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Derek Jacobi: a special kind of Hamlet in the BBC's Shakespeare Plays

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'Tis a pity Hamlet never got to be king. That's not Shakespeare speaking, but Derek Jacobi, the actor who plays the melancholy Dane (I promised myself I wouldn't use that hackneyed phrase but here i am utilizing it already) in the new BBC "Shakespeare Plays" production (Monday , 8-11:30 p.m., check local listings for premiere and repeats).

"He would have mada a fine monarch," mr. Jacobi told me the other day. "According to Ophelia, before Hamlet went mad, he was a true Renaissance prince who probably would have made a wonderful king. . . ."

Mr. Jacobi, pronounced JackOby, with the accent on the Jack, ("My great grandfather was German") speaks about Shakespearean characters as if they were living, breathing people today.

"It is one of the inconsistencies of 'Hamlet' that the monarchy is an elected one . . . and wouldn't necessarily have passed from father to son. Claudius was elected by council. Claudius ism the people. If the people liked Hamlet the people would vote for Hamlet. So it wouldn't necessarily follow that on his father's death Hamlet would become king. Claudius got in ther first while Hamlet was still at school at Wittenburg. Claidius was already counting the votes. But I do think Hamlet would have done rather well if he had evere made king."

Mr. Jacobi is, at present, playing the lead in "The Suicide," an anti-establishment (especially the Soviet establishment) play written by Nikolai Erdman in Russian in the 1920s, supressed there and only now being rediscovered and produced all over the world. But Mr. Jacobi claims he is nonpolitical, quite satisfied with the British monarchy.


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