Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Hamlet


Hamlet by William Shakespeare. I read the Fully Annotated Shakespeare with an introduction by Burton Raffel and with an essay by Harold Bloom. Hamlet was written in 1602, it was first performed in June of 1604 with Richard Burbage playing the part of Hamlet. Hamlet is a tragedy, dealing with revenge and murder. It is one of the most quoted and probably the best known of Shakespeare's works. The Danish Prince Hamlet wants revenge for his father, the previous king, the murderer is his uncle Claudius the now current king. Hamlet's mother is Gertrude and she is now married to the current king. The ghost of Hamlet's father visits him and wants revenge, Hamlet plots this pretending to be mad. Polonius the advisor to the king believes that Hamlet is mad for his daughter Ophelia. But Hamlet tells Ophelia to "get thee to a nunnery." Hamlet speaks to his mother but she is afraid of him and screams for help, Polonius is hiding nearby and hears the noise, Hamlet stabs him. Claudius wants Hamlet to go to England and sends a message to have him killed. But Hamlet does not make it very far because pirates attack the ship and he returns. Ophelia died from falling out of a tree and into a stream, where she drowns. When Hamlet returns he claims to have loved Ophelia. There is a fencing match where poison is put on the blades in order to kill Hamlet. But Hamlet strikes his opponent first, Laertes and he dies. Hamlet's mother drinks a goblet of poison and dies. Hamlet wounds Claudius also with the poisoned blade and also has him drink the poisonous drink and he dies. Hamlet was wounded and later he also dies from the wounds of the poisonous blade.
Many quotes are in this that we have all heard before:
"This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man."
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."
"A dream itself is but a shadow."
"My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: words without thoughts never to heaven go."
"To be or not be: that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer, The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep No more, and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep- To sleep, perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub, For in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil Must give us pause."
I need to re-read Hamlet again, and maybe again. It is not a play that is on the surface easily understandable, it is deep, deep in the sense of the workings of the human mind. Hamlet is angry, disturbed, seeking revenge for the death of his father, he plots and pretends to be mad.
A good question is does revenge ever make a person feel better, does it quench the fire of malice? Is that why a person seeks revenge is to feel better? Or is it to seek justice for the person harmed or wronged?

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