Monday, October 11, 2021

"Hamlet" by Alexandre Dumas

No, the title of this post is not a typo.  Alexandre Dumas, the guy who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers and so on, also translated Shakespeare's Hamlet into French.  And then I read a translation into English by Frank Morlock of his translation into French.  Which sounds like a waste of time, since I can just read Hamlet in English any time I want to, and have often done so.  BUT.

But Alexandre Dumas didn't so much translate Hamlet as retell it.  He trimmed it considerably (there's no Fortinbras, for instance), he pepped up the dialog even more, and... ::drumroll please:: he changed the ending.


Not tons!  It still ends with a swordfight between Hamlet and Laertes, and dead people strewn all over the stage.  But one character who dies in Shakespeare's Hamlet lives in this one, and the Ghost makes an extra appearance in this one, and it's just really fantastically fun to read!

I knew going in that the ending was going to be different because there's an opera version of Hamlet with music by Ambroise Thomas and libretto by Michel Carre and Jules Barbier that is based on Dumas' translation rather than Shakespeare's original.  I've seen the 2004 production starring Simon Keenlyside, which is fantastic, though the changed ending just shocked my socks off the first time I saw it.  When I discovered this translation in print, I knew I had to read it!  And I'm so glad I did.

Note from the cover that the volume it's in is called Shakespeare in France and includes a translation of George Sand's French translation of As You Like It also, both translated by Frank Morlock.  I only read the Hamlet.  So I'm only reviewing that.  But if you want to find this yourself, look for it as Shakespeare in France and you'll have an easier time finding it.

(Mine from my Instagram)

Particularly Good Bits:

Polonius:  ...his shipwrecked heart struggles and forgets itself (p. 51)

Hamlet:  The stage is a mirror where man, such as he is, good and bad, must see himself (p. 59).

King:  You are speaking like an enigma and I don't understand you at all.
Hamlet:  Me neither (p. 70).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 even though it cuts down a lot on the obsession with Gertrude being in Claudius's bed now.  Still a lot of innuendo and violence.

This has been my 29th book read and reviewed for my third Classics Club list and my 41st for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.


  1. That's an interesting idea - rewriting other people's work. I may try to read this Hamlet version even though I don't remember a thing that happened in the original version. I really like the good bits you've listed.

    Have a lovely day.

    1. Lissa, it's definitely something people have been doing long before the current rewriting trend :-) This version stands on its own pretty well without knowing the real story. You can read this translation of Dumas' translation here online if you want to sample it.

  2. I had no idea Dumas did a French retelling. I'm going to have to find the French version! Thanks for posting this.

    1. Stanley, it is great fun! You can read it online here if you want to :-)


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