He had a rainbow spectrum of emotions, emotions worthy of a hormonal teenage girl, even. I really learned more about Hamlet from seeing him personified than from reading everything about him. And what of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern themselves? My favorite performance of the infamous duo was also Act Two Scene Two Part Two, where they were wonderfully played by Tim and Sentayu. I knew they were tricksters and slightly vulgar comedic people, but the way they were portrayed really made me laugh hysterically! As in, to the point that tears were streaming down my face, hysterical laughter. Not the way I laugh after getting a shot/before I pass out on the waiting room floor in the doctor’s office. No no. The good kind of hysterical laughter. As Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, they moved and acted in sync, until Hamlet’s back was turned and they squabbled and gave each other very confused looks, before snapping right back into prim and proper mirror images. Just as it’s impossible to separate them in text (It’s never just Rosencrantz or just Guildenstern), it was nigh impossible to separate the two in the performance. They were a fabulous duo, and it made that much more sense to see them acting as such, a man and his doppelganger, or mayhaps the other way around.

Essentially, I learned that the people in this play are really people. I realized that you have to get beyond your shallow first impressions and look at the little things the characters do, so as to really understand them and gather as much understanding from the play as possible. When I learned to see the depth of the characters, the play just became that much more of an ocean to me. Tip of the iceberg, and all that.





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