In 1995 I came to Rome as an Erasmus student. As I was studying English and American literature the obvious choice of my classmates were to go to British universities but I decided to come here so I could study and learn two languages at the price of one, as many lessons were in English. During that year, I had the most fulfilling academic experience of my long years as student: an entire year studying Othello with Agostino Lombardo. In Italy, Mr. Lombardo was the most appreciated Shakespearian scholar and translator, and assisting to his lessons was a privilege and indeed the classroom was always filled with people when he gave them. I’ve learned a lot of things thanks to Mr. Lombardo but the greatest lesson he gave me was to realise that, in life, the wisest is the humblest. That year coincided with the release of Oliver Parker’s version of Othello with Lawrence Fishburne and Kenneth Brannagh, therefore, during those months I had a “Othellian-full-immersion”.
Now, almost twenty years later, I’m enjoying a Hamlet’s-month, thanks to BBC’s Drama of the Week. I’ve heard all five episodes through their website and now I’m downloading the podcasts when available. During my walks, in the subway or in the train I hear them again, and again, and again. I must confess that audio books have never appealed me very much, as I prefer reading. But it is quite impossible for me to walk and read at the same time, therefore since I commute using the public transport I have more than one hour a day in which I can’t do anything more than walk and hear. I thought that I could not be able to “see” the play just “hearing”, but I was wrong; and I thought also that, being Shakespearian English not the easiest thing to understand, that I will miss many things. Again, I was wrong. As Romans said, “Repetitia Iuvant”, or, “repeating helps”. Every time I catch a new detail, something that I was not aware of during the first hearings. I enjoy the play as when I heard for the first time the absolute beauty of the actor’s voices… To me that is such a gift, something I will never get tired of. My congratulations to all the cast, the director, the composer of the music, the sound editor… all of them.
Therefore by next month I will be as prepared on Hamlet as I was in June 1996 on Othello. I just hope that I won’t forget the several “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” or the “by Heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me!” as quickly as I forgot many of the things I’ve learnt with Agostino Lombardo of the Othello.
My “Hamlet’s month” will be prolonged until the end of May. On the 20th will be available an audiobook called “Hamlet”, written by A.J.Hartley. Audiobook of which I would never have known the existence if it wasn’t for “LaEffe TV”. By the way, La EffeTv is an Italian tv channel that belongs to “La Feltrinelli”, one of the main Italian book publishers; my former teacher, Agostino Lombardo, published his Shakespeare’s translations in “La Feltrinelli”. And what has to do “LaEffe TV” with the audiobook? Last December, watching it, I’ve seen North & South and Richard Armitage for the first time, I started following his career and he reads that audiobook. Therefore, if I had not made zapping once certain night of December my Hamlet’s month will have finished after downloading and hearing several times all BBC’s podcasts. I love pulling Ariadne’s threads.
I long so much to hear the whole book, some samples have been already published and I must say that I really like what I’ve heard. Richard Armitage himself talked rather enthusiastically of it in an interview, and I rely on his opinion as a reader. As he is no longer in the position to “say yes to everything” (or at least I hope not) what he said about the book, and how passionately talked about it, awoke my curiosity. I have defined that work as a top-quality-fan-fic. Should the authors read me, by one of the many internet’s mysterious ways, are gently prayed not to take that as an insult. Even though some times that term is used in a denigratory way, the authors have done the same thing fanfics writers do: try to answer the thousands of unanswered questions that you pose when watching or reading something you like. What happened before? And after? What was doing that character when he was not in stage? That is, to fill in the blanks, and even to twist the character’s psychology or resurrect the dead. Of course, the authors are more prepared that the average internet fan-fic writer (including myself), they are professionals and what they have created is really good. Although I admit that a high percentage of the fan-fic in internet is a real crap (including my own), please allow me to say the same for some of the books present in my library: they are an insult to the forests that have been cut down to print them. At least I don’t have any tree in my conscience.
And, to end the post, as far as Richard Armitage’s reading is concerned… I bow to thee, sir. I am sincerely speechless. It takes a real good actor to make a reading like that.
EDIT April 6th: it seems I will just have a single Hamlet podcast. RADIO 4 Drama of the week podcasts just a single episode per week of any of the dramas aired. I will console myself hearing John Hurt as old Dante Alighieri’s in the Inferno of The Divine Comedy… Alas! I suffer so much!