Friday, December 31, 2010

Compare/Contrast Review: Hamlet by William Shakespeare and Ophelia by Lisa Klein

Hamlet (The New Folger Library Shakespeare)

Title: Hamlet

Author: William Shakespeare

Pages: 400 (Depending on edition and annotations)

Source: Personal library

Rating: 10/10

Challenges: Take Another Chance Challenge #8 - Real and Inspired

Title: Ophelia

Author: Lisa Klein

Pages: 328

Source: Personal library

Rating: 7/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge; Take Another Chance Challenge #8 - Real and Inspired

I'm taking a different approach to my usual reviews with these two. We all know Hamlet is a fabulous read, there's no denying that (Unless you're a hater), and I have some very definite opinions of the version that Klein presents in Ophelia. So, non-traditional, compare-and-contrast-type review it is!

Oh, and if you really want to read this book, I'd suggest not reading this review. It's kind of spoiler-y.

Ophelia: I've never been an Ophelia fan in the original. She was just kind of lame to me (I much prefer Desdemona). Klein's whole purpose for writing this book was to give Ophelia a voice and a better character. I think she did a great job doing this. I actually really liked the Ophelia she painted in this novel.

However, I don't think her version of Ophelia lines up well enough with the original. There's no real precedent or hint of the Ophelia we get in Klein's version.

Horatio: I like Horatio in the original, and I like him in this version. Klein gives him much more space to stretch out and develop, and his development is really in line with what we see in the original. He's probably the best-preserved character from the original to this spin-off. I'm not so sure about his feelings for/relationship with Ophelia, though. I just don't get the sense, from the original, that Horatio had too many dealings with Ophelia other than possibly delivering some messages to and from Hamlet.

Gertrude: While I'm not a fan of Klein's expansion of Ophelia, I think she takes the strangest turn with Gertrude. The Gertrude in the original is very much a background character, and one we're left wondering about. We don't know how she really felt about old Hamlet's death, or why she married Claudius so soon after the death. We don't know, really, how she treats and views Hamlet as a son. She just seems to hang out in the background of most of the scenes, not really saying much.

Klein's Gertrude is a little too knowing for my interpretation, though. If she was so knowing, she wouldn't have done a lot of the things she did and she wouldn't have let a lot of the things happen that happened. Klein's Gertrude is too complicit but still too "innocent" in the whole situation. It just didn't sit well with me.

Events: I'm not going to go into details here, but Klein builds nearly an entire book out of things that happen outside the realm of Shakespeare's play. And, looking at Shakespeare's other plays and many of the conventions of the time period in which it's vaguely set, Klein's events are incredibly plausible. It's a whole book of the what-might-have-beens, and (almost) all of them make sense.

Overall, this is a really interesting read for any fans of Shakespeare, the original version of Hamlet and spin-offs in general.


Mystica said...

This is certainly a nice review! of two very good stories.. Thank you for this compare and contrast and general update on both.

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