“…”Hey guys,” the ghost says.
You’re too shocked to say anything. Ghosts are real, Ophelia! Surprise!
Hamlet looks up at the ghost and waves.
“Hi dad!” he says.
We’ve got two options here, Ophelia:
OPTION FACEBOOK: Demand the ghost prove that he’s who he claims to be.
OPTION TWITTER: It doesn’t matter who he is, the real question is if this ghost is so big into murdering dudes why he doesn’t just murder Claudius himself? Riddle him THAT.”
What is this? It’s clearly got Hamlet characters in it (awesome!), but it’s got Ophelia’s point of view (awesome!!), and it’s written in modern, irreverent prose (…sure, awesome!!!) and it’s – le gasp! a CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE?! If you were born in the period during which Choose Your Own Adventure books were the pirate-bearded warrior kings of the school libraries, or love Hamlet to death, or both, then you really ought to check out the majesty that is To Be Or Not To Be: That Is The Adventure, by Toronto comic artist Ryan North.
Late last year, this book engaged in a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that proved an immense success. North broke some Kickstarter records for speed and overfunding as he went through a spirited campaign that culminated, not in giving fancy presents to the people paying for his work, but in donations of increasingly large donations of books to school libraries and the placing of his work in the creative commons for all to enjoy. Philanthropy as well? Be still, my beating heart!
As you go through this charming, fully illustrated version of Hamlet, you can play as Hamlet, Ophelia, or King Hamlet…in which case, sorry! You die on the first place. THEN START WITH THE HAUNTING. Skull icons indicate choices that will bring about the ending we know and love from onstage; if you choose other options, Hamlet might invent indoor plumbing! Ophelia might get Hamlet’s butt off of the couch and into swordfight practice! And King Hamlet might try to win back his Gertrude with nice poetry and respectful dialogue! WHO KNOWS?
There’s even a play…of the book…of the first play…put on YouTube by a crew of ex-pats in Korea, Theatre In Busan. Which you can view here! During the live stream, people got to vote on their choices onstage just like we would at home reading the book. That’s all over now, of course, but you can see some of the awesome ways things went on the small screen.
I leave you with a couple questions:
a) What is the one thing you’d change about Hamlet if you had such a book? Or could yell out during a production? Or at least the biggest (we know there are lots of things that need fixin’!)
b) Kickstarter let someone with a good idea turn it into a major project that ultimately made $580,905.00 for someone to do something cool. What’s a Shakespeare project that, with a little help from your friend The Internet, you would love to put out?
And last but not least, in the world of To Be Or Not To Be, Ophelia is a smart cookie with a science background while Hamlet studies…y’know…arts…? I leave you with a glimpse: