Kenneth Branagh-directed version of the play on DVD.
I still find Hamlet one of Shakespeare's best, and Branagh did an excellent job in modernizing it to show all of its romantic, comedic, and tragic sides. However, as the play slogged through its second hour and Hamlet had yet another 10 minute soliloquy on poor Yorick after Claudius and Laertes finished up a 20 minute discussion on revenge, I realized a very important fact about Mr. Shakespeare - that boy didn't know when to shut up.
Every line is full of lament, every thought several paragraphs long and, when you think it's all over, you realize the characters are just taking a breath to continue on for several more pages. I wouldn't be surprised if playgoers in Shakespeare's time kept looking at their watches for some sort of break because they had to go to the bathroom. Yet, despite its chattiness, Hamlet still remains a classic, read regularly by eye-rolling teenagers and young adults alike.
This got me to thinking about some of the other famous works of literature and how wordy they turned out to be. War and Peace, Atlas Shrugged, Les Miserables - they are constantly mentioned as classic works of fiction; however, I wonder how many people have gotten through them to the very last page. Even Hemingway's Old Man in the Sea, at a paltry 127 pages, seems like a very long episode of Seinfeld where little happens.
I'm a minimalist writer by trade, relying more on conversation in my stories than elaborate detail, and this may be why I have a prejudice against these lengthy stories people have categorized as timeless. Sure, they can be entertaining once you dig into the meat of them, but getting to that part can be utterly frustrating. For now, I'll take the current practice of hooking the reader as quick as possible and, whenever I decide to pick up War and Peace, I'll just flip ahead to the good parts.
Have you ever gotten through one of the lengthy tomes listed above?