Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hamlet, A Doll's House, and The Importance of Being Ernest: Three Play Mini-Reviews

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

You all know the play: father dies, mother marries the uncle almost as soon as the father is dead and declares himself king, dead father appears as a ghost and asks son to avenge his death, son (who should have been king) comes to believe uncle murdered father and the result is madness and murder galore. Sounds simple(ish), right?

Not so fast. First of all, do not ever try to read this quickly. Because Shakespeare. And because it's really not simple. Hence, I made ample use of the internet resources to make sure I understood exactly what was going on. I've seen this performed several times but there were definitely things I had never wised up to while watching. I'm looking forward to seeing it again (perhaps a viewing of Laurence Olivier as Hamlet?). It's well worth the read, if only for all of the famous lines you've heard many time didn't necessarily know where they came from.

A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

Of the three plays I read, this is the only one I knew nothing about going in. Which is sort of shameful. Like Kate Chopin's The Awakening, I feel that A Doll's House should be required reading for all young women. It may have been written by a man, but Ibsen was clearly a man who understood women and their place in society.

As so much of my reading does, this play had me looking for more information. How did a man of that time come to have that understanding? The play, as it turns out, was inspired by a real person's experiences, a person who's experience was directly impacted by Ibsen's refusal to help her. She wasn't as fortunate as Ibsen's Nora, who grew from a woman terrified of losing her husband to a woman brave enough to walk away from him and the life she'd known.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

The only other thing I've ever read by Oscar Wilde is The Picture of Dorian Gray, which is most decidedly not a comedy. This, on the other hand, is ridiculously, snarky fun.

I adore the movie adaptation (starring Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Judy Dench and Reese Witherspoon) but I wondered if the play would read as funny as it is when performed. I was not, as you can tell, disappointed. The cover to the left says this is a "trivial comedy for serious people." Very true; nothing highbrow about this comedy but Wilde does go after women, men, literary types, high society, intellectuals, religion, morality.

All of those funny things you've read that Wilde said? This is the play that he seems to have poured all of that wit into.


  1. Those are three very different plays! I love Hamlet--it truly stands the test of time. I really liked the Kenneth Branaugh version (which is complete--no cuts), but it is looonnngggg. I watched one act per night over 5 nights so that I wouldn't burn out on it. Beautifully done.

    I've never seen or read A Doll's House, but I know I should...maybe next year.

    I love Importance of Being Earnest--actually my favorite movie version is the 1952 version. I remember just about falling on the floor laughing over it--one of the funniest movies I had ever seen. The Colin Firth version is also good, but I'm nostalgic about the earlier one.

    Happy holidays and happy reading!

  2. A Doll's House is one of my favorite plays. We did it in theater class in high school and I loved the character of Nora though as an adult I think I have a harder time understanding her motives. I love Hamlet and The Importance of Being Earnest is just such a fantastic play! Great selection!