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In Shakespeare's world, characters cannot trust their senses. Is the ghost in Hamlet true and truthful, or is it a demon, tempting young Hamlet into murderous sin? Is Juliet dead or merely sleeping? Does Lear really stand at the edge of a great cliff? Or has the Fool deceived him to save his life?
What 'War and Peace' is to the novel and 'Hamlet' is to the theater, Swan Lake' is to ballet - that is, the name which to many people stands for and sums up an art form.
Most people don't know that I am an accomplished dramatic actor... But I've performed in several Shakespeare productions including Hamlet, except in this version, Hamlet lives in an apartment with two women, and has to pretend he's gay so that the landlord won't evict him.
I've seen 'Hamlet' many times, and Hamlet, he was just a hideous neurotic; he never changes. He doubts - all the way to the end, all the way until when he dies, he doubts.
'Hamlet' is one of the most dangerous things ever set down on paper. All the big, unknowable questions like what it is to be a human being; the difference between sanity and insanity; the meaning of life and death; what's real and not real. All these subjects can literally drive you mad.
The essential is to excite the spectators. If that means playing Hamlet on a flying trapeze or in an aquarium, you do it.
The actor is too prone to exaggerate his powers; he wants to play Hamlet when his appearance is more suitable to King Lear.
If you were to ask everyone what 'Hamlet' was about, they might say, "It's about a prince, and he says, 'To be or not to be.'"
Of course 'Hamlet' is a debate about the nature and morality of revenge and whether it is right to do something to assuage your angry feelings.
Would Hamlet have felt the delicious fascination of suicide if he hadn't had an audience, and lines to speak?
Here's what happens in a play. You get involved in a situation where something is unbalanced. If nothing's unbalanced, there's no reason to have a play. If Hamlet comes home from school, and his dad's not dead and asks him if he's had a good time, it's boring. But if something's unbalanced, it must be returned to order.
I'm on the list that I thought I'd never be on. I'm not sitting here thinking, 'God, I might get this part' or 'is it too late for me to play Hamlet?' It's really about: who do I get to work with? There's so many people on that list.
It's extraordinary to think that if you walked into a room and said you had never heard of Hamlet, you would be regarded as a Philistine. But you could walk into the same room and say, 'I don't know what a proton is,' and people would just laugh and say, 'Why should you know?'
I not only loved studying theater, I loved being a theater major. It gave me an excuse to brood, to grow a beard, to wear black 'at' people. I didn't just want to play Hamlet, I wanted to be Hamlet.
Romeo is the most misunderstood character in literature, I think. He's hardcore to play because he's displaying the characteristics of Hamlet at the beginning, and, well, then everything else happens.
Sibling relationships are complicated. All family relationships are. Look at Hamlet.
There have been more books alone written about Hamlet than have been written about the Bible.
I'm as happy doing 'Postman Pat' as I am doing 'Hamlet.'
One of the things that makes Hamlet unique among Shakespeare's characters is his courage to face up to the darker elements of his personality.
People of a certain age look back on the Mayberry of 'The Andy Griffith Show' and become almost as homesick for that simple fictional hamlet as they do for their own home towns.
In 1600, when Shakespeare's audience at the Globe heard 'Hamlet' for the first time, every one of them knew very well what it meant to be handed a cup of wine by a figure of authority and told to drink.
You have to get through the Hamlet hoop as a young actor. Your classical qualifications are based on the quality of your Hamlet. And then, as an older actor, you have to get through the Lear hoop. And I'm approaching the Lear hoop.
I was doing Hamlet in the off-season, and I had a specific idea in my mind about what I wanted that character to look like, and because it's going to lead into the next year, I knew that it was going to have to be established somewhere in the show.
And I just think that to introduce an unknown Shakespeare is thrilling, too - not to do Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet, to do the richer Shakespeare. People will come to this and not know the story.
The reason that I'm a writer today is because of Shakespeare and falling in love with Shakespeare when I was 8. That was through the movies, actually - through Olivier's 'Hamlet.' That was the first thing that got me to fall in love with Shakespeare and movies and everything in one big preadolescent rush.
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
Martin Luther King, Jr.
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