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A B or not a B?

Omelet, Prince of Dinner

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Hamlet is a tragedy written by playwright William Shakespeare. The play, set in Denmark, recounts how Prince Hamlet exacts revenge on his uncle Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet's father, the King, and then taken the throne and married Gertrude, Hamlet's mother. The play vividly charts the course of real and feigned madness -- from overwhelming grief to seething rage -- and explores themes of treachery, revenge, incest, and moral corruption.


The Muppet Show

  • In the Rudolph Nureyev episode of the Muppet Show features a special Veterinarians Hospital in tribute to William Shakespeare. When a young piglet is brought into the vet, Dr. Bob says, "Not piglet, Hamlet."
  • The Muppet Show episode 418 features a scene in which Gonzo was supposed to play Hamlet, but he sprained his nose. Kermit asks Christopher Reeve to step in, and the sketch ends with a rendition of "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" from Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate. The sketch also features a Muppet version of Hamlet’s Yorick.
  • In the last backstage scene of episode 107, Kermit says to Miss Piggy in exasperation "I am not your frog!" Rather than being angry or offended, Miss Piggy responds in apparent denial "Methinks thou dost protest too much," a paraphrasing of Queen Gertrude's line in Act 3, Scene 2: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Sesame Street

  • In one sketch, Grover tries to tell the story of "The Cursed Prince" that comes to a chaotic end when the prince turns into Kermit the Frog. Gladys the Cow appears, thinking she can play a frog. When Grover mentions the lack of the witch, Gladys shifts gears and pretends she's a witch, reciting "Double double, toil and trouble."
  • In Episode 1879, Oscar works on a play about trash. In his can, he is heard typing away at the script. At one point, he writes, "To be or not to, that's not funny enough."
  • In Episode 2718, Grouch poet Henry Wadsworth Wrongfellow (played by Denzel Washington) recites one of his poems, which is a Grouchy variation on the famous soliloquy from the play.
  • In the Monsterpiece Theater sketch, "Much Ado About Nothing", Elizabethan waiter Grover tells Mr. Johnson that his meal of suckling pig will not come with baby carrots, as Hamlet has already used them in an omelet. Later in the sketch, Mr. Johnson remarks "The pig's the thing", referencing the line "The play's the thing herein I'll catch the conscience of the King."
  • In Episode 3040, Sir John Feelgood pretends to fall asleep and states, "Sleep, perchance to dream," a part of the famous "To be or not to be" speech. At the end of the episode, Sir John announces the sponsors in a dramatic fashion. When he mentions the letter B, Big Bird remarks "Wow! Was that a B or not a B!"
  • Patrick Stewart, a well known Shakespearean actor, appeared on Sesame Street dressed in Elizabethan garb and performed a spoof of Hamlet's "Soliloquy", here titled "A B or not a B." During this sketch, Stewart gazes at a three-dimensional model of the letter B while holding it in one hand, a reference to Hamlet's Yorick soliloquy. Stewart later played the king in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Hamlet.
  • Grover appears in a segment at a theater. When the curtain goes up, he recites: "To be or not to be. That is a very silly question."
  • In Elmo's World: Dogs, the Dogs Channel announces an upcoming program: Hamlet starring a Great Dane.
  • In Grover's 140 character speech for The Shorty Awards, his first one is Hamlet.


  • In a 1963 sketch on The Jimmy Dean Show, Rowlf demonstrates his acting skills by reciting "To be or not to be!" He claims that the line was written by William Shakespeare's dog.
  • In "Fozzie's Story," the second issue of The Muppet Show Comic Book, Fozzie turns to Shakespeare's comedies for inspiration after flopping with a cheesy set of jokes. Dressed as a jester, Fozzie starts to tell the one about the man of England, the man of Ireland, and the wretched leper (replete with Elizabethan-style language) but is foiled when a skull drops from the ceiling and scares him offstage. Gonzo later addresses the skull romantically as Yorick.
  • In episode 112 of The Jim Henson Hour, Waldo C. Graphic tells Kermit the show isn't drawing in the Danish-Cowboy audience and comes up with a Western version of Hamlet, making a variation on the "To be or not to be" speech and mentioning Ophelia getting stuck in a horse trough.


