Friday, December 18, 2015

Page 128: Hamlet Special Edition

Like the Wikibard announcement on page 89, the news update on page 128 is another riff on Star Wars. If the previous gag referenced The Phantom Menace, then this one is based on the Special Edition of the original Star Wars (rechristened Episode IV: A New Hope in 1981) and fans’ reactions to the changes that George Lucas wrought on the beloved childhood memories of millions.

The cover of Hamlet Special Edition from The Billionth Monkey
[art by Robert Randle, layout by Aaron Tatum].
Thus, we find Shakespeare revising his beloved Hamlet twenty-five years after originally penning it, much like Lucas’ special edition came out in 1997 to mark the twentieth anniversary of Star Wars). Just as Star Wars Special Edition benefitted from improved CGI, deleted scenes, and cleaned audio tracks, Hamlet Special Edition “features improved iambic pentameter and restores scenes that had become possible due to advances in the technology of dressing squires as women” (p. 128). And just as Lucas sent fans into rages of “Han Shot First” for changing the cantina scene between Han Solo and Greedo, so has Shakespeare enraged purists with a similar change to the deadly confrontation between Hamlet and Polonius.

This meme made the rounds after the Force Awakens trailer hit.
[I am unable to locate the creator, but would be happy to credit them.]
To protest this last change, Shakespeare fanboys scholars don T-shirts proclaiming that “Ham Stabbeth First.” To further blur the lines between fiction, social media, and reality, “Ham Stabbeth First” T-shirts and other products are actually available through Café Press. The pose of the fencer is reminiscent of a famous publicity photo of Han Solo from the original Star Wars movie.

Life imitating art: Ham Stabbeth First merch is available through Café Press.
This blurring of fiction, social media, and reality led to the creation of a six-page preview for a fictional Hamlet Special Edition comic book as part of The Billionth Monkey. But that’s a story that I’ll save for when the blog get to that part of the book.

Han Solo in his younger days
[from a publicity photo for Star Wars, © Lucasfilm].

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