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Hamlet, prince de Danemark

drame/play, pub:1848

An adaptation of Shakespeare with considerable liberties taken. Staged at the Théâtre Historique. Drama in five acts.

Translated with help by Paul Meurice.

    Hamlet in Paris from Atlantic Monthly, Volume 50, Issue 302
    Hamlet, prince de Danemark translated by Frank J. Morlock

Oeuvres/Related Works
    Morlock, Frank J.: Hamlet - available to read online!

Images (voyez tous/view all)
    Hamlet et Horatio au cimetière (Hamlet and Horatio in the Cemetery), 1839

From Reviews (FJM) by Frank J. Morlock:
     I don't know what critic ventured the opinion Dumas version was a comedy. That put me off even looking at it, for years. I'm sure whoever said it didn't read the play or see it performed. When one great dramatist reworks a play by another great dramatist he should be given a hearing. Even if you do not like the changes Dumas has made, they were carefully chosen and by an expert craftsman of the theatre and should not be cavalierly dismissed.
     Basically, what Dumas has done is to streamline the play, cutting some of the self-indulgent material Shakespeare has included. He pares down the play while sticking to the main plot. Some actions are moved forward without any violence to the story line and he cuts a few characters out. Until the ending, most of the changes are largely dictated by the need to limit the number of set changes. Elizabethans, with their perfunctory notions of set, bothered themselves very little about set changes. They were virtually unnecessary. By the 19th century, however, the elaborate sets forced playwrights to try to configure the action of the play into as few changes of set as possible. The playwright attempts to get as much action into a single scene as possible. This has the beneficial result of holding the attention of the audience, by not interrupting their limited attention span with frequent set changes. If a set change takes too long, or happens too often, the audience tends to lose interest and lose the thread of the story. This also tends to make modern plays a little more thoughtfully written from the point of view of staging them.
     Dumas' final changes seem to me to reflect a more modern point of view about the ending, although he brings back the Ghost of Hamlet's father as a kind of Deus ex machina to tidy things up at the end. Having kept the ghost at the begining I imagine he felt, in for a nickle, in for a dime. The ghost metes out punishment to Laertes, The Queen, and the King. He more or less umpires the holocaust at the end, with commentary. This allows Dumas to end the play where it really ends, and doesn't have to bring in Fortinbras. The one significant change he makes is that Hamlet survives. The Queen, The King, and Laertes die as in Shakespeare, perhaps a little more tidily. In Shakespeare they drop off like flies. Dumas provides a little more space in between.
     What about letting Hamlet live? I don't think Dumas did this because he was shy of killing off his hero. Dumas kills off his heroes often enough in many of his plays. I think, on consideration, he felt Hamlet's plight was worse if he had to face the horror of what happened. After all, Hamlet's death in Shakespeare is not a suicide but the result of treachery, therefore, his death is not necessarily required by a character flaw. He dies because Laertes poisoned foil pricks him. I think Dumas said "Wouldn't it be worse to survive?" Anyway, it's no comedy. And it's a strong tight ending. It is very instructive, if nothing else to compare it to Shakespeare's version. I'm glad I translated it. I had always thought it was of little worth. I no longer think so.

From A Bibliography of Alexandre Dumas père by Frank Wild Reed:
     A verse drama in five acts and eight tableaux, consisting of 2083 alexandrines and 64 lyric lines.
     By Alexandre Dumas and Paul Meurice. It is included among the collected works of both.
     Based upon Shakespeare's play, this work has some omissions and takes liberties, notably in the dénouement, where, to mention but one detail, Hamlet is condemned to life instead of to death.
     None the less it is regarded in France as a very fine piece of work. Moreover, for twenty years, it remained the standard text for stage presentation in France, displacing all its predecessors. Dumas thought a great deal of it and was fond of quoting it, for instance in "Amaury," Chapter XXXIV. (32 alexandrines); the "Souvenirs d'une Favorite," Chapters XIII. and XIV. (in all 56 lines) ; and several times as album verses.
     According to Théophile Gautier, this piece was first staged at the theatre of Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
     What is generally regarded as the first performance however took place at the Théâtre Historique on the 15th December, 1847.
     In 1886 it was staged at the Théâtre Français, and in that and the following four years was performed there alone 108 times.
     Original edition : Michel Lévy Frères, Paris, 1848.
     An edition accompanied by an historical notice on Shakespeare and a textual translation, in prose, of the English original, appeared in Paris, Benjamin Laroche, 4to., 1850.
     A very nice edition was issued in 1896 by MM. Calmann-Lévy, as part of a collected edition of the works of Paul Meurice. Of this one copy on Dutch paper, with an inscription by Meurice, is in the Reed Dumas Collection. It contains some added portions not found in the text of Dumas' collected plays.
     "Hamlet" now forms part of Vol. VII. of the 15 Vol. edition. and of Vol. XI. of that in 25 Vols. as issued by Calmann-Lévy.

         References :—
     Gautier: "Art Dramatique," Série V., pp. 198-205.
     Parigot: "Drame d'Alexandre Dumas," page 59.
     Blaze de Bury: "Alexandre Dumas," pp. 164-65.
     Parran: "Bibliographie d'Alex. Dumas," page 32.
     "Le Mousquetaire," Causerie for June 8th, 1855.
     "Le Monte-Cristo,"Causeries for May 21st and 28th, and June 4th, 1857.

From A Bibliography of Alexandre Dumas père by Frank Wild Reed:
     Fifty-seven lyric lines and sixty-eight declaimed lines, scattered among the alexandrines.

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