11Shakespeare – HamletLecturer: Professor D. Scott-MacnabEssay2DUE: Wednesday 10 April (after the Easter break)You need to submit a printed copy in class,AND an electronic copy on Edulink.Failure to provide both copies will lead to penalties,and even NO MARK at all.The EditionRSC / Oxford / Cambridge / Arden3• Renaissance (lyric) verse / poetryLyric: a short(ish) poem in which the writer tells yousomething about a particular topic.• Renaissance drama (work written for the theatre)• Hamlet: A dramatic tragedy by the greatest playwrightthe world has known – William Shakespeare• Hamlet – the one fact that most people know aboutShakespeare (his greatest play?)• Shakespeare’s longest play (over 4000 lines)• Unlikely that it was ever performed in its entirety inShakespeare’s timeHamlet – Introduction4• We, similarly, are not going to be able to cover everyaspect of this mammoth work.• Shakespeare lived: 1564–1616 (Elizabethan period)• A time of a major flourishing of drama as a literaryform; Shakespeare its most talented exponent• Hamlet probably written 1600/01(over 400 years ago)• The language can be challenging: consult the notesand explanations in your editions.
25• A mode of literature in which events are presented inperformance by actors.• You are not TOLD what happens; you SEE ithappening before you.• You are not TOLD what someone says; you see andhear that ‘person’ saying it.• In performance, the script comes alive through theactors’ interpretations: WHAT they do; HOW theyspeak etc.• But we are not seeing a performance. We arereading the script.• You need to involve your imaginations.WHAT IS DRAMA?6• Popularity of the play: most people identify with thehero in some way• The play tackles the greatest problems:‘Life, the universe and everything’• Asks searching questions about the meaning of:LifeDeathLoveThe human conditionDuty / REVENGEWHY IS HAMLET SO POPULAR?7Some Major Events• 1542 Death of Sir Thomas Wyatt• 1543 Copernicus shows that the Earth revolves around the sun• 1564 Shakespeare is born• 1567 First London playhouse: ‘The Red Lion’• 1570 Pope calls on English Catholics to assassinate the Queen• 1572 Massacre of French Protestants (religious intolerance)• 1588 Spanish fleet sent to conquer England• 1599 Shakespeare’s ‘The Globe’ theatre is builtDeath of Edmund Spenser• 1600/01 Hamlet• 1603 Queen Elizabeth dies; James I succeeds• 1616 Shakespeare dies• 1633 Galileo put on trial for teaching Copernicus (1543)• 1533 Hans Holbein paints ‘The Ambassadors’8A CRISIS OF FAITHShakespeare – born into a world experiencing a crisis ofFAITHThe old certainties have goneMan has never been more in control of the worldBUT he has also never been more uncertainUncertainty / Doubt / Conflict pervade this eraRemember: Hamlet asks searching questions about themeaning of:LifeDeathLoveThe human conditionDuty / REVENGE
39• ‘It was a tragedy for South Africa when they lost thecricket match’• ‘It was a tragic moment for the family when they sawtheir child swept away in the flood’• ‘The death of one man is a tragedy, the death ofmillions a statistic’• Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth are amongShakespeare’s greatest tragediesTragedy (please note spelling)10• DRAMA: A play in which a noble character (the ‘hero’ /protagonist), who has the sympathy of the audience,suffers a sudden reversal of fortune leading to his/herdeath• What causes that reversal of fortune?• Is the hero ‘responsible’ in some way?• The play Hamlet is one in which the main character(Hamlet) is called on to avenge the death of his father,but he delays doing so and as a result falls victim to themurderer himself.Dramatic Tragedy11• BEWARE of saying: Hamlet is a tragedy becauseHamlet has a ‘fatal flaw’• Avoid using the term ‘fatal flaw’• Watch out for two commonly repeated ideas:• Hamlet’s tragedy is that he can’t make up his mind• His tragedy is that he doesn’t (can’t) take decisiveaction• Both observations are true, BUT• They don’t point to a ‘fatal flaw’• Hamlet doubts, questions, ponders many issues – butthis is not a weakness or ‘flaw’; it’s Hamlet’s strength.Hamlet & Tragedy12Act 1, Scene 1Night / Castle battlements / Two anxious guardsBarnardo: Who’s there?Fransisco: Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself.Barnardo: Long live the King!Fransisco: Barnardo?Barnardo: He.Fransisco: You come most carefully upon your hour.Barnardo: ’Tis now struck twelve. Get thee to bed,Fransisco.Fransisco: For this relief, much thanks. ’Tis bitter cold,And I am sick at heart.(1. 1. 1–9)
