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English LK meets Hamlet on stage

On the 24th of November we, the English LKs and our teachers, went to the Kongresshalle at 7:30 pm to see a performance of “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare. None of us had read the play before so we went there with mixed feelings, but “cowards die many times before their deaths” so we were brave. However, we had read plays by Shakespeare before, e.g. Much Ado About Nothing, and some of us had been to a Shakespeare performance of The Merry Wifes Of Windsor at the Globe Theatre in London. For those of you who do not know the plot of Hamlet I will give a short summary. The ghost of his father tells prince Hamlet that he was murdered by his brother Claudius, who is now king of Denmark and that he should take revenge for him. Hamlet pretends to be insane to find out the truth and get his revenge. Claudius` right-hand man Polonius suspects that he may be mad with denied love to his daughter Ophelia. His mother, queen Gertrude, thinks his lunacy derives from the sadness about the death of his father and her early marriage with his brother but the king gets suspicious. After a play that shows Claudius his deed, he wants to kill Hamlet and sends him to England, after he killed Polonius because of confusion, where he shall be murdered. Hamlet survives this journey and comes back to Denmark directly for Ophelias funeral who drowned herself in the river because she couldn't cope with the death of her father and Hamlets lunacy. At her grave her brother Laertes picks a quarrel with him, which leads to a duel. While the duel Laertes harms Hamlet, Gertrude drinks a goblet with poison and dies, Hamlet kills Laertes with a poisoned rapier, which was meant for him, before Hamlet dies he fulfils his fathers will and retaliates upon Claudius for the murder of his father.

The performance we visited was a classical one with old-fashioned costumes and the original language. The stage was very simple, mostly black with a wooden construction in the centre. "The man that hath no music in himself, nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." Maybe this is why the actors made some music with drums and their voices at some parts of the play, e.g. when the “Spirit” appeared on stage, which created a cool atmosphere that made it easier to put oneself into the play. Although the theatre had very bad acoustics the actors transported the feelings and the story well, even when a big part of the audience left the room noisily during the performance. “How poor are they that have not patience!”. I thought Shakespeare might wish that I “let every eye negotiate for itself”, so I made a survey that included seven questions, here are the most contemplated answe

  1. What did you like best about the performance?
    Most of the pupils liked the good performance of the actors best, others the colourful costumes or the sound effects they made with their voices and the spirit and the music that was played when he came on stage. A lot of the students liked the clear and understandable language of the actors.
  2. Give five adjectives you think of when you think about the performance?
    The most often mentioned adjectives were: interesting, funny, melancholic, good, dramatic. Some of us also thought that the performance was fascinating and sad.
  3. Which bad impressions did you get?
    A lot of students complained about the bad seats they got and the bad acoustics because of which they could not follow the play properly. Other problems they had were the rude audience, which partly left during the play, and some thought that the play was boring and too long.
  4. How do you think about the actors?
    The biggest part of the students told me that they did a great job and were very professional and realistic, they presented the roles authentically even when a great part of the audience left. Others recognized the good and understandable language of the actors.
  5. Did you have any problems concerning the language? Which?
    The top problems were that the play was too difficult to understand if you have not read the play before, that it was too silent, that the actors spoke too quickly sometimes. Others had no problems because the performance made it clear.
  6. Do you think different about Shakespeare performances/ English performances now? In which way?
    Three quarters of the students do not think different about them, the others do, which depends on the expectations they had. Those expectations were that it would be entertaining and good, that Shakespearian plays are very challenging. Some of the pupils think that watching the play is better than reading the book.
  7. Would you like going to another performance like that?
    Only one pupil answered with no, the others would go, some on special conditions as: they want to read the play before, it depends on the play, they want better places, others thought that it is a good extra to classes and was interesting and entertaining and they like coming together with classmates.

I think this shows that it was a special experience for all of us, if we liked it or not, which should not be deprived from prospective classes, so everyone can get an idea of it. As, to say it in Shakespeare's words

“All the world's a stage"