A Nerdy Introduction to Shakespeare

I’ll confess: I was that guy in high school–the one who looked forward to reading Shakespeare. Phew, it feels good to get that off my chest.

I know Shakespeare isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine. You don’t have to read it. But are you a nerd–I’m talking classic, nerd 1.0 variety here (i.e., fans of Doctor Who and Star Trek)–who doesn’t like Shakespeare? Those exist, right? If so, I want to point out a 2009 version of Hamlet produced by The Royal Shakespeare Company for the BBC. This version is probably the nerdiest version of Hamlet ever produced:

Hamlet Tennant Stewart

That’s right, this version stars David Tennant (the 10th Doctor himself) and Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean Luc Picard). Interested yet? Give it a chance. If this doesn’t change your mind, well, it was probably never meant to be.

Okay, I’ll admit, Hamlet might not be the best first step on your path to liking Shakespeare’s plays. This version is three hours long. It’s rather sad, too. But there is a ghost. And poison, murder, revenge, unrequited love, and war! Hey, it worked in The Princess Bride.

If you like Tennant’s anger, manic energy, and humor when he played the Doctor, you’ll like him as Hamlet. His father has been murdered by his uncle, who is now married to Hamlet’s mom–plenty of reasons to be angry. As for the humor, well, you’ll have to trust me. For a play that is known for being very bleak, the cast (and especially Tennant) does manage to work in a lot of humor.

Stewart does double duty here. He plays both Hamlet’s murdered father’s ghost and the usurping uncle, Claudius. His performance even earned Stewart the Olivier award. His role is perfect for fans who wondered about an evil Picard. Here you will see the same smarts and leadership of Picard, but twisted.

Of course, the production is not without its faults. The conceit of the security camera is a little annoying and puzzling. And this version goes for a more modern aesthetic, but retains the final fencing scene. I suppose there really isn’t a way to work around it, but it seems anachronistic after seeing actors brandishing guns. But these are minor quibbles.

Let me know what you think. I hope you enjoy it.