413• Tension (soldiers are on high alert): WHY?• The one is ‘sick at heart’• They are also waiting for Horatio to see what theyhave seen ... What is it?• As they start telling Horatio, we find out:• A ghost appears: 1. 1. 41–59• Uncertainty: What is it? It looks like the king who isnow dead. What does it mean?• AMBIGUITY: Is it good or bad?The scene introduces:14Horatio:In what particular thought o work I know not,But in the gross and scope of my opinion,This bodes some strange eruption to our state’(76–78)‘Eruption’ = disturbance / turmoilSomething is badly wrong!! The young Prince Hamletmust be told.Act 1, Scene 2• Entirely different setting• Introduces five of the most important characters:• Claudius (the King, brother of the dead king anduncle to Prince Hamlet)• Polonius (counsellor to the king)• Laertes (son of Polonius)• HAMLET (son of the dead king)• Gertrude (the Queen, mother of Hamlet)• NOTE: Two Hamlets (father and son)READ Claudius’s first speech: 1. 2. 1–1616Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s deathThe memory be green, and that it us befittedTo bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdomTo be contracted in one brow of woe,Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature 5That we with wisest sorrow think on himTogether with remembrance of ourselves.Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen,Th’imperial jointress of this warlike state,Have we, as ’twere with a defeated joy, 10With one auspicious and one dropping eye,With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,In equal scale weighing delight and dole,Taken to wife; nor have we herein barredYour better wisdoms, which have freely gone 15With this affair along. For all, our thanks.
5Claudius refers to• The death of his brother, Hamlet• His marriage to his brother’s widow• The ‘wisdom’ of replacing sorrow with joy• The approval of the whole court• ?? Why does he need their approval ??• Because the marriage is unconventional, if not illegal• He has married his brother’s widow: a form of incest,forbidden by the church.• Look carefully at Claudius’s speech.Claudius’s double-talkNote his oxymorons (self-contradictions):• ‘wisest sorrow’• ‘defeated joy’• ‘one auspicious and one dropping eye’• ‘mirth in funeral’• ‘dirge in marriage’• ‘delight and dole’ [‘sorrow’]Claudius’s speech sounds impressive, but is actually meaningless.Reveals Claudius’s self-interest, and his DECEIT. He is amanipulator.The funeral of Hamlet’s father has turned into a weddingcelebration for Hamlet’s uncle and his mother.Claudius then speaks to:• Hamlet• First dramatic confrontation between them.• Hamlet – dressed in black – spoils theharmony of this wedding celebration• READ: lines 63–66Claud: But now, my cousin Hamlet, and myson —Haml: A little more than kin, and less thankind.Claud: How is it that the clouds still hang onyou?Haml: Not so, my lord, I am too muchi’th’ sun.(1. 1. 63–66)
6• Hamlet’s first words to Claudius are riddles – WHY?• He is unhappy, angry, frustrated, HOSTILE (we’re notquite sure why yet)• He is keeping Claudius away from himself• Hamlet is rejecting Claudius as a father figure ANDtrying to keep his thoughts and feelings to himself• Shows the beginning of a battle of wits between twomain figures of the action• Claudius is unhappy with this: he wants Hamlet to join inand be part of his celebrations like the rest of the courtGertrude and Claudius call on Hamlet to be sensible ...READ: 67–86Gertrude is saying ‘everyone must die’:Why seems it so particular with thee? (75)Note Hamlet’s answer:‘Seems’, madam? … I know not ‘seems’ …I have that within which passeth show … (76)He is setting himself apart from the court of ‘seeming’(pretense / illusion). He sees things as they ARE!!But he’s alone in this.Soliloquy: a speech in which a character reveals his/herthoughts to the audience.Hamlet’s first SOLILOQUY: 129–15924O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,Thaw and resolve itself into a dew! 130Or that the Everlasting had not fixedHis canon against self-slaughter! O God! O God!How weary, stale, flat and unprofitableSeem to me all the uses of this world!Fie on’t! O, fie, fie! ’Tis an unweeded garden 135That grows to seed: Things rank and gross in naturePossess it merely. That it should come to this!But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two.So excellent a king, that was to thisHyperion to a satyr, so loving to my mother 140That he might not beteem the winds of heavenVisit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth,Must I remember? Why, she would hang on himAs if increase of appetite had grown 144By what it fed on, and yet within a month —
