Last time we met I gave some consideration to what the relationship between Shakespeare the writer and the internet might have been. This time, I want to think along similar lines about this year’s plays; Hamlet and The Comedy of Errors.
Errors is probably the easier of the two. The story would be more or less impossible in the age of Facebook and Twitter and the global reach of person-finding campaigns. Having said that, some version of the story could speak very strongly to fears of identity theft and, more profoundly, the relationship between our online digital selves and our off-line corporeal lives.
Hamlet is a thornier problem. In terms of the world of Elsinore and the mechanics of the plot, the internet poses no clear or present threat. The play has already spoken strongly to the age of the surveillance state. Polonius as Director of the NSA and Hamlet as an Edward Snowden character makes perfect sense. Well, not perfect sense, but you can see where I’m heading.
Hamlet the person is a slightly different matter. If he can Skype his student pals in Wittenberg, blog about his life and thoughts as GreatDane2B and follow the Twitter account of @MartinLuther (“Excerpts from the 95 Theses tweeted daily”) then who is to say he might not have felt in less of a claustrophobic sinkhole and would have had those all-important ‘outlets’ that help keep a lid on the self-destructive rage of a teenager (even if Hamlet is 30)?
All that, of course, looks on Hamlet purely as a coming-of-age tale, which rather misses the point.
Anyway, enough speculation. Look out in the near future for a post on the question of Shakespearean authorship, in which verbal musket and intellectual cannonade will be arrayed in anti-speculative formation.