Hamlet Dramaturgy

Informing Bethany Lutheran College's Spring 2013 Production. Shows at: April 19, 20, 26, 27 at 7:30pm and April 21 at 2pm

Shakespeare Uncovered: Hamlet with David Tennant

PBS made a fantastic documentary all about Hamlet narrated by David Tennant. The video addresses a broad spectrum of ideas and questions pertaining to “Hamlet” from the way the story has permeated popular culture, to the purpose of the production, right down to the character Hamlet and the struggles he is enduring.

If you have an hour or so, this is well worth your time. Also, I mean, you get to stare at David Tennant’s face. I would watch it even if it wasn’t chock full of information and ideas!


One of the quotations from the video really struck me. Professor Marjorie Garber of Harvard University says:

“Something is happening on the stage for us, so that it might not have to happen to us.”

I think that’s a concept you should just let roll around your head a little as you work on this show. Hamlet is a difficult play, it is emotionally draining and even physically exhausting to perform… but this is part of the reason we do theatre, it is part of the reason we tell stories. When we perform Hamlet it is not about the actor showing off their talents or the director revealing their genius or even necessarily about the cathartic process of making art.

We do theatre for empathy and for human connection.

Hamlet is a difficult play to do because it almost hurts to empathize with that character, but when we are done there is a kind of release. I probably won’t ever have to avenge my father’s dead and feign madness and kill my uncle. That understanding of the emotional weight of those deeds and then the relief that because I have watched that happen, I don’t have to live through it myself… that relief is the purpose.

Those are my thoughts anyways; I’d love to hear more about why you do theatre and what you think the purpose of theatre is. Comment and let me know!



Also, I thought this was funny.

Lydia Grabau, Dramaturg


2 comments on “Shakespeare Uncovered: Hamlet with David Tennant

  1. The Mighty SM
    February 23, 2013

    Alright, I’m going to try my hand at this commenting thing! The quote that you mentioned, “Something is happening on stage for us, so that it might not happen to us” also struck me. Everyone has felt the need for revenge at some time or another. Whether it is childish, or life-altering, like Hamlet’s situation. Because of this need, Hamlet is one of the most life-like characters Shakespeare has created, in my opinion. He follows his basest instincts, knowing that it may turn out horribly wrong, but he simply doesn’t know what else is to be done. By looking at how his entire life, as well as the lives of most of his friends and family, was destroyed, we as audience members and participants can see his thought process and see where he went wrong. Everyone has their own philosophies on this, but regardless of the particulars, Hamlet chose to avenge his father’s murder, and decided to put every other thing in his life aside in order to focus on the hatred he felt. This ultimately led to his downfall. I believe that one of the many reasons Shakespeare wrote this play was to warn us as people that our lives are not our own. When we put important aspects of our lives aside to focus on one urge, nothing good can come of it.

    • hamletdramaturgy
      March 5, 2013

      I suppose all tragedy is, in part, a warning. The idea of catharsis as being a mixture of “pity and fear” is common throughout much theatrical theory, but I think this idea of a warning puts a more simplified finger on an idea that has become all together too complex.

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This entry was posted on February 22, 2013 by in Notes from the Dramaturg, Text and tagged , , , .

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