Sunday, July 19, 2009

Notes from Shakespeare's Writing Group

Hey Bill,

Caught Hamlet in the park last night for the sixth time. (Critter had been playing Osric.) Still love the play, but I think there is room for some improvement. Thought you might appreciate some comments:
  • The play could use some clarification as to why young Hamlet is not crowned king upon his father's death. Having the king's brother take the thrown in preference to the adult son is peculiar (although not entirely without precedent). A line or two (or, as is the case in this play, a long soliloquy) about the royal ascension practices of Denmark might be helpful.
  • It felt really odd that the two men who fight to the death at the end of the play don't actually have a scene together until Act 5. Instead people just talk about how much Hamlet admires Laertes. Consider adding some interaction between the two characters in the first act, before Laertes heads off to France. Remember the old saw: "Show, don't tell"!
  • Now, the play is already long (I mean really, really long!), so I can understand your resistance to adding the above material. However there is room to cut a few things to make room. For example, that whole bit with Polonius sending Reynaldo to spy on Laertes in Paris does absolutely nothing to advance the plot. Just drop it.
  • It's really the little things, though, that will streamline the play. The characters are constantly spouting obvious information. For example, you really don't need lines like "Oh, I am slain!" and "Oh, I die..." and "I am poison'd." Just let the actors die. The audience will figure it out.
  • One final note. There are a few phrases that sound a bit awkward, and which might be improved by slight rearrangement. For example dangling the verb at the end of "The lady doth protest too much, methinks" sounds clunky. Have you considered "Methinks the lady doth protest too much"?
All in all, a terrific play, though. Keep up the good work!