Literary Mixtape: What Was On Hamlet’s iPod


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: the original Prince of Darkness, Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

No one’s got it rougher than Hamlet. His father is murdered by his power-hungry uncle, who then assumes the throne and marries his mother. His girlfriend becomes increasingly hysterical (probably at least partially due to Hamlets own treatment of her) and drowns herself. And then there’s the whole being haunted by his father’s ghost thing. Hamlet, the depressive, grieving borderline-psychotic that he is, wouldn’t listen to anything other than intense, dark songs, though they might run the gamut of negative emotions. Here are the songs we think he’d plot, give monologues, and pull back the bloody curtains to.

“My War” — Black Flag

Because the discerning Hamlet would listen to the best hardcore punk if he listened to hardcore punk at all, and this particular track encompasses both Hamlet’s growing madness and his familiar betrayal. “I have a prediction, it lives in my brain / It’s with me every day, it drives me insane … You’re one of them / You say that you’re my friend / You say that you’re my friend / But you’re one of them…”

“Excitable Boy” — Warren Zevon

This is a polite song about a murderous psychopath, cheerfully killing his prom date. Hamlet wasn’t even sorry when he realized it was Polonius behind the curtain. Ah, royalty.

“Under A Silent Sea” — Loney, Dear

For Hamlet’s more despairing moments — because even the angriest guys also listen to sad sack water music. This song is about having everything go to hell and not really knowing when it happened. “I must have gone low / Cause there was not a single light / I must have gone far under a violent sea.” There’s no getting out now, Ham.

“I’m Confused” — Handsome Furs

This song is on the brighter end of Hamlet’s musical tastes, for listening to when he’s inexplicably pleased with himself. “I hope this life don’t get you down / This dirty old time in this dirty old town.”

“Paranoid” — Black Sabbath

We think Ozzy wrote this for Hamlet or something: “Finished with my woman / ‘Cause she couldn’t help me with my mind / People think I’m insane / Because I am frowning all the time / All day long I think of things / But nothing seems to satisfy / Think I’ll lose my mind / If I don’t find something to pacify.”

“The Loneliness and the Scream” — Frightened Rabbit

This is a song about getting lost and about feeling powerless, which we’re pretty sure Hamlet would relate to. Just imagine him singing along (in Shakespearian Danish, of course): “Can you hear the road from this place? / Can you hear footsteps, voices? / Can you see the blood on my sleeve? / I have fallen in the forest / Did you hear me?”

“Where Do My Bluebird Fly” — The Tallest Man on Earth

Another sad sack song for the cold, alone times.

“Tuff Ghost” — The Unicorns

Though it might seem a little light for Hamlet, this creepy, quirky track about a “tuff ghost” might help him deal with the fact the fact that his daddy’s a ghost. And maybe even like it, a little. After all, tuff ghost, he’s invincible.

“Pretty Girls Make Graves” — The Smiths

“Sorrow’s native son / He will not smile for anyone / And pretty girls make graves.” Frailty, thy name is woman!

“Against The Peruvian Monster” — Man Man

For someone like Hamlet, the whole of Man Man’s oeuvre could be the soundtrack to his descent into madness. But this track — with the creepy children singing la la las, the man in a gorilla suit, and the shaky, manic chanting, would be ideal for the most psychotic moments.

“Starfuckers, Inc.” — Nine Inch Nails

Angry young man music about someone who sells their soul for power. Sound like anyone’s uncle we know?

“Where Is My Mind?” — Pixies

We can just picture Hamlet lying on his four poster bed in full regalia after Ophelia drowns, listening to this grinding, desperate song about losing your mind to the sea.