Abstract

William Shakespeare's Hamlet has become one of the most cited, appropriated, and referenced texts in the Western canon. This article examines an overlooked appropriation, the cult classic TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000's episode entitled “Hamlet.” Popularly known as MST3K, the show engaged in a very postmodern, metadiscourse by depicting characters watching bad movies and making sarcastic comments about them for the viewer at home. But in taking on this gloomy, black-and-white German-language production of Hamlet, this MST3K episode poses important questions about what constitutes a canonical work and how exactly a work becomes part of a literary canon. Through an analysis of this episode of MST3K through the perspectives of aesthetic and postmodern theory, this article suggests that this appropriation of Hamlet ushers in a new type of canon initiation, and, in the case of MST3K's take on the play, presents what I would like to call a “postmodern canon.”

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