On Stage: 'Hamlet' and 'A Comedy of Errors'

Feb 11, 2019

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is considered Shakespeare's best work. It's impossible to confirm a single bona fide text, as there are three surviving early editions of the work: the First Quarto, the Second Quarto, and the First Folio. Editors have tried to combine them to create a conclusive text, but its sprawling themes make it Shakespeare's longest play. It is rarely performed without substantial condensing—uncut, the play runs more than four hours.

The revenge play was popular with Elizabethan and Jacobean audiences. The Roman playwrights were being translated into English, and Seneca, especially, caught the interest of playwrights and audiences alike. Thomas Kyd's play The Spanish Tragedy, written in 1587, is sometimes called the Ur-Hamlet, as it establishes many of the conventions of the revenge tragedy—a ghost as the instigator of vengeance, feigned madness, and the play-within-a-play. What makes Hamlet different is his moral compass. He's a complicated character onstage at a time when plot was favored over character.

Hamlet is onstage at Wichita Center for the Arts. This production focuses on the themes of cultural and familial violence and is not recommended for those under 14. See it onstage February 21st to the 24th.

Also onstage February 21st to the 24th is A Comedy of Errors at Wichita State University’s Wilner Auditorium. Two sets of twins, mistaken identities, and physical comedy galore are the hallmarks of this early Shakespeare comedy.

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