Ok, kids. Send an email to your parents, copy this blog post, and let them know that I just assigned you to go see “The Avengers” as part of your Shakespeare homework.
Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most beloved works, and the “To Be or Not to Be” speech is the most recognized of all the speeches in the entirety of the written language. It has also been translated into a million billion versions. That’s the technical literary term, so I can understand if you’ve not heard it before. But it has been translated and retranslated into versions that even Ethan Hawke can act in. (Sorta)
The latest version of Hamlet (the character) that will grace our screens is going to in the upcoming “so small you may not have heard of it” movie called, “The Avengers”. No, really. Mark Ruffalo, clearly ignoring the lessons of the past 10 years has taken on the role of the Incredible Hulk. Oh, and Bruce Banner, but no one wants to see Bruce Banner. Also, I kid, because I’ve been looking forward to seeing Mark Ruffalo smash ever since “13 Going on 30.”
Why bring this up? Because Mark Ruffalo was asked about playing Bruce Banner, and he commented that the character was “This generation’s Hamlet.” And you know what? I totally 100% agree with Mr. Ruffalo. One of the reasons that Shakespeare is scary to people is because it can be difficult to digest. People tend to forget that Shakespeare is so known today is BECAUSE he was popular at one point. There were hundreds of playwrights who bombed repeatedly and we will never know anything about them because once they bombed, their plays were ceremoniously burned, and the writer would have to leave town in disgrace, just like we all wish would happen to M. Night Shyamalan.
Ok, so they didn’t really have to leave town. But Shakespeare is known today because he was commercially popular. Was Hamlet like the Hulk? Absolutely. He was a man that had to wrestle with the two halves of himself, and was constantly careening out of control. He just did it with prettier language, and less people would take it seriously if halfway through the play he ripped off his shirt and started stomping around the stage yelling, “Hamlet smash.” But it would be a neat twist in the M. Night Shyamalan version of Hamlet!
This post is more my impassioned plea that before we as teachers move forward, we remember that back in the day kids were lining up for that big summer blockbuster called Hamlet. There was a kid sneaking out a copy of Alexander Dumas “Three Musketeers” and dreaming of that swashbuckling adventure. We need to remind people that these stories are stories first. They’re deep meaningful searches through the dark night of the soul second.