Teen Volunteer Review: Hamlet

This summer, Boston Public Library's teen volunteer program has gone remote! As part of this program, local high schoolers will be sharing their thoughts on books, movies, and more on our blog. Today, Excel High School junior Ergina Agastra is sharing her thought's on Shakespeare's classic tragedy Hamlet.

Hamlet, William Shakespeare's most famous tragedy, was written in 1601-1602 on the basis of a Danish saga. A saga is a popular epic song or legend spread in Scandinavian countries during the early Middle Ages. Hamlet can be described as the tallest “oak” in the Shakespearean forest. The groves show its grandeur and tragedy. 

One of the reasons why I recommend that everyone read Hamlet is for the mysterious plot. It is a tragedy with hidden secrets that make you eager to read the whole book. Hamlet begins with the Queen of Denmark, Gertrude, marrying her dead husband's brother. When her son Hamlet returns, he discovers there is a ghost at the castle. Hamlet recognizes his father's ghost and asks him what has happened. The King's ghost tells Hamlet that he was murdered, and Hamlet begins plotting to expose the killer... 

I enjoy all of Shakespeare’s work. He has a way of weaving a sort of magic underneath his prose that keeps you wondering how he’ll turn the next phrase. I have rarely experienced this when reading other authors. Maybe his style combined with the language of the time make it seem more magical to me.

Even though I prefer Shakespeare's comedies, I do like Hamlet. It is an enjoyable read despite its hopeless nature. My absolute favorite scene in Hamlet is Act 3, Scene 1, although not for the reason you might expect. Yes, "to be or not to be" is one of the most famous quotations ever. But what I love about the scene is Hamlet's despicable treatment of Ophelia that sends her over the edge. I love all the brilliant innuendo with lines like "Are you honest?" and "Are you fair?" 

I would also recommend this book for the messages it conveys. The messages of Hamlet are relatable at any time and include:

  • People must be respected.
  • It is better to fight and lose than to not try
  • Politics is about finding the right lies at the right time
  • Evil people will be beaten by their own wickedness
  • Gaining power at the expense of morality is not a success