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‘ Tis now the very witching time of night’: Halloween horror and the memento mori in Hamlet (2000)

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Hamlet (2000) removes Hamlet’s discourse with the gravedigger and therefore his confrontation with death through Yorick’s skull. This scene in Shakespeare’s text represents the memento mori, and its removal disrupts the concept of mortality central to Hamlet. This article focuses on its dis- and replacement in Hamlet (2000). The amputated death’s head memento mori is revealed as having been replaced by Halloween imagery, emblematic mise-en-scène manipulations and horror signifiers throughout the adapted text. Appropriations and subversions of Shakespearean, early modern and postmodern emblems of mortality are examined. Late postmodern anxieties over disconnectedness, technological dehumanization and consumerism are explored in relation to the recoding of the memento mori via Halloween in this text.

Keywords: Halloween; Hamlet; Shakespeare; appropriation; cinema; film; horror; memento mori

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: King’s College London

Publication date: October 4, 2012

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  • Adaptation, or the conversion of oral, historical or fictional narratives into stage drama has been common practice for centuries. In our own time the processes of cross-generic transformation continue to be extremely important in theatre as well as in the film and other media industries. Adaptation and the related areas of translation and intertextuality continue to have a central place in our culture with a profound resonance across our civilisation.
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