  • Richard Attenborough played the English ambassador in the 1996 film.
  • Paul Bartel played Osric in the 2000 film version.
  • Simon Russell Beale played the second gravedigger in the 1996 film.
  • Alan Bennett played Osric in the 1970 TV version
  • Grant Bowler toured in a Bell Shakespeare Company version of the show, playing both Marcellus and Fortinbras in 1992 and Laertes in 1993.
  • Kenneth Branagh directed and starred in the 1996 film version, in addition to stage and radio versions.
  • Roscoe Lee Browne played Polonius in the 2000 Hallmark TV version.
  • Aaron Cash has appeared in Hamlet on stage.
  • Glenn Close played Gertrude in the 1990 film version.
  • Billy Crystal played the first gravedigger in the 1996 film.
  • Alan Cumming played the title role in a production at The Donmar Warehouse in the early 1990s.
  • Reece Dinsdale played Guildenstern in the 1996 film version.
  • Ken Dodd played Yorick in the 1996 film version.
  • Robert Eddison played Hamlet at the Old Vic in London (1948).
  • Tara Fitzgerald played Ophelia opposite Ralph Fiennes in Hamlet on stage.
  • Mel Gibson played Hamlet in the 1990 film version.
  • John Gielgud played Hamlet many times on stage; the Ghost in the 1964 Broadway version (which he directed), a 1970 TV version and the 1992 BBC radio version; and Priam in the 1996 film
  • Björn Gustafson appeared in a 1955 television version of the play.
  • Ethan Hawke played Hamlet in the 2000 film version.
  • Charlton Heston played the Player King in the 1996 film version.
  • Ian Holm played Polonius in the 1990 film version.
  • Michael Hordern played the player king in the 1992 BBC radio version.
  • Anjelica Huston played a court lady in the 1969 film version.
  • Gordon Jackson played Horatio in the 1969 film version.
  • Derek Jacobi played Hamlet on stage and Claudius in the 1996 film version.
  • Ben Kingsley played Hamlet on stage with the RSC (date unknown but prior to 1985).
  • Kevin Kline played Hamlet in the 1990 New York Shakespeare Festival production.
  • Kyle MacLachlan played Claudius in the 2000 film version.
  • Trevor Martin played Voltimand in the 1963 National Theatre production
  • John McEnery played Osric in the 1990 film version.
  • Sylvester Morand played the Ghost and the player king in the 2000 National Theatre production
  • Joseph O'Conor played Polonius at the Old Vic in London, on Broadway (9158), and on early television.
  • Peter O'Toole played Hamlet in the 1963 National Theatre production
  • Eren Ozker played Ophelia in a National Shakespeare Company tour of the show.
  • Trevor Peacock played the gravedigger in the 1990 film version.
  • Pete Postlethwaite played the player king in the 1990 film version.
  • Nick Powell was a stunt coordinator for the 1996 film version.
  • Paul Scofield played the Ghost in the 1990 film version
  • Rufus Sewell played Fortinbras in the 1996 film version.
  • Robert Stephens played Horatio in the 1963 National Theatre production and Claudius in the 1974 Greenwich Theatre Production
  • Patrick Stewart played Claudius in a 1980 TV version and both Claudius and the Ghost in the 2008 Royal Shakespeare Company version, which was subsequently filmed for television.
  • Fritz Weaver played Hamlet on stage in the 1958 American Shakespeare Festival.
  • Robin Williams played Osric in the 1996 film version.
  • Kate Winslet played Ophelia in the 1996 film version.
  • Uschi Wolff played a minor part in the 1960 German version.
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