The Last Post by Shanon Shah

You know the story. Prince Hamlet grieves the untimely and mysterious death of his father and resents Claudius, his uncle, for marrying his mother and taking over the kingdom of Denmark with dictatorial glee. But then one day, Hamlet is visited by the ghost of his father who names Claudius as his killer and demands vengeance. Beset by indecision, torn by grief, and vexed by his troubled relationships with his mother, Gertrude, and potential girlfriend, Ophelia, Hamlet eventually hatches an elaborate plan to expose and punish Claudius. In this most archetypal of Shakespeare’s tragedies, all hell breaks loose. People die spectacularly bloody deaths to end a morality tale about deception, betrayal and the abuse of power.

Surely the moral and aesthetic appeal of this story is universal – transcending time, place and culture. At least that’s what the Oxford- trained American anthropologist Laura Bohannan decided to demonstrate during her fieldwork among the Tiv in Nigeria in the mid-twentieth century. During a lull in her research, Bohannan began to despair as the Tiv villagers held daily booze-soaked storytelling sessions while waiting for the swamp waters to subside before resuming with their farming. On their part, the villagers could not understand why Bohannan did not join in and preferred to pore over her notes and academic tomes. The elders soon challenged her to do some storytelling  of her own, which prompted  a lightbulb moment – why not share the story of Hamlet? Surely these villagers, with their proud oral traditions, would be dazzled by this most celebrated of stories by England’s most beloved playwright of all time?

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