Hamlet may be the most divisive episode of MST3K. However, it can be argued that it simulates a true Globe Theater experience. After all, theatergoers in Shakespeare’s day weren’t snooty dillweeds who wanted to believe that the plays were being written by Edward de Vere. They were regular folks like you and me looking for some quality entertainment. And if they thought they weren’t getting any, it’s reasonable to believe that they would heckle the performers and maybe pelt them with rancid produce for good measure. And I’m sure the image of Shakespeare going out on a night off with Richard Burbage, Henry Condell, and William Kempe to riff a performance of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay would cause most of us to crack a smile.
Also when you think about it, Hamlet is suitable for riffing in part because the lead character is so reminiscent of other protagonists featured on MST3K. By that I mean he’s an ineffectual chump who blunders through the narrative screwing up at every opportunity, with everything finishing in a colossal mess. Put that way, he’s no different from Rod Tillman (Wild Rebels) or Jimmy Wilson (I Accuse My Parents) or Marvin Grant (High School Big Shot) or Paul Niles (Werewolf).
Having said that, are there any other film adaptations of Shakespeare you think are suitable for riffing? One possible candidate is George Cukor’s adaptation from 1936. With 32 year old Norma Shearer as Juliet, 43 year old Leslie Howard as Romeo, and 54 year old John Barrymore (looking every second of it and then some) as Mercutio, it could rival Ring of Terror for most geriatric riffs. The fact that Virginia Hammond (who portrays Lady Montague) was the same age as Howard opens some other riffing possibilities. Here are a few potential riffs:
“She hath not seen the change of fourteen years”
Wait, I mean forty-four years.
“With love’s light wings did I o’er-perch these walls.”
I didn’t want to stress my trick knee.
“Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
Guess I should take more Metamucil.