206. Hamlet & Ophelia by John Marsden

Hamlet & Ophelia by John Marsden (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 228
Ages: 14+
Finished: Sept. 14, 2011
First Published: 2008 Australia (Aug.2009 US)(Sept. 2009 CAN)
Publisher: Harper Collins Canada
Genre: YA, ghost story, tragedy
Rating: 2/5

First sentence:

"Do you believe in ghosts?" Horatio asked him.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading:  I enjoy Shakespeare retellings and Hamlet is probably my favourite Shakespeare.

The book tells the story of Shakespeare's Hamlet.  The plot is there and all the major points are present.  The author uses some of the original language while modernizing it yet keeping all the most famous quotes such as "to be or not to be".  So to read this book one does get the plot of Shakespeare's Hamlet without having to read or experience the original.  But I was not impressed with this retelling at all.

The darkness, brooding atmosphere of the original is missing.  The time period is vague, it could be the recent past or timeless ages past. But most of all the portrayals of Hamlet and Ophelia are nothing as they are in the original.  Ophelia is shown as nothing but a wanton sex-craving girl who dreams of nothing but mentally luring Hamlet to come to her.  Her suicide is all matter of fact and hardly anyone seems to even care, least of all Hamlet who has much larger problems to deal with.  Of course, as in the play, major plot point, it is Ophelia's brother who is upset at her death.

My greatest joy in the original plot of Hamlet is the question of his sanity.  The movie starring Kenneth Branagh is a fabulous adaptation portraying this.  Has Hamlet really gone insane or is he only pretending?  This whole issue has been removed from Marsden's version.  People around Hamlet speak of his madness as they would today of a teenager's rebellious stage.  Hamlet himself speaks of his madness as if it were a cold.  This version lacks passion and the intricacies of the original plot.  And on top of all that, the appearance of Hamlet's father's ghost is a very brief single episode which, of course, plants the seed of revenge but is hardly an experience that could cause madness in anyone.  All to say this is rather boring if you already know the plot of Hamlet and I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction; there must be something better out there.  Not recommended.


  1. That's too bad you didn't like this more. I have it, too, but haven't got around to reading it yet. His series is insanely popular around the blogosphere, so I suppose I thought this would be good, too!

  2. What a wonderfully honest review. I think that in any retelling, the major plot points and most of all the "feeling" of the book should always remain the same.


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