Los Angeles Times

To be … Hamlet: Three modern-day actors make their case for this most enigmatic of characters

Who is Hamlet? This might seem like a strange question to ask about the most famous character in all literature, a figure incarnated by some of the most brilliant actors of the last four centuries and the subject of a library of writing analyzing the political, philosophical and psychoanalytic meanings of his every move.

But "Hamlet" is a play of paradoxes, and perhaps the greatest of these is that the protagonist who reveals more of his mind than any other in Shakespeare remains something of an impenetrable mystery. His enigma may be the secret of his inexhaustible fascination.

Each encounter with the play promises new insight into an elusive character forced by festering circumstances to play a series of roles, none of which can be said to be the true Hamlet. The grieving Prince, who knows so much about acting that he gives technical advice to the strolling players, has been cast by the ghost of his dead father to star in a revenge drama, in which he brings to justice his murderous, incestuous uncle, Claudius.

"Hamlet" dramatizes the colossal mismatch between an infinitely complicated character and a primitive plot. T.S. Eliot thought the play was consequentially an artistic failure, but it is exactly this dissonance between Hamlet and the hackneyed avenger

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times4 min read
'Lion King' To Bolster Disney's Box Office Dominance
LOS ANGELES - The Walt Disney Co. doesn't have to wait to be king, unlike the little cub Simba. But the release of its latest remake, "The Lion King," should further cement the company's rule at the box office. Disney's high-tech re-imagining of its
Los Angeles Times4 min read
British Open Returns 68 Years Later To A Changed Northern Ireland
PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland - For Rory McIlroy, it's still so surreal. The golf world has descended on Royal Portrush, a seaside course that played such a prominent role in his childhood, and this beautiful but beleaguered land - which still bears the
Los Angeles Times10 min readPolitics
Commentary: A Century Of Surviving Crises Left Democracy Overconfident And Vulnerable
We could be in the midst of the beginning of the end of democracy as we know it. Or we could just be in another of those eek-yikes crises that democracy has always managed to triumph over in the last reel. So far. David Runciman is a professor at Cam