"Who are you trying to fool that you haven't read Hamlet before?" says Jerry. And he's right, of course. I've read Hamlet more than a few times.

But it's different every time I read it, like catching up with an old friend. I always find a different reaction to the text. This time I forced myself not to read the footnotes or any material other than the text itself. I'm a bit of a footnote junkie, which is why I love the Arden editions. But this time would be just the play, just my reaction to Hamlet.

My reaction? To question my own reaction.

I read the play as most "right-thinking" theatrepeople do these days. I read the play as a taut, plotted Jacobean Revenge Tragedy. It's a thriller and a murder mystery. It's an action flick much closer to Gibson than Olivier. "To be or not to be" isn't a meditation on suicide, it's a strategem designed to deceive the people Hamlet knows are spying on him. To me, Hamlet is a play of politics and surveillance and murder.

But am I just trapped in our "modern" interpretation? We like to think all those earlier generations that saw a lyric poem and a madman were wrong. But I wonder what Hamlet will be 100 years from now and what my granddaughter will think of my interpretation. We think we see so damn clearly, like we finally were the ones to figure it out. We think that the advice to the players reflects our sensibilities ... but didn't every generation?

We may have figured out our Hamlet, but Hamlet remains. It'll be their Hamlet soon enough. What will it be?


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