This essay examines Pablo Avecilla’s Hamlet, an ‘imitation’ of Shakespeare’s tragedy of the prince of Denmark published in 1856, both in its own terms and in the historical context of its publication. This Shakespearean adaptation has been negatively judged as preposterous and unworthy of comment, but it deserves to be approached as what it claimed to be, a free handling of the Shakespearean model, and as responding to its own cultural moment. Avecilla turns the Shakespearean sacrificial prince into a righteous sovereign that has kept the love of a lower-ranked lady and, by pursuing revenge, has successfully overthrown a dishonourable and corrupt ruler. This re-focusing of the Shakespearean plot and politics recalls the French neoclassical adaptation by J-F. Ducis in 1769. In fact, Avecilla seems to combine neoclassical form, which he advocated in his 1834 treatise Poesía trágica, with more Romantic traits at a time when playgoers demanded stronger sensations. As with Ducis’s Hamlet and its earliest translation-adaptations in Spanish at the turn of the century, the alterations from the Shakespearean model may be seen to have political resonances. Seen in the historical context of the so-called Progressive Biennium of 1854-1856, Avecilla’s emphasis on virtue and implicit approval of popular uprising led by an idolized authority is in tune with contemporary concerns for the right of the people and their leaders to rise up against immoral rule, with the Progressives’ support for both monarchy and national sovereignty, with their criticism of the corruption of conservative governments prior to the 1854 revolution, and with the role of ‘revolutionary’ generals such as O’Donnell and Espartero. This political interpretation is strengthened when Avecilla’s own political involvement in the Progressive programme is taken into account.
Shakespeare, William; Theatre; Adaptation; Hamlet; Avecilla, Pablo