Somewhere in my mom's basement is a big Tupperware box full of all the books I used to keep in my room as a tween. There's the usual nonsense—John Green, Harry Potter, two-thirds of the Divergent trilogy—and then there's "Srsly Hamlet."
"Srsly Hamlet" is a lovely little blue hardback around 150 pages long, which tells a hackneyed version of Shakespeare's original tragedy through text messages. Author Courtney Carbone provides us with such riveting lines as: "What do u want 2 do, Horatio?", and, with her stunning command of the teenage vernacular, reduces the famous line: "Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I!" to "God, I want to (skull emoji)".
My love of Shakespeare ran (runs) deep. I can still recite "To Be or Not to Be," I can tell you why Romeo's name doesn't always fit into iambic pentameter. I could talk all day about Henry IV's battlefield speeches, or how the genius of Marc Antony's ethos is reflected in today's politics.
But even my patience is being tested.
Last year, the IFC released "Ophelia," a film starring "Star Wars" actor Daisy Ridley, to a generally 'meh' reception (59% on Rotten Tomatoes). "Ophelia" tries a unique take at the "Hamlet" story, from the perspective of the Danish Prince's ill-fated love interest. More recently, "The Night Of" star Riz Ahmed is sealing a deal with Netflix to star in an adaptation of Hamlet set in modern-day London.
Though I'm all for female representation, and I'm a huge fan of Ahmed's work, I can't help but wonder—what's there left to say?
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that Hamlet has been worked from, conservatively, every possible angle. No, seriously. Pitch me an idea, someone's already done it.
I've always wanted to do Hamlet but he's a businessman.
You mean Michael Almereyda's 2000 film, starring a young Ethan Hawke in modern day NYC?
I forgot to mention, it's a film noir.
You must be referring to the 1987 Finnish cult classic, "Hamlet Goes Business."
Well, how about Hamlet but everybody's a cowboy?
Already done. Go ahead and check out Enzo G. Castellari's 1968 Spaghetti Western "Johnny Hamlet," also known as "The Wild and the Dirty" (An infinitely better title, in my opinion).
Geez, I don't know. Hamlet in Canada?
Ever seen 1983's "Strange Brew?" It's a comedy starring Rick Moranis about two Canadian brothers on a quest for free beer, who wind up uncovering a deadly scheme at 'Elsinore' Brewery.
Yup, that's right. Even Rick Moranis tried his hand at a Hamlet adaptation. Come on, give me something totally out there. Something so crazy it'd be almost impossible to perform.
Fine. Hamlet in Klingon.
Sorry! Already been done. A full Klingon translation was published sometime in 1996 in what was probably the apex of nerdery. You can even view a performance of the famous "taH pagh taHbe" (To be or not to be) here. It's exactly as terrible as you might imagine.
For all my whining, I do think there remains a way to bring something new to the table if you really must don the black pantaloons.
What I'm willing to accept—and what audiences will pay for—are works that go beyond re-hashing a long played-out storyline. Pieces that use Shakespeare's masterpiece as a jumping off point, to explore new ideas, or examine the medium of storytelling as a whole.
Absurdist playwright Tom Stoppard penned his classic "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" from the point of view of the play's least important characters to explore the concept of fatalism. Ian McEwan's novel "Nutshell" is a retelling of "Hamlet" from the perspective of an unborn child, pushing the limits of perspective in fiction.
The problem is works like these are few and far between. For now, something's rotten in the state of Denmark—unoriginality.