If you are only going to read one book on Hamlet this week … well, I guess it could be Stay, Illusion, by Critchley and Webster. (If you’d like to read about it, go here.) But it could also be To Be Or Not To Be, a Chooseable Path Adventure, by Ryan North, Shakespeare, and You! (If you would like to read an interview with Ryan North, click here.)
The girls and I explored a few paths yesterday. I thought maybe it would be a bit too old for the younger one. It is the story of Hamlet, ‘a teenager in his late thirties’, after all. But she really liked it. Later she asked for the iPad. ‘I was the ghost and I had a chance to explore the bottom of the ocean some more, but I didn’t take it. I wanna do that.’ Fair words! “The ocean, overpeering of his list/ Eats not the flats with more impetuous haste!” than a young lady, playing as Hamlet, Sr., in a chooseable path adventure. “Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-choice, via author’s snarky voice.”
(Just so you know: it’s not written in mock-Shakespeare-ese. Ryan North is a writer for “Adventure Time” comics, and he goes more for that tone.)
I think it works quite well. Yes! It’s like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. There needs to be some distinctive feature of the source material that invites the violent genre mash-up treatment. In Jane Austen’s case, there’s a hole. What’s going on in the wide world outside this story? There’s so little about that in the original that there’s remarkably little internal resistance to filling the hole with zombies. With Hamlet … you see where this is going. I’ll just quote from the review of Critchley and Webster. “What sane person, finding himself in Hamlet’s position, wouldn’t delay? Perhaps there’s something a little unhinged about the whole problem. In the nineties, in a brilliant essay called “Hamlet’s Dull Revenge,” the writer René Girard faulted critics for writing as though ‘no more was needed than some ghost to ask for it, and the average professor of literature would massacre his entire household without batting an eyelash.’” As we now know from Ryan North’s research, it is possible for Hamlet to do that at dad’s behest – well, I’m pretty sure. I haven’t explored that thread yet. But it’s probably out there.
But mostly the fun is in playing for pointless delay. Or playing within the play. What a great joke! A plan-your-own adventure story within a plan-your-own adventure story!
If you do want the hyper-violent option, try Ophelia, turns out. She’s aggressive. Get her to England and watch her turn all Keyser Soze. Who knew?
It’s actually not out in print yet, but you can buy it for Kindle