“Let the devil wear black”: English department hosts annual Hamlet Day

Though the English department’s annual Hamlet Day, be madness, yet there is method isn’t.

“It’s basically a day for all seniors who are studying Hamlet to wear black clothing in celebration of the melancholy Dane,” said English department chair Lora Novak. “We’ll normally take class pictures assuming dramatic expressions.”

The festivities were postponed until Thurs., Dec. 7 due to the local fires, but students like Marissa Huang ‘18 are excited nonetheless.

“I’m expecting the halls of WHS to be a sea of black as everyone in 12 Advanced Placement English will be dressing up to channel their inner Hamlet,” said Huang.

Hamlet Day has been a Westlake tradition for 15 years, but since its inception, students have expanded it in their own creative ways, dressing up as other characters from the play and even bringing props.

“I’m excited for a lot of skulls and black balloons carried by extremely depressed seniors,” Huang continued.

Joe Nigro, English 12 AP teacher and Academic Decathlon coach, loves teaching Hamlet and calls the day “a nice culmination to the end of the unit.”

“There are so many subtleties to the play, so it’s fun to pick up on those,” he added. “ I also get a kick out of students realizing that they might actually like Shakespeare. And who doesn’t appreciate a good revenge story?”

Novak also appreciates the play for its universal appeal.

“Hamlet is someone who feels put upon in the situation he finds himself in,” she said. “He suffers from depression, he has girlfriend problems and he really sort of just has to confront universal problems and move on.”

She also notes the important life lessons that Hamlet teaches to students.

“I think that one of the most important ideas in Hamlet is that people need to live meaningful lives, and it doesn’t hurt to remind students that their actions count and they need to make the most out of the now,” Novak continued. “My favorite quote from the play is ‘The readiness is all.’ It summarizes this idea that life is transient, so people need to make the most of every moment and that a man’s life is no more than one.”

Huang echoes similar sentiments, though her favorite quote is more tongue-in-cheek.

“I loved Hamlet!” she said. “I thought everything about it was fantastic. [Mr. Nigro] made reading Hamlet really enjoyable and it was definitely my favorite Shakespeare play. My favorite quote is ‘O, I am slain!’ because it accurately represents how I feel after college apps.”

Nigro hopes that students will cherish their Hamlet Day experience beyond their high school years.

He concluded: “I hope that it becomes a moment from high school that they can look back on and remember fondly.”

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