Who was the real Hamlet?
When was the play performed for the first time?
Why did Shakespeare write it?
Why is it his greatest play?
What does "To be or not to be" really mean?
These questions have never been answered.
My version of this play, entitled Shakespeare's Premiere of Hamlet, answers them for the first time.
This new version makes the play easy to read and the meaning of the play is perfectly clear to anyone, whether you are familiar with the play or not.
This new version of the play takes us back in time to see Hamlet as it would have been originally performed in London by Shakespeare himself and his company of actors.
Only by seeing the play in its original historical context can we understand why Shakespeare wrote the play and what it meant to him.
And it meant a great deal to him.
It was the greatest professional and personal risk of his entire life.
I would like to give you an understanding of how I approached the writing of my version of Hamlet.
Honestly, when I started I was not sure that there was anything I could add, or make more clear about the play.
Little did I know that I would write a version that makes the play so easy to understand, that the true and real meaning of the play was so incredibly moving, and that this play has been so misunderstood for over 400 years.
When I first sat down to start the research into Hamlet, I was scared to death.
But as I read more and more about the play, it became clear that if I could figure out when the play was originally written, then I would get closer to an understanding of what the play was saying.
There is evidence that there may have been an earlier version of Hamlet in 1589 -- around the time that Shakespeare was beginning his career in London. But did he write it or was it someone else? There is evidence that other Hamlets were performed throughout the 1590's, which are probably written by Shakespeare.
Scholars put the writing of Hamlet, the play as we know it today, around 1599 to 1601.
Okay, I couldn't figure out the date yet. So I changed direction.
The more I did research I came across many other questions that I wanted to answer:
Who was the real Hamlet? Some scholars say it was the Earl of Essex, or King James. Maybe it was someone else.
Is there any significance to the fact that Shakespeare had a son named Hamnet? The name Hamnet is interchangeable with Hamlet, both from the older Amleth. His son Hamnet died at the age of 11, in 1596.
Did the play have anything to do with the Essex Rebellion? The Earl of Essex, the young military hero, who was very popular with common people, and once a favorite of Queen Elizabeth, led a failed rebellion with 300 of the best young men in the country against the Queen.
Was the play saying anything about the religious turmoil of that age? The English Reformation was a time of great fear, violence, and doubt.
Was the play saying anything about the Queen? She would die in 1603, at the age of 69. As she got older, it was a cause for great worry that she might die without an heir. She never married. She had no children. Who was to succeed her?
Was the play saying anything about King James of Scotland? There were rumors that he would succeed Elizabeth, and be crowned King of England and Scotland. This would in fact happen of course. It must have been in the minds of everyone in the country.
Was the play saying anything about Robert Cecil? As the Queen's Lord Privy Seal and Secretary of State, he was without a doubt the most powerful person in England at this time. He was suspected of doing many questionable things, including secretly exchanging letters with King James to prepare him for the throne of England after Elizabeth died.
Cecil was also believed to have inspired Essex to lead the rebellion, in order for it to fail, and be executed. Why would Cecil do such a thing?
So, as you can see, there were a lot of questions and they all seemed relevant to this play, Hamlet.
My research pointed towards a date when he would have written this play -- 1601.
I have made the conclusion that the exact date of the premiere of Hamlet was 10 November, 1601. It was the most logical date, based on my research, and it fit very nicely with the narrative I wrote, based on my studies.
Once I chose this date, everything else fell into place. I have a very hard time thinking that the play was written at any other time.
You can read more here and here about why the date seems to fit so well.
As far as Shakespeare is concerned, it seemed impossible to tell the story of Hamlet without writing about Shakespeare's life.
The more I read about him the more I was moved by his story. When he wrote Hamlet, it was not just any other play. It was his most personal work. It was also the most political play he had ever written, and it could have possibly ended his career.
I can not overstate the significance of this play in his life, and it became necessary to depict his life, a biography of his life up to the moment he staged the play for the first time, in my version of Hamlet.
I know that there are some people that do not want history, religion, Queen Elizabeth, Robert Cecil, King James or a biography with their Shakespeare.
I understand completely. Some people want to enjoy the plays as poetry, plot, story, and characters.
But I am not trying to diminish the genius of his writing by introducing the story of his life and times.
I am only trying to add another dimension.
He was a brilliant writer of remarkable poetry and plays.
Isn't even more fascinating, and a testament to his greatness, that he wrote all of this during a time of great turmoil -- political, religious and personal?
It is the greatest play in the history of the English language.
I think you will agree with me that now, with my version, we finally understand why that is so.
I am very excited to present to you this new version of the play -- in the historical and personal context in which it was written -- as it would have been performed for the very first time in history.
I think you will agree with me that it is as definitive an understanding of the play as we may ever know.
I hope you enjoy it, and please feel free to comment below or email me HERE
I'd love to hear from you!
Here are some articles related to Hamlet:
A Toast for the Premiere of Hamlet
Shakespeare's Richard II on 7 February 1601
Shakespeare's Hamlet and the Essex Rebellion
Shakespeare and the Essex Trial
Shakespeare and the Essex Execution