December 22, 2012


Sorting through the pile of scripts in the archive, I found a copy of Ümmiye Koçak’s Hamlet, and opened it at random.

“Alas, poor Yorick!” I read aloud.

“I knew him,” Ümmiye said promptly. “He had a way of joking, of conversation.” Her expression turned serious. “You know,” she said, “there’s something I’d like to ask you about that scene. When Hamlet says, ‘How many times I kissed this one, this Yorick, on the lips.’ Well, Yorick is a man. And Hamlet is also a man.” She asked if I had any explanation, and I confessed that I did not, observing only that Hamlet was a little boy at the time. “Well, of course he was,” Ümmiye said. “But it still seems odd. With us in Turkey, little boys don’t kiss grown men on the lips.”

Everyone agreed that it was odd. “Hamlet was a homosexual,” Seher said quietly, not looking up from the tomato she was dicing, and this theory was debated for some minutes. Ümmiye couldn’t accept it, because wasn’t the whole point that he was in love with his mother?

— Elif Batuman, “Stage Mothers,” in the New Yorker

Ümmiye Koçak (in crown) playing Hamlet with her company, the Arslankoy Women's Theatre (photo by Carolyn Drake)

Ümmiye Koçak (in crown) playing Hamlet with her company, the Arslankoy Women’s Theatre (photo by Carolyn Drake)

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