A beautiful modification of a Shakespearean story without ghosts but with incarnation
The author of Hamnet, Gwen Herat needs no introduction to the general English reader. Apart from publishing a number of books like The Splendour of Trees, from a Distance and a Biography of Pope Francis. Her series of articles in the newspapers on Shakespeare proved beyond doubt that she was an authority on the Bard.
Hamnet is her latest publication which takes the reader back to Hamlet, one of the greatest tragedies of Shakespeare. In fact, the author has built on Hamlet and in a way is an extension to the
While both Hamlet and Hamnet find common ground at Elsinore Palace there are some characters common to both like Hamlet, Ophelia, Queen Gertrude, and Laertes.
Hamlet although is the story of Hamlet and Ophelia it is also a story of court intrigue, jealousy, and hatred.
But Hamnet being a love story, the author has shaved off the frills of the original story and weaves one of her own, delivered in beautiful prose and verse. While the section she identifies as Transition is in prose the section that follows as Incarnation is in verse. In the court of Elsinore in Denmark king Hamlet, who had reigned for a decade had been yearning for an heir. Both Elsinore and the queen were frustrated which strained their relationship.
So, when they found that the Queen was with a child they were elated and when she gave birth to twins Hamlet and Hamnet, the entire kingdom was elated.
"Incarnation is new dimension introduced by Herat in modifying Shakespearean story"
“Two lovely boys from God’’
From childhood, the twins were identical but different in character and attitudes. Hamlet was the superior leading the way to Hamnet, who was a loner but joined his brother in hunting sprees. While Hamlet had no time to read, Hamnet was buried in books.Then in between two of them appears Ophelia. She was Hamlet’s love.
But Hamnet found himself getting drawn towards her as he observed the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia getting unstable.
When Hamnet was killed by a bear Ophelia opened her heart out and confessed, ‘It was him I loved and not Hamlet.’’ And not long after she followed Hamnet Clinging to Hamnet.
Ophelia breathed her last, yielding her body and soul to death’s last call in a soliloquy:-
“In this vicious world when mortals are still asleep and the waning moon flits across the smoky heavens, fate threw open the corridors to life unknown beyond the gloomy stars and floating clouds when my Hamnet, lost his sacred life for reasons unknown. My ripped heart aches for his love declared too, reasons in the wilderness. It was him I loved and not Hamlet, the secret I kept locked in my heart as we held back our forbidden passion for each other.”
"From Hamnet, the author’s creativity and imagination flow ‘like a river.’’ To read Hamnet was a novel experience."
We were the Elsinore dream but fate had her reasons unknown to us and shortened our lives before the early buds opened in their glory to paint the flowers in myriad hues and sap the nectar of youth from us. To live or not to live?”……. With that ends the prose and from there verse takes over which author subtitles as Incarnation. The incarnation of Ophelia and Hamnet, two of them who remained chaste and pure to the end have now joined and roam about as spirits.
Herat puts it beautifully:
‘We are adrift buoyed by strong bonds, And a love deeper than the sea,
Will it define our lives forever,
As memories come crashing our way,
Thy endless wisdom keeps me warm,
And sparks the flame and ignites the day,
On falling snow of winter white’ (Page 72)
“How peaceful is death, my precious Prince?
How gentle is its feel,
I see thee lying as in gentle slumber,
As fragrant as the morn’s crystal dew,
The lips are soft as the blushing rose, The smile still softly playing on them,
The eyes are closed in blissful sleep…… (Page 97)
“Incarnation’’ is a new dimension introduced in Hamnet by Herat in modifying a Shakespearean story. Some of Shakespeare’s stories ‘ghosts’ do appear as in Macbeth and Julius Caesar. But not an incarnation.
From Hamnet, the author’s creativity and imagination flow ‘like a river.’’ To read Hamnet was a novel experience.
The book’s front page illustration says it all. The awesome image in cover suggesting the mysteries around Elsinore palace is spectacular on impact at eye level leading the reader to Herat’s world of innovative creation and imagination in a hardcover, hand-bound publication.
Herat has dedicated her wondrous work, Hamnet, Prince From Nowhere to Dr. Devsritha Valence Mendis, the scholar Bishop of Chilaw.
Herat, Gwen; Prince From Nowhere. 1st edition 2017: Pp 155; LKR 500. (US$20). Author published.