Hamlet: ‘The Play’s The Thing’
Our highly anticipated production of Hamlet opens next month! But what makes it one of Shakespeare’s most popular and influential plays? Read on to learn some fascinating facts about the Bard’s much-loved tragedy.
1) Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play
Featuring over 4,000 lines – and around 30,000 words – the play is Shakespeare’s longest. At its full length, the play would take over 4 hours (without an interval) to perform. The character of Hamlet has the most lines of all Shakespearean characters – the lead actor has a lot to take on!
Most modern performances of the play are abridged (including our upcoming production), so it’s quite rare for the full 4-hour version to be performed. The critically-acclaimed 1996 film of Hamlet stars Kenneth Branagh and features the complete original text – the total running time clocks in at a whopping 242 minutes long!
2) A number phrases coined or popularised by Shakespeare in Hamlet are still in common use today
Ever uttered the words ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be’, ‘In my mind’s eye’ or ‘Woe is me’? If you have, you’ve been quoting Hamlet! These phrases either originated in Hamlet, or were popularised by their appearance in the play.
Other famous phrases you might recognise from Hamlet include ‘cruel to be kind’, ‘this mortal coil’, ‘hoist with one’s own petard’, ‘the lady doth protest too much’ and ‘brevity is the soul of wit’.
3) The play has been translated into many languages – and even into one fictional language!
Hamlet is a hugely popular and world-renowned title. According to data compiled by the British Council, there have been productions and publications produced of Hamlet in over 75 languages since the year 1960!
One of those languages is the fictional Klingon language from Star Trek. The full title of the Klingon adaptation is The Tragedy of Khamlet, Son of the Emperor of Qo’noS. The inspiration for the project came from a line spoken by Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undeserved Country: “You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.” The play was translated over a number of years by Nick Nicholas and Andrew Strader of the “Klingon Shakespeare Restoration Project”.
4) Hamlet has also inspired new works, including a popular 20th-century play, numerous pieces of fine art, and an episode of The Simpsons
As a hugely influential play, Hamlet has inspired many creatives over the years. Tom Stoppard wrote Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, an absurdist and tragicomedic play which focuses on Hamlet’s courtiers, and their mishaps and confusion as the events of Hamlet take place.
The play has inspired a number of paintings – many of which depict the character Ophelia. Works include Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais (which is currently displayed at Tate Britain), and a number of depictions by John William Waterhouse (one of which is pictured on the right).
‘Do the Bard, Man’ is the third part of a Simpsons trilogy episode (Tales from the Public Domain), the three segments of which are based on classic stories. This retelling features Bart Simpson as Prince Hamlet, with other Springfieldians taking on the various roles of the play.
5) The prestigious and challenging role of Hamlet has been taken on by many acclaimed actors
Actors who have played the title role over the years include: John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, Derek Jacobi, Christopher Walken, Mark Rylance, Ralph Fiennes, David Tennant, Jude Law, Maxine Peake, Benedict Cumberbatch and – of course – Ian McKellen.
The legendary Ian McKellen plays the protagonist in our upcoming production, 50 years after he first took on the role in 1971. Click the button below to book your tickets and experience world class theatre up-close.
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