Hamlet as an action hero.
co-creator and co-writer
Anthony Del Col writes his case for why Hamlet is the underrated hero we all need in the run up to the dramatic reading of his popular comic book series this weekend.
the first lessons one learns about writing in any storytelling medium (theatre,
film, television, comics, etc.) is that the tale’s protagonist must be
proactive. They must have a clear goal and must actively lead the charge to
accomplish said goals. They are not dragged into stories and do not allow other
characters and plots push them forwards. Otherwise, you are doing it wrong. And
one famous (infamous?) screenwriting book, Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!, argues that the only case in which this rule doesn’t
apply is with perhaps the most famous character of all-time:
general perception of Hamlet is that he’s an inactive character, someone who
cannot make a decision (encapsulated in perhaps the most famous line in theatre
history: ‘To be or not to be?’). As many high school students have thought over
the last hundred-plus years: make up your mind, already!
when my Kill Shakespeare co-creator/co-writer Conor McCreery and I sat down to initially
create our comic series (a mash-up adventure that pits all of Shakespeare’s
greatest characters together in the same world), we had to ask ourselves a
question: can we make Hamlet our main character if he’s an inactive one? To
answer that question, I’ve gone back to the original play (studying
numerous interpretations, as well as performances) to steadfastly come up with
is the most interesting action hero Shakespeare ever created.
the very moment that Hamlet appears on stage all eyes are on him. He’s a man in
mourning, but as soon as word (and appearance) of his father’s ghost appears
Hamlet starts off on his journey. The ghost tells him of his murder and points
Hamlet towards the suspect. But Hamlet, ever the investigator, decides to
gather proof and manipulates Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and pretty
much everyone else. And then, when Hamlet accidentally kills someone, he takes
a stumble backwards but returns, more determined than ever. All in the name of
he has moments of reflection and doubt, but what human being doesn’t? These
moments don’t delay his actions significantly and in fact make him more
sympathetic. A character driving single-mindedly towards revenge is a
one-dimensional character. Someone who wonders about the morality or sanity of
it all? That’s a real human being. And a great action hero.
when Conor and I regrouped to write the comic book series and then the stage
play (appearing this Friday at Shakespeare’s Globe!) it became natural to make
Hamlet our main character, a man tasked with finding a reclusive wizard named
Shakespeare with the abilities to bring his father back to life. And similar to
the play, Hamlet is a detective, attempting to figure out who this Shakespeare
is and the nature of his powers. One side – led by Richard III – tells Hamlet
that Shakespeare is an evil wizard that has killed many. The other side – led
by Juliet – informs Hamlet that the Bard is actually a God or a Creator. This
all gives Hamlet an incredible excuse to pause. We also decided to lean into
the stereotypical perceptions of the melancholy Dane by giving him the ultimate
choice here: to kill, or not to kill the wizard?
first began work on
Kill Shakespeare, Hamlet
was not my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays. I was more of an Othello guy, perhaps under the sway
(like many) of the charismatic Iago. But now, having not only watched and read
Hamlet repeatedly, but also written the character, I’m steadfastly a fan of the
play. There’s a reason that it’s the role that all actors aspire to play: he’s
the most fascinating character ever created.
a world where the greatest action heroes fall into the camps of superheroes,
fast and furious drivers, and intergalactic Jedi warriors, I wish to throw one
other option into the mix: a melancholy prince with a sense of humour, a drive
for the truth and some moral reservations about what is what’s right and wrong.