HAMLET THERAPY by Maud Burnett McInerney • Cleaver Magazine
HAMLET THERAPY by Maud Burnett McInerney The last time I had seen a live production of Hamlet, I was a teenager, and I fell in love with the Melancholy Dane. He was beautiful and blonde and had one of those resonant voices, trained by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. I learned all of Ophelia's lines—this seems disturbing to me now, but then I played her over and over again in the privacy of my bedroom. Nearly forty years later, I saw Hamlet again on the very same stage at the Canada's Stratford Festival. This time, I saw a different play entirely. I was no longer in love with Hamlet, I was Hamlet. Watching the play from the dark shadow of my own depression, I recognized myself on stage. I could taste the flavor of Hamlet's every mood because his moods were mine. Just to be clear, the precipitating cause of my depression was not that my uncle killed my father and married my mother. It was more mundane and yet horribly painful: my husband of over 20 years left me for a much younger woman, with whom, I eventually learned, he had been involved for some time. Not tragic, just sad and disappointing and commonplace, and yet, because betrayal is betrayal, I felt what Hamlet felt. The second Stratford production was both stylized and extremely naturalistic, especially when it came to how the actors spoke. No one declaimed, no one used British-y accents, the words were clearly and rapidly delivered in ordinary Canadian tones. The characters spoke as you and I do but using Shakespeare's words, and thus those words gained an intimacy they all too often lack in stagier performances.