Some people like Paul Rudnick’s play I Hate Hamlet because it tries so hard to please its audiences, while others resent it for just the same reason. The play, a favorite of community theater and college productions, addresses serious issues about art and integrity, but it does not address them with much depth. With topics that range from high culture to television commercials, it has something for everyone, and little to offend anyone.
Critics have faulted Rudnick for taking such a superficial approach to his material, but it could just as well be said that the play is successful as a work of art, because it achieves exactly what it sets out to do. I Hate Hamlet aims to please, and loading it up with too much moral or sociological complexity would detract from its ability to do so. But being light does not mean the same thing as being free of content. As it stands, the play contains some clear contradictions. The question that arises is whether taking contradictory positions is a weakness or a strength of the play. Purists argue against taking contradictory positions in the same work, but the fact remains that an inconsistence stance can allow a writer to, at least potentially, be all things to all people.
The main thing about I Hate Hamlet is that it is a comedy. This means two things. The first is that the play must end on a happy note, with all of the problems solved, so that...
(The entire section is 1885 words.)
The Magic of Shakespeare's Hamlet
In keeping with one of the major themes of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Paul Rudnick’s I Hate Hamlet is a contrast between both old and new, the value of Shakespearean theater versus the instant gratification of television fame. Rudnick draws on historical figure John Barrymore for his inspiration, an actor captivated by the role of Shakespeare’s prince. A sentimental, lighthearted social commentary, Rudnick’s Hamlet is not a tragedy, does not seek to redeem or preach a heavy handed message. But it does illuminate the value of the genre to which it speaks. Says the playwright: “I Hate Hamlet celebrates the theater, in all its artifice and happy dementia. May the Barrymore panache rule all productions.”
Rudnick’s play introduces Andrew Rally, an unemployed actor who has previously enjoyed great celebrity status in his role as a physician on television. When Andrew is offered the lead in Hamlet, his girlfriend swoons, his broker cheers and his agent campaigns for Andrew to take the part. But Andrew does not share the same enthusiasm. When girlfriend Dierdre tells him he must accept the honorable challenge, he responds: “But why? Just because it’s supposed to be this ultimate challenge? Because everyone’s supposed to dream of playing Hamlet?” Dierdre, however, continues to push through Andrew’s protests, ignoring his objections based on his short lived studies in acting school and...
(The entire section is 1896 words.)
Rudnick's Play and Popular Culture
As a play, I Hate Hamlet is a comedy, a melodrama, a send-up of tradition and grandeur, a contrast between high and low culture, yet as a commentary on many of the ideas that pervade contemporary popular culture, it remains a biting satire. From the opening scene, there exists a juxtaposition between the characters’ expectations and their methods for realizing them, a dichotomy that makes for amusing, playful entertainment. Often, it seems that willpower alone is enough to communicate with the dead or transform the career of a TV actor into that of a theatrical star, but, alas, this is not so. To be fair, Rudnick satirizes not only the aspirations of his protagonist but those of the other characters as well. By exposing his characters’ ideas about education, fame, and art, Rudnick creates a picture of a contemporary society that is influenced more by popular culture than it is by tradition and the eternal verities it represents.
In I Hate Hamlet, education is viewed as a means to an end rather than something worth pursuing to enrich one’s life. Because society advances at an ever accelerating pace, an education now develops over the short-term, and any information that falls beyond the focus of an individual’s immediate goals is discarded as useless or antiquated. In other words, an education should help one solve a particular problem, and it should do nothing more or nothing less than that. Solutions should...
(The entire section is 1725 words.)