Who murdered Hamlet’s father? Hamlet decided the killer was his uncle Claudius. After all, as a result of the assassination, Claudius became Denmark’s king. But did Hamlet get it right? And what about those other high-ranking persons, including Hamlet and Claudius, who ended up dead? Would Ophelia, the lord chamberlain’s daughter Hamlet was in love with, know?
Fritsch’s alternative plot is logically worked out and clearly told. He successfully sells the premise that an Ophelia with no actual interest in marrying Hamlet but much interest in bringing Denmark to peace under a good leader could have orchestrated all of the deaths in the play. But Fritsch misses an opportunity to truly change the point of view. His stepwise reworking of the story comes at the expense of developing a passionate voice for Ophelia as either a cold schemer or a populist hero, and will be most interesting to Hamlet fans who appreciate the care with which he reworks canonical events. He slips into a third-person omniscient view for scenes where Ophelia is not present rather than developing a second narrator or relying on readers’ ability to fill in the blanks, another distancing choice.
The modern language generally works fine, though profanity sometimes sits awkwardly in the characters’ mouths. New characters—Eric, Claudius’s servant, and Christina, the Swedish ambassador—add little. Feminist readers may be frustrated that the role of Gertrude is mostly unchanged, but will cheer Ophelia’s agency. Though Fritsch doesn’t fully transform the character of Ophelia, his storytelling brings freshness to a classic.
Takeaway: Shakespeare fans will enjoy this adaptation of Hamlet, which gives a woman center stage without straying too far from the original.
Great for fans of Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed, Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B-