The next difficulty is seeing how the complex writings of a 400-year-old dead guy with a dog collar are relevant to today’s teenager. So how can teenagers best get down with Shakespeare? One word: Hamlet.
Literary scholars love to expound upon Hamlet’s psychological struggles with mortality and
Teens can find many ways to relate to Hamlet and his existential suffering. He could be the gateway character to the score of Shakespeare’s other eternally conflicted and philosophically complex players. Hopefully, teen readers do not find common ground through the whole uncle-killing-the-dad-and-then-marrying-the-mom-thing, but perhaps they can feel comforted by the utter confusion, grief, and angst that incessantly troubles and stalls Hamlet. He’s the Elizabethan Era’s Holden Caufield. While it is such an anachronistic stretch of a comparison, the similarities between the The Catcher in The Rye protoganoist and Hamlet are there. Surely, J.D. Salinger might have had Hamlet’s nasty “Get thee to a Nunnery” speech to his gal-pal Ophelia in mind when Holden flips out over Sally Hayes (rightfully) refusing to run away with him, calling her a “royal pain in the ass.”
Moreover, both protagonists are mired in a sort of limbo in their lives, unsure of who they are and what they should be doing. Should Hamlet try to find out check up on some ghost’s claim that his uncle/stepfather poisoned his dad? Is that ghost even real or is he just going mad? What’s more, should Holden try to be human and reach out to the “phony bastards” or continue feeling lonely and abandoned, just like the ducks in the pond must feel every winter? Decisions, decisions, and neither are quick to take action.