725Let me not think on’t: frailty, thy name is woman! —A little month, or ere those shoes were oldWith which she followed my poor father’s body,Like Niobe, all tears: why she, even she —O, heaven! A beast that wants discourse of reason 150Would have mourned longer — married with mine uncle,My father’s brother but no more like my fatherThan I to Hercules. Within a month?Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tearsHad left the flushing of her gallèd eyes, 155She married. O, most wicked speed, to postWith such dexterity to incestuous sheets!It is not nor it cannot come to good:But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue. 159Soliloquy: a speech in which a character reveals his/herthoughts to the audience.The speech hows his chaotic emotionsGrief + Horror + MemoriesHamlet wants to disintegrate, or to commit suicideThe world is ‘an unweeded garden’ – image of orderedworld falling apartHis father was like Hyperion (sun-god, divine, radiant)& Claudius is a satyr (half animal)His mother seemed to love is father, and showed intensegrief at the funeral – but it now seems false, meaninglessEven worse: she has committed incest.Hamlet’s first SOLILOQUY: 129–159Hamlet is outraged by his mother’s actions – which causeshim to have a problem with women from now on (Arewomen trustworthy? Does ‘love’ mean anything?)O most wicked speed! To postWith such dexterity to incestuous sheets.’ (156–7)(Note images of speed)‘It is not, nor it cannot come to good;But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue. (158–9)The audience is allowed to see into the mind of someonewho has reached the limits of what he can cope with.O that this too too sullied flesh would melt,Thaw and resolve itself into a dew.Hamlet is bitter and disillusioned; he is trapped in Claudius’sworld of falsehood and delusionAct 1, Scene 3
8• Tragedy usually extends to other characters in additionto the ‘hero’ / protagonist• The hero’s ‘reversal of fortune’ includes others – indifferent ways• Scene 3 introduces a second FAMILY involved inHamlet’s tragedy (THREE important characters)• Laertes (about to depart for Paris)• Ophelia (his sister)• Polonius (their father)Laertes warns Ophelia to avoid Hamlet.Ophelia is in love with Hamlet and believes that heloves her, but Laertes sees things differently: Hamlet isnot free to marry whom he wants.READ: 6–35, especially:For Hamlet, and the trifling of his favour,Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood,A violet in the youth of primy nature,Forward not permanent, sweet not lasting,The suppliance of a minute, no more. (6–10)Perhaps he loves you now,And now no soil nor cautel doth besmirchThe virtue of his will: but you must fear,His greatness weighed, his will is not his own;For he himself is subject to his birth: (16–20)• Laertes is sincere and well-meaning … BUT his advicewill have terrible consequences.POLONIUS repeats Laertes’ advice to Ophelia, but as acommand (92–140):Pol. I would not, in plain terms, from this time forthHave you slander any moment leisureAs to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.Look to’t, I charge you. Come your ways.Oph: I shall obey, my lord. (136–140)• What does this reveal about Ophelia?
9Laertes and Polonius are well-meaning; they want toprotect Ophelia, BUT they destroy the last positive thingin Hamlet’s lifeHamlet will now think Ophelia false alsoOphelia: is shown to be young, innocent, caught in abigger world that she doesn’t understand.Her male relatives are right in general terms, but theiradvice is disastrous!34Act 1, Scenes 4–5Returns us to the castle battlements at nightRead:1.4. 20–38:Angels and ministers of grace defend us!Be thou a spirit of health of goblin damned,Bring with the airs from heaven or blasts from hell,Be thy intents wicked or charitable,Thou coms’t in such a questionable shapeThat I will speak to thee: I’ll call thee Hamlet,King, father, royal Dane. O, O, answer me! (20–26)Say, why is this? Wherefore? What should we do? (38)35The Ghost’s Revelations (1. 5. 1–96)Ghost: I am thy father’s spirit,Doomed for a certain time to walk the night,And for the day confined to fast in fires,Till the foul crimes done in my days of natureAre burnt and purged away. (13–17)• It is the spirit of Hamlet’s father, and it is doomed to spend acertain time being cleansed of its sins.Ghost: List, Hamlet, O, list!Hamlet: O heaven!Ghost: Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.Hamlet: Murder?Ghost: Murder most foul, as in the best it is.But this most foul, strange and unnatural. (26–32)• In life, he was murdered, AND must be avenged36Ghost: Now, Hamlet, hear.It’s given out that, sleeping in mine orchard,A serpent stung me, so the whole ear of DenmarkIs by a forgèd process of my deathRankly abused. But know thou, noble youth,The serpent that did sting thy father’s lifeNow wears his crown.Hamlet: O, my prophetic soul! Mine uncle! (39–46)• The murderer was his brother, Claudius.Ghost: Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts –… – won to his shameful lustThe will of my most seeming-virtuous queen.O hamlet, what a falling-off was there! (47–52)• Even before the murder, Claudius had seduced the queen!Ghost: So lust, though to a radiant angel linked,Will sate itself in a celestial bed,And prey on garbage. (60–61)
