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

Hamlet is Irrelevant

I just read this article in Live Mint by Sundeep Khanna titled “Shakespeare in the Age of Twitter.” Essentially the article said that Hamlet and Shakespeare is irrelevant in this modern culture.

Clearly we would not be performing this piece if we didn’t think it had merit in our world now, surely you wouldn’t be a part of this production if you weren’t moved by Hamlet. So why is Hamlet relevant for you? What about the Bard’s work makes Shakespeare worthwhile to read, despite living in a “me-centered” world that runs on micro-literature like Twitter and Facebook statuses?

I know my answer, but I’m wondering what’s yours?

Lydia Grabau, Dramaturg


3 comments on “Hamlet is Irrelevant

  1. Guildenchops
    March 21, 2013

    For myself, Hamlet is a play not so much about revenge, but about wrong doings. Hamlet feels wronged by Claudius, his mother, really everyone except Horatio and Ophelia. Claudius is wronged by himself and Hamlet. Rosy and Guildy unintentionally(at first) wrong Hamlet, and in turn are wronged by him. Laertes is wronged by Hamlet and so wrongs him. Everyone is out to make sure they are taken care of, which is something that the world will always face but what our current culuture not only employs but encourages.

  2. Michael
    March 21, 2013

    In an indirect answer to the question:

    I can’t take Khanna’s post seriously. It’s little more than verbal drool. For one, he cites Google Trends as a major source (and I like Google as much as the next person, but I have difficulty calling that authoritative). Next, he covers the application of Shakespeare to business – and given that most of the U.S. calls itself “middle class,” CEOs do not seem to me in any way representative of the whole.

    While it is true that the original audiences of Shakespeare’s work saw favorite stories in contemporary contexts, that doesn’t exclude their application to our own contexts. Khanna would seem to assert that we are desensitized to the tame villainy in Shakespeare. I patently disagree. While we may not see in Shakespeare a scarring rape (Khanna’s own citation), the evils are no less human. Consider Macbeth wherein an entire family, children included, are murdered, and a man’s head is paraded on a spike. For an extreme example, look at the entirety of Titus Andronicus. And what about suicide, a prevalent theme in almost all of Shakespeare – suicide for love, for sorrow, for shame. And this is only scratching the surface of the tragedies. There is an equal portion of humanity in the comedies.

    The relevance in Shakespeare is not to be found in modern-day vocabulary or in realism, but in humanity. We are confronted by emotions, actions, doubts, fears, and issues that strike us to the soul. If you want to talk about the direct relevance of people to the works of Shakespeare, even his original audiences could not have connected, because most concern themselves with royalty and nobility. The “groundlings” saw these folks only from afar, and their emotions meant nothing to them. But still these plays are loved and admired by all classes.

    As for the spoofs of Shakespeare, the spoof is only slightly younger than the original. This is how it has always been. If anything, that the plays are so often “adapted” indicates the relevance of the original. As Luther said (referring at his time to the Sacrament of the Altar) “The abuse of a thing is its proof.” If Shakespeare was irrelevant, he could not be spoofed. No one would get it.

  3. Nick Lilienthal
    March 24, 2013

    From just a quick reading of the article, the writer shoots himself in the foot when he writes “However malevolent the usurer Shylock might have been, we have our very own bankers of the City and the Street to demonize.” The relevancy of a show is directly related to whether one can draw connections between villains and events in the play and circumstances in the world today, and this does nothing but show that the concept of a greedy, corrupt moneylender character is still very much relevant in our society today.

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This entry was posted on March 21, 2013 by in Notes from the Dramaturg, Shakespeare/Hamlet History.

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