Original publish date: 15 July 2014
Right off the bat I ought to say that Hamlet is probably my favorite Shakespearean tragedy (and yes, I love The Lion King), and the spin-off play, as it were, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard might just be my all-time favorite play. I mean, come on. Word play, breaking the fourth wall, puns!! That is the stuff of dreams for the linguistically inclined. With that in mind, I was rather excited when I came across the title The Case of the Dead Dane by Steven Duggan because I just KNEW that Hamlet was going to be given new life and I was eager to find out just how.
In this alternate envisioning of the chaos that Hamlet causes, Christopher Marlowe and Will Shakespeare are English actors hired by Prince Fortinbras of Norway to investigate the murders committed by Amleth (aka Hamlet) as well as Amleth’s own death. The boys begin their investigation into Amleth’s character by gleaning information from Amleth’s former schoolmates Rosenberg and Gildenstein. Soon, they meet Ophelia, Amleth’s cousin and love interest, who also provides our investigators with information to discover the truth behind the chaos.
There were some instances of grammar that caught my eye, particularly comma usage, and a consistency issue that irked me the most is the renaming of characters from Hamlet. Some are given an alteration to their name when others, such as Ophelia and Laertes, weren’t. For consistency’s sake, they all ought to have had their names altered or none of them ought to have. A mixture of different names and original names was throwing me off of which character was which. For instance, I thought Klaus was Claudius but then there was a mention of Claudius and I became confused if that was supposed to be Polonius, Ophelia’s father, since there was no use of Polonius’s name anywhere in the text.
Given that this is the first of multiple volumes, I can understand that there is an element of building the backstory of an arguably fascinating character of Shakespeare; however, it seemed a bit disjointed to have so much of Will’s backstory with Anne thrust at the end of the volume when the investigation was just starting to pick up. While I adore both speculation and fact about Shakespeare’s life, I wanted to get to the crux of the Hamlet story.
Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.