This is a summary of the book:
Shakespeare for Screenwriters
by J. M. Everson
I found the book extremely insightful. More so than any English class I ever took in high school. But I’m also the guy who loved the Spark Notes of the plays better than the actual play because I could finally understand what the words meant and I could understand the drama and conflict between characters and inside characters. This book helps boil 12 of his plays down to one or two lessons each that can be used by screenwriters in crafting a story or a character, but isn’t helpful in writing the actual words. The book starts out strong, but as the plays progress, the ideas are less helpful. I stopped reading after a couple of plays where his insight was more obvious than insightful.
Here are my notes from the chapter about Hamlet which helped me understand why people like Hamlet as well as why people (the filmmakers) say that Lion King was basically Hamlet in the wild.
Hamlet is a man of inaction. He is told at the beginning of the story (through a ghostly vision of his late father) that Hamlet’s uncle killed Hamlet’s father to take control of the thrown. The rest of the story follows Hamlet on his journey to decide whether the vision is real (and thus avenge his father). He struggles often with the possibility that he is wrong and he could be killing an innocent man.
The author mentions how Hamlet is a more relateable character because his internal conflict is uniquely human and causes us to empathize with him. In contrast, the character Laertes son of the murderous uncle) does not hesitate at all to avenge his father. Because Laertes has no internal conflict, he is a less relateable character.