Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Contemporary v. Classic

Title: Hamlet
Author: William Shakespeare
Publisher: Signet Classic
Copyright: 1998
Recommended Grade Level: 9th-12th

Hamlet, prince of Denmark, is urged by the ghost of his father to avenge his death and seize the throne.

Title: Ophelia
Author: Lisa Klein
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Copyright: 2006
Recommended Grade Level: 9th-12th

In this re-imaging of Hamlet, Ophelia, ambitious and rowdy, catches the eye of Prince Hamlet while completing her duties as lady-in-waiting for Queen Gertrude.  Their love grows in secret, as well as their eventual marriage.  But, their happiness is soon spoilt when darkness descends on Denmark.  Ophelia must choose her future - a life with Hamlet or simply her life.  She devises a plan of escape taking along a very important secret.
Hamlet is hands down my favorite Shakespearean play, so when I saw Ophelia I simply had to purchase a copy.  Frankly, it did not live up to my expectations.  With Hamlet, readers are thrown into the chaos of Hamlet's mind.  The text is dark, gritty, and beautiful.  Ophelia captures a little of the intensity of the drama, but the last 1/4 falls completely flat.  Ophelia is my favorite female in all of Shakespeare.  Klein did flesh her character out considerably more, but that last fourth just kills the entire novel.  So, I would recommend teaching Hamlet in class and suggesting Ophelia for pleasure reading.

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