1037• Hamlet senior was murdered while sleeping in the garden andwas not ready for death. Hence he exclaims:‘O horrible, O horrible, most horrible!’ (85)• The ghost forbids Hamlet to do anything against his mother(‘leave her to heaven’ 91), but Hamlet starts to wonder if hismother was complicit in the murder.38Hamlet’s dilemma• He’s been commanded to kill the reigning king.• He is to be an agent for JUSTICE, but is it?• He has been asked to commit MURDER.• What justification would he give? The words of aghost?• What should he do?• Decides to bide his time and think; find proof, find anopportunity.• He decides to put on an ‘antic’ disposition(= wild, fantastic), and makes his friends promisethey won’t give any hint that they understand why;see 1.5.184–19739There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,Than are dreamt of in our philosophy. — But come,Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,How strange or odd soe’er I bear myself —As I perchance hereafter shall think meetTo put an antic disposition on —That you, at such time seeing me, never shall[by any means hint]That you know aught of me: this not to do. (184–96)The beginning of Hamlet’s “madness”, while he thinks,reflects, decides what to do.40ACT 1 – Sets up Hamlet’s predicamentScene 1: Mysterious ghost appearsScene 2: Hamlet’s anguishScene 3: Polonius / Laertes / OpheliaScenes 4–5: The Ghost’s revelationACT 2 onwards: How does Hamlet deal with hisdiscovery and the Ghost’s call for him to take revenge?
1141ACT 2 – time has passedStructure of the PlayAct 1: takes place over about 30 hoursBREAK of about 2–3 months2.1 – 4.4: about two daysBREAK (undefined: a few weeks)4.5 — END (5.2): about 30 hours42• Ophelia tells Polonius about Hamlet’s strange behaviour• READ: 2. 1. 81–107• Hamlet seems to be saying farewell to her, but Poloniusconcludes that he has gone mad from being rejected byOpheliaAct 2, Scene 143• Polonius believes Hamlet is mad because he has beenrejected by Ophelia• Polonius tries to penetrate Hamlet’s thoughts, andHamlet uses riddles to keep him out.• His enemies can’t tell if his words mean something or arejust mad ravings.Mad from rejected love?44• Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Hamlet’s boyhoodfriends) come to spy on him.• He is becoming surrounded by spies.• Briefly he admits how bleak his thoughts are:READ 2.2. 305–323MORE SPIES
1245I have of late — but wherefore I know not — lost all mymirth, foregone all custom of exercise; and indeed itgoes so heavily with my disposition that this goodlyframe, the earth seems to me a sterile promontory, thismost excellent canopy, the air, look you, this braveo’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted withgolden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than afoul and pestilent congregation of vapours. WHat apiece of work is a man! How noble in reason, howinfinite in faculty, in form and moving how express andadmirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehensionhow like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon ofanimals — and yet to me, what is this quintessence ofdust? Man delights not me — no, nor woman neither,though by your smiling you seem to say so.(2.2. 305–23)46• Questions the meaning of life and all creation• He can see and sense the beauty of the world, but ithas lost all meaning for him.• He is cut off from that sense of beauty andmeaningfulness• One of the most beautiful and TRAGIC speeches in theplayHamlet’s Bleak View of the World47• A group of actors arrives at Elsinore – and they giveHamlet an idea. He can use their performance to testwhether Claudius is guilty or not.• Note that he admits to his worry about WHO / WHAT theghost may really be.The Actors48The spirit that I have seenMay be the devil, and the devil hath powerT’assume a pleasing shape, yea, and perhaps,Out of my weakness and my melancholyAs he is very potent with such spirits,Abuses me to damn me. I’ll have groundsMore relative than this: the play’s the thingWherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.(2. 2. 610–617)• Note his anxiety: the Ghost may be a devil sent todamn him!
