The Brief Reign and Death of King Claudius (Special Edition)
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The Brief Reign and Death of King Claudius (Special Edition)

Price: $199.95
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Dimensions: 8"x11"
  • ISBN: 978-0-9825553-3-0
  • Pages: 90 pages
  • Illustrations: 7 full color illustrations
  • Publication Date:
  • Item #: hamlet-claudius-spec-1
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Printed on Triple Anvil laid-finish paper, featuring the illustrations of John Austen with watercolor by Rose Jaffey and a custom hardcover binding by Bessenberg Bindery of Dexter, Michigan, this special limited edition of The Brief Reign and Death of King Claudius was awarded the Independent Publishers Awards 2014 Gold Medal for Outstanding Book of the Year, one of only nine books so designated, out of 5600 entries from all 50 states and 33 foreign countries. Read more about the special edition and the award.

The Brief Reign and Death of King Claudius, a play within the text of Shakepeare's HAMLET

What happens in Hamlet when you read the play from the perspective of Prince Hamlet’s principal antagonist, King Claudius? In 1879, scholar Henry N. Hudson noted that the lengthy play contains the dramas of Claudius, Ophelia, Queen Gertrude, Laertes, and Horatio, and that each principal character has an individual perspective and a unique personal struggle.   

The Brief Reign and Death of King Claudius tackles the challenge of extracting the narrative of King Claudius from the full text of Hamlet by selecting plot elements of three kinds, those in which Claudius is speaking, those involving the accumulating evidence of his guilt in the murder of old King Hamlet, and those involving his contention with Prince Hamlet. 

As the play opens, King Claudius is making a statement of posture in his attempt to steer a peaceful course through the consequences of his acts of murder and usurpation. Claudius has not only murdered Hamlet’s father, he has married Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude. The Claudius narrative comes to 1750 lines, about the length of Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors.

The full text of Hamlet approaches 4000 lines, which would take approximately four hours to perform. Most stage versions involve a text of 2500 – 3000 lines. The process of drawing out the sub-narratives of the principal characters was facilitated by the Hamlet Plot Element Grid for Stage Script Development and Analysis, which divides the full text into 150 plot elements, identifying major speakers, major themes, and relationships for each plot element. 

The plot element Grid is included in a reduced format as a fold out in The Brief Reign and Death of King Claudius, and will be available to scholars and stage directors in its full 22”x35" format from Howland Research. 

The Brief Reign (the Claudius narrative) is the first in a series of narratives within Hamlet to be published. As this book goes to press, the narratives of Ophelia, Queen Gertrude, Laertes, and Horatio, along with the narrative of Claudius, are being utilized by students in a 300-level theater course at a major mid-western university. 

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