Shakespeare…. You may have heard of him.

In the spirit of Shakespeare dramatics, drum roll please… Shakespeare for Slackers: Hamlet is near.

Five Rivers Publishing is happy to release the second instalment of the outrageously funny Shakespeare for Slackers on December 1, 2014.

Aaron Kite believes Shakespeare wrote for the common people, not for English majors, so in this Slacker version of The Tragedy of Hamlet, all of ye can enjoy.

Aaron Kite, Author of Shakespeare for Slackers

I had the chance to interview Aaron Kite about his thoughts on Shakespeare, Hamlet and the slackers of this generation.

JC: First things first, do you like Shakespeare as a writer? How about Hamlet?

AK: I love Shakespeare, actually… he was ‘inflicted’ upon me in Jr high school, but I very quickly began to grasp some of the things he was doing, and started appreciating both the prose and the humour. By the time I was in high school I was reading his plays in my free time. And Hamlet, well, I spent the vast majority of my time in high school and college dressed in nothing but black. How could I not appreciate a guy like Hamlet?

JC: What motivated you to write Shakespeare for Slackers?

AK: Quite honestly, I really enjoyed the fact that Shakespeare was a guy who wrote work for the ordinary, ‘common’ folk back in the day. His plays were popular enough that they ended up being performed for royalty, but that’s not the audience he was targeting back then. He wanted the stories he wrote to be accessible, and used the language and humour of the times — not what was in fashion back then, but what regular people understood best.

JC: Describe your regular “Slacker”?

AK: Generally, someone who is considered a ‘slacker’ is going to do the bare minimum, no matter what. It’s a point of personal pride. So, the idea of translating something as timeless as Shakespeare in a way that could not only be readily understood nowadays, but that could actually capture the imagination of someone like that and cause them to grasp the fundamentals of the actual story seemed like a fun challenge.

Plus, I’m almost certain that Shakespeare can’t actually sue me for doing it, so that’s gravy. Don’t quote me though.

JC: What do you want your readers to take away from reading Shakespeare for Slackers?

AK: The approach is actually kind of multi-pronged. I’m quite (very) obviously not translating the text verbatim, so the goal is to tell more or less the same story but from a more modern perspective. At the same time, there are jokes included in the translation that you’ll only really get if you know and understand the original Shakespeare, and what he was attempting to say/do. Sometimes the humour is all about subverting what he was attempting to say, or intentionally misunderstanding it via translation. Sometimes it’s about putting a completely modern spin on the ideas that he was trying to convey hundreds of years ago. If you don’t know Shakespeare, you’ll likely be entertained by the translation, and the story it tells. If you do know Shakespeare, you might find humour in some of the tongue-in-cheek absurdities that present themselves through the wildly inaccurate ‘translations’.

JC: The Tragedy of Hamlet is a classic. What do you think makes it a classic? Do you think the tragedy genre is still relevant for today’s generation?

AK: Hamlet sort of touched a nerve in people that still resonates to this day. Revenge, remorse, the idea that people living a supposedly ‘ideal life’ could have to wrestle with the sort of emotions he did, all that. It’s a classic because we all tend to think in terms of how things affect us, personally, and his is merely an example of how your position or station does not make you exempt from these particular feelings. I think something like that is relevant no matter what generation you’re dealing with.

JC: How difficult was it to write? Did you take any precautions? Were there scenes more difficult to use humour on?

JC: To be completely honest, I do this sort of thing in order to take a break from actually writing, which is hard work. This stuff is so much easier. The humour comes from just trying to think how someone today might express the same sentiment as the character who is currently speaking. That and the fact that I can be particularly random and silly at times. Turning something like “Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave am I,” into “Boy, do I ever suck,” well, it just kind of writes itself sometimes.

JC: This is the second installment for Shakespeare for Slackers, the first being Romeo and Juliet. Was writing the second harder or easier? Or just about the same? Did you learn anything from Romeo and Juliet that you applied to the writing of the slacker version of Hamlet?

AK: Actually, Hamlet is the third one that I did. I started with Romeo and Juliet, then went on to Macbeth, then Hamlet. All three were a goldmine when it came to this sort of activity, to be honest. Romeo and Juliet were young, love-struck kids… hardly a rarity nowadays. Macbeth clearly had some impulse control issues as a result from his time on the front lines, coming back home and making some rather poor political decisions. And Hamlet, well, he dressed entirely in black and saw ghosts. Heck, I’ve hung out with guys like that, back in the day.

But each one ends up informing the next in some way, no matter what. You just kind of get into the groove, taking huge chunks of literary genius and turning it into graffiti, more or less. In the end, however, I think that’s what Bill would have wanted.

At least, I hope it is. Otherwise, he might end up haunting me.