I just got a copy of the First Quarto of Hamlet… and apparently the owner before me took a lot of notes. At first I thought they were going to be all scholorly and boring, and it turned out to be quite amusing instead!
Hamlet character tree
Anyone who’s familiar with the “to be or not to be” soliloquy, which is basically everyone, can tell there’s something fishy with this version. Where’s the “that is the question” part? Why is it so short? What has Hamlet been drinking and where can I get some?
A few photos of my set design model for Hamlet, in its four main looks. The first for the ghost, the second for the majority of interior ‘court’ scenes, the third for Gertrude’s room, and the fourth for the churchyard.
I tried to create a mood which suggests that the house was once grand but is now in a state of decay.
'Something is rotten in the state of Denmark..” yada yada, not that it's really set in Denmark haha, it's not set in any particular country because I wasn't interested in trying to draw parallels to historical events or figures. I was more interested in setting the play within a genre, and focused on creating an atmosphere which is conducive to storytelling in the tradition of early 19th century gothic horror literature.
Sparky Sweets, PhD., “Thug Notes,” 2013 - present
Occasionally I come across criticism of artistic works that can easily be considered artwork in its own right. For example, the brilliant Anita Sarkeesian’s insightful three-part commentary on the troublingly passive role of women in video games is eye-opening, carefully thought-out, and extremely well-written. I’ve watched it two or three times so far.
"Thug Notes" is a unique take on the world of literary criticism. As to why he analyzes literature in this way, he explains,
"In my opinion, an academic’s job should be to utilize their passion for the classics to make the gift of literature available to everyone. Unfortunately, in my experiences, this is not the case…Instead of promoting the universality of these works, they are building them up to a virtually inaccessible plane and saying ‘If you want to truly understand classical literature, you have to get on my level.’ So Thug Notes is my way of trivialising academia’s attempt at making literature exclusive by showing that these ideas can be communicated to people on the opposite side of the social stratum.”
In response to this frustration, he created a YouTube channel, in which he summarizes and then analyzes great works of fiction using more easily accessible language, and explaining the works in a relevant, modern context. For example, in this video, he refers to Hamlet’s procrastination: (The gendered insult in this quote is, unfortunately, part of the vernacular he chooses to use):
"Some ballers think it’s because Hamlet be too much of a sensitive bitch to kick it in the world of gangsters playin’ dirty on the street. Others think that Hamlet got mad Oedipal complex up in this motherf*cker. Since Hamlet wanna get freaky with his momma, he can’t bring himself to gat the man who doin’ what he wanna do: kill his pop and get down with his old lady."
This channel is witty and Dr. Sweets clearly knows what he’s talking about (I’ve learned from every video so far) but perhaps more importantly, his videos are hilarious. For example, he refers to the poison at the the end of Hamlet as “Elizabethan Haterade.” Making his videos funny means that more people will watch them, and in doing so he’s done a better job of promoting and explaining classical literature to a wide audience than nearly all of academia.
The role of academia should be to share these works with the world, and it cannot succeed without people like Dr. Sweets.
And now, the story of a royal family who lost their king, and the one son who had no choice but to revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.
(psst click the character’s gifs so you can really see them!)