If you’re wondering who would brave the midday heat in New York City to discuss revenge dramas on a Tuesday, the answer is Max Gladstone, author of Last First Snow! (We have to say, any kind of snow seems appealing right now.) He teamed up with the Bryant Park BookClub and Oxford University Press to lead a discussion on Shakespeare’s famous text at the Reading Room, an open air library in Midtown Manhattan.
Check below the cut for Gladstone’s thoughts on Hamlet, the reluctant avenger!
Gladstone opened by telling the audience that his heart “lit up” at the thought of discussing Hamlet for the BookClub, and that passion was evident in his reading and analysis of the play. Not only did he lead the discussion, but he also invited members of the audience to act out scenes. He even recited, from memory, long sections of the play, proving he has a scholarly mind to go along with his artistic talent.
Several members of the Tor team were in attendance, and fellow Tor author Ilana C. Myer even volunteered to take on the role of King Claudius!
The result was an engaging dissection of Hamlet as a revenge drama whose characters don’t know that they’re in a revenge drama: even Hamlet himself, whose reluctance to act was interpreted by Gladstone not as a sign of immaturity or weakness, but of awareness. Hamlet knows how stories like his inevitably end, as is evidenced by the play within a play that Hamlet uses to “trap” Claudius. So Hamlet does all that he can to minimize the fallout of his own drama by trying to protect his friend. He attempts to send Ophelia to a nunnery to remove her from the situation and convinces Horatio not to commit suicide.
But Hamlet is a tragedy, and as such the eponymous character must eventually accept his fate and take up the mantle of ruthless avenger in order to do what must be done. As Gladstone points out in his exploration of Othello, Hamlet does eventually make up his mind on that whole “being” versus “not being” issue, though it comes only in the final act (“If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all. Since no man knows aught of what he leaves, what is ’t to leave betimes? Let be.” Hamlet V, ii, 168-170).
The BookClub wrapped up with questions from the audience and further discussion of Hamlet’s age and motivations. We haven’t delved into Hamlet in our Shakespeare on Tor.com series yet, but we’d love to hear your thoughts on the play! And if the discussion veers off into a conversation of the finer points of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, us Shakespeare geeks here at Tor.com central totally support that.
Reporting by Ashley Mullins and Cameron Summers.