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Haunting emotions: Visualizing Hamlet's melancholy for students in two recent graphic novel adaptations

Gerzic, M. and Balfour, H.ORCID: 0000-0003-1784-2557 (2015) Haunting emotions: Visualizing Hamlet's melancholy for students in two recent graphic novel adaptations. Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation, 9 (2).

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The study of emotion and Shakespeare and, in particular, emotion and Hamlet, is well established. Shakespeare's work enables us to experience emotions and their transformations as we try to understand them. From the opening of the play, Hamlet's emotions are all too clearly present; Shakespeare defines him as a passionate and emotional man plagued by melancholy. How is this human emotion interpreted and visualized by authors attempting to adapt Hamlet in the twenty-first century? In recent years, visual literacy has become a prominent aspect of classroom learning. In a changing, more visually dependent world, students need to learn how to read the visual as well as the textual. The medium of graphic storytelling can help students learn how to do this. This paper will examine two recent graphic novel versions of Shakespeare: Kill Shakespeare (2010-current), by Canadian writers Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery (alongside Andy Belanger as head-artist), and Australian author Nicki Greenberg's Hamlet (2010). Each of these graphic novels includes the character Hamlet as the protagonist, and each of these texts approaches adapting the melancholy Dane (and Shakespeare's "text") in very different ways. Through comparisons with Shakespeare's canonical play-text, including Shakespeare's incorporation of humoural ideas of melancholy, we will analyze how this aspect of Hamlet's emotions are visually interpreted and developed in these two new media adaptations. The essay concludes that these adaptations of Hamlet work well as a text for K-12 students because the emotions Hamlet experiences are presented in a relatable way. The texts help these students to understand the emotions, and so relate to a character whose complex personality may otherwise be lost in the difficulty of the original text.

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