Undiscovered countries: Shakespearean shadows in Jean-François Ducis’s Hamlet

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To English eyes, France’s first stageworthy adaptation of a Shakespeare play, Jean-François Ducis’s Hamlet (1769), is a pale but gloomy shadow of the original. One of the few elements of Shakespeare’s tragedy that Ducis retains is the Ghost of Hamlet’s father, who presses the hero on to avenge the original murder. But Ducis’s Ghost is both more savage and more ambiguous than Shakespeare’s; being perceptible to none but Hamlet, it may be no more than a hallucination. More bloodthirsty than its Shakespearean counterpart, it demands that Hamlet kill his mother Gertrude alongside Claudius, thus producing a conflict of loyalties that leads him to doubt the moral legitimacy of his mission. Although Ducis himself later felt compelled to rewrite his own ending, in all versions Hamlet’s sustained refusal to accede to the Ghost’s demands eventually marks his triumph over both his melancholy and his incapacities as incumbent ruler of Denmark.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalEarly Modern French Studies
Early online date3 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Apr 2024

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