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HAMLET by John Marsden


by John Marsden

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4451-2
Publisher: Candlewick

To be or not to be considered a worthy heir to the Bard’s work, that is the question. Marsden, best known for The Tomorrow Series, refashions Hamlet into an angst-filled story that follows the broad strokes of Shakespeare’s plot but cuts and changes much of the detail. This Hamlet is genuinely disturbed: He spies on Ophelia as well as a masturbating kitchen boy, then mutilates small animals. Sexual frustration drives him, yet the author downplays Hamlet’s obsession with his mother’s sex life. Shakespeare’s language is skillfully reworked into contemporary speech and is pared to essentials; sadly, though, most nuance is also pared away. Ophelia becomes Hamlet’s less-intelligent reflection (beautiful, white-haired, thwarted and crazy) while Horatio does even less than his antecedent. While the robust language and anachronisms (Hamlet wears jeans) feel fresh, there’s a distressing lack of depth; teens looking for greater understanding of Shakespeare’s work or for a unique spin will turn away from the unsympathetic characters with little sense of catharsis, fulfillment or understanding. Ultimately, this lacks any antic disposition. (Fiction. 14 & up)