The first in our Halloween series, Hamlet has ghosts, madness, murder, and a grand total of eight deaths….

I am thy father’s spirit, / Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night

Summary – The prince of Denmark is visited by his father’s ghost, and learns that his uncle committed a terrible regicide.

The Perfect Drink – Nettle tea would be a great choice here. Hamlet describes Denmark under Claudius as an ‘unweeded garden’, and before she drowns, Ophelia weaves ‘fantastic garlands’ for herself out of ‘crow-flowers, nettles, daisies and long-purples’. Although nettles may symbolise pain and cruelty, nettle tea is surprisingly fresh and grassy. It’ll make a refreshing accompaniment to an otherwise bloody and claustrophobic play.

The Perfect Snack – Blue cheese would work well with Hamlet. The prince sees decay everywhere – to him, man is a mere ‘quintessence of dust’ – so a cheese that’s threaded through with blue-green mould would be a brilliant match. It has a ripe, pungent, fruity flavour that calls for sweetness – you could pair chunks of creamy gorgonzola with fresh, juicy peach. Alternatively, you could try Roquefort with a handful of milky sweet walnuts, bringing to mind Hamlet’s famous claim that ‘I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams’. (This quote inspired Ian McEwan’s latest novel Nutshell, which recasts Hamlet as a foetus). Of course, blue cheese is an acquired taste – for a sweeter and less controversial treat, you could try a crisp, buttery Danish pastry; crammed with sultanas, sweet with aromatic cardamom and sticky with custard.

The Perfect Place – Hamlet is a good choice for autumn. With summer’s blooms starting to wither and the trees shedding their leaves, it’s the perfect season in which to read a play preoccupied with life ending and what might be beyond the grave.

What are your favourite Halloween reads? Let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.

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