1349Act 3, Scene 150• Hamlet is in a philosophical and pessimistic mood• His main question is ‘Is life worth living?’ What’s thepoint of continuing to live in a universe that doesn’t makesense?• Anticipates the writings of the Nihilists and Existentialistsby 350 years• READ: 3.1. 62–94To be, or not to be ...51• He again contemplates death by suicide• Claims that we only hold back out of fear• Contemplates all the experiences that give pain andsuffering to life• Concludes: Fear of what comes after death (possiblepunishment) has made him a coward incapable of action• Note his sense of self-loathing:‘And thus the native hue of resolutionIs sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.’• He criticises himself for not acting more resolutely.(But is he right to do so???)Hamlet’s despair52The ‘Mousetrap’: 3. 2.• Hamlet has decided that he needs to do something; heneeds to stop talking and thinking and take action• But he needs proof that Claudius is guilty;HOW / WHERE will he get it?• He has written a short scene for the actors to performin front of the court.• He is in a frenzy of excitement that leads him to sayoutrageous things. (E.g. 3. 2. 111–39)• He humiliates Ophelia, then the King and Queen.
1453Hamlet’s First Mistake• Claudius sees his own crime enacted before him,IN PUBLIC, and responds with horror.• Hamlet now has the proof he wanted, but he has alsoshown Claudius that his guilty secret is out.• Claudius now knows that Hamlet knows the secret ofthe murder.• Hamlet’s position is both strengthened and weakenedin the same moment.• Hamlet is also in a dangerous mood.• He’s now determined to be the man of action, whichmakes him emotional and unpredictable.54Hamlet discovers Claudius praying (3.3)• Act 3, Scene 3 — the DRAMATIC CENTRE ofthe play. Hamlet finds Claudius at prayer.• Will Hamlet do it now? Will he become a killer?55Will Hamlet kill Claudius?• Claudius admits his guiltNB lines 39–48: ‘O, my offence is rank …’• He tries to pray:lines 72–75: ‘Help, angels! Make assay’• The ghost was right all along!• Will Hamlet kill Claudius?• READ: 76–9856Now might I do it pat, now he is praying:And now I’ll do’t. And so he goes to heaven.And so am I revenged. That would be scanned:A villain kills my father, and for that,I his foul son, do this same villain sendTo heaven.O, this is hire and salary, not revenge.…No.Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent:When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,Or in th’incestuous pleasure of his bed,At gaming, swearing, or about some actThat has no relish of salvation in’t,Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,And that his soul may be as damned and blackAs hell, whereto it goes. (3.3.76–98)
1557Hamlet’s decision• Hamlet decides NOT to kill him – because he’spraying• He wants his revenge to be more terrible;Claudius must go to Hell• He does the RIGHT thing – but for the WRONGreason• BUT at least he doesn’t become a callousmurderer like Claudius• And yet he does kill someone …58Act 3Scene 459Hamlet’s Impulsive Mistake• Suddenly Hamlet becomes a murderer• He acts impulsively and kills someone – Polonius• He kills someone else’s FATHER• His position in the play changes• Claudius was the killer and Hamlet the ‘avenger’• Now Hamlet inspires vengeance in Laertes• Why? Because he did a stupid thing.• Tragic forces now begin to work against him• Claudius now fears him and must act fast!• Hamlet is banished to England.60A Few Weeks Later – Ophelia has gone Mad
1661• 4.4: Ophelia has lost her reason• She sings songs that refer to lost love, betrayal anddeath• What has happened to her?• She has been forced by father and brother to turnagainst Hamlet• She has been abused and traumatised by Hamlet• Hamlet kills Polonius• Ophelia’s mind disintegrates• Finally, she falls into a river and is drowned (4.6):Was it suicide?Ophelia’s descent into madness62• Is a symbol of the disintegration of the whole court:‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark’ (1.4)• Image of real madness, unlike the pretendedmadness of Hamlet• Reminder of the real power of grief and the chaoticemotions that Hamlet must have felt in 1.2• Ophelia’s fate is very sad, but it is not – in thetechnical sense – tragic• She is the victim of circumstances greater thanherselfOphelia’s madness: 4.4 / 4.6To hell, allegiance! Vows to the blackest devil!Conscience and grace to the profoundest pit!I dare damnation. To this point I stand,That both the worlds I give to negligence,Let come what comes; only I’ll be revengedMost thoroughly for my father.(4. 4. 136–41)• Laertes is prepared to throw away everything,including his soul, in order to obtain revenge• Laertes shows what the pure will for revenge is reallylikeLaertes and Revenge64• Claudius: the master of manipulation• Claudius, the ‘serpent’ (1. 5. 39) literally pouredpoison in his brother’s ear• He now speaks to Laertes (metaphorically pouringpoison into his ears)• What might he say if he wanted to calm Laertes?• READ: 4. 6. 98–112Claudius & Laertes: 4. 6
17Claud: Laertes, was your father dear to you?Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,A face without a heart?Laertes: Why ask you this?Claud: Not that I think you did not love your father,But that I know love is begun by time,And that I see, in passages of proof,Time qualifies the spark and fire of it.Hamlet comes back. What would you undertakeTo show yourself your father’s son in deedMore than in words?Laertes: To cut his throat i’th’ church.Claud: No place should murder sanctuarize;Revenge should have no bounds. But, good Laertes,Will you do this? …(4. 6. 98–112)66• Claudius plans a fencing match in which one swordwill be sharp (for Laertes).• But Laertes goes on to think of a double treason: hewill put poison his blade• Shows deliberate, planned, cold-blooded murder• This is what REVENGE really means.• We now see what Hamlet was holding back from.67• Hamlet returns and meets a gravedigger• He a stronger man, at peace with himself.• He is shown to be at peace with the idea of death –dramatised by the encounter with the gravedigger• There are numerous connections between Hamletand the gravedigger:• One of them is that the gravedigger also speaks inriddles, but they are riddles that reject anyambiguities: He speaks the absolute truth.ACT 568Hamlet: Whose grave’s this, sirrah?Clown: Mine, sir.Hamlet: I think it be thine indeed, for thou liest in it.Clown: You lie out on’t, sir, and therefore it is not yours.For my part, I do not lie in’t, and yet it is mine.Hamlet: Thou dost lie in’t, to be in’t and say ‘tis thine. ’Tis for thedead, not for the quick; therefore thou liest.Clown: ’Tis a quick lie, sir, ’twill away again from me to you.Hamlet: What man does thou dig it for?Clown: For no man, sir.Hamlet: What woman, then?Clown: For none neither.Hamlet: Who is to be buried in’t?Clown: One that was a woman, sir; but, rest her soul, she’sdead.Hamlet: How absolute the knave is. (5. 1. 119–36)
1869• The Gravedigger’s speech demonstrates that it’s atime to confront issues head on.• Hamlet is then reminded by Yorick’s skull that deathcomes to everyone.• READ: 5.1.184–19570Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio, a fellow ofinfinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borneme on his back a thousand times — and howabhorred my imagination is! My gorge rises at it.Here hung these lips that I have kissed I know nothow oft. — Where be your gibes now, your gambols,your songs, your flashes of merriment that were wontto set the table on a roar? No one now to mock yourown jeering? Quite chop-fallen? Now get you to mylady’s chamber and tell her, let her paint an inchthick, to this favour [appearance] she must come.Make her laugh at that.• The scene also implies that DEATH IS NEAR: thetragic hero is about to meet his own destiny.71• We have seen:• Hamlet is not a perfect character.• He sometimes behaves very badly.• He makes bad mistakes.• He is a flawed human being trying to make sense ofchallenging experiences.• When he speaks to Laertes before the duel, heshows that he is sincerely sorry for killing Polonius• He wants peace with Laertes – but it’s too late: thetrap has been set.The Final Confrontation 5.272Hamlet’s tragedy• Avoid referring to a ‘tragic flaw’• Hamlet delays killing Claudius because of his senseof RIGHT and WRONG• Does he contribute to his own downfall and death?• Is he responsible in some way?• At worst, he makes several mistakes:• He lets Claudius know too strongly that he knowswhat has happened• He kills Polonius in a moment of passion• He doesn’t suspect Laertes’ hatred• He doesn’t anticipate Claudius’s quickness to act
1973• Hamlet is the hero because he struggles to makesense of his situation and everything around him• He thinks about and tries to understand:– Meaning of LIFE (and DEATH)– Unfairness of LIFE– Nature of the afterlife– RESPONSIBILITIES– Nature of LOVE– RELATIONSHIPS– Political CORRUPTION– How does God’s power work on Earth• He is driven by a yearning to UNDERSTAND• He wants to understand himself, life, death, themeaning of existence74• From the start, he rejects lies, compromises, easyanswers.• Eventually this means coming to terms with deathand being ready to accept it.• He kills Claudius for killing his mother, not his father• When his own death comes, he is ready for it:If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,Absent thee from felicity awhile,And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,To tell my story. … the rest is silence.• His final desire is for his story to be known.