Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hamlet Part 1: Yes, I'm Actually Reading This for Fun

It's time to read some actual classical literature! I know you're all thrilled, as well you should be. I fucking love Shakespeare. Shakespeare is the writer of some pretty great puns, dick jokes, and wholesale lunacy, all of which are evidenced in this ridiculous but very serious play. We'll go slowly, so as not to overwhelm.

Act 1 Scene 1

At the beginning, there is a slow introduction of characters. A few guards are introduced, firstly Bernardo and Francisco. Francisco is coming to release Bernardo from duty for the night. Bernardo leaves after telling Bernardo to look out for Horatio and Marcellus. Horatio is a friend of Hamlet and Marcellus is another guard. Suddenly, as if on cue, Horatio and Marcellus appear. There are greetings and then Francisco leaves. None of this is very important. 

After Bernardo takes his leave, the others begin talking about an apparition they have seen the last
Even the captions think this is dumb.
couple of nights. Bernardo starts to tell the story when the apparition suddenly appears!  Bernardo tells Horatio to try to speak to it because "Thou art a scholar." Basically, 'you went to college. You go talk to it." Weird logic, but okay. The really weird this is: it works. Horatio actually tries to speak to the ghost. I don't know what kind of college Horatio went to, but I'm pretty sure 'ghost-whispering' wasn't part of the coarse work. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't work. The ghost walks off and Marcellus tells Horatio he offended it. I guess his schooling wasn't as great as previously thought. Horatio calls after it but Marcellus bursts his bubble with "'Tis gone and will not answer." Yeah, the only reason the ghost won't speak to you is because you offended it and it left, Horatio. Duh.
My thoughts, exactly.
Bernardo then asks Horatio why he's so pale. "Is not this something more than fantasy?" Dude, it wasn't real, that thing we all saw and we were literally just talking about having seen on multiple occasions. Chill out. Marcellus then says that the ghost looked like the King (whose name is also Hamlet). Horatio confirms very elaborately that yes, it was the King. He goes on to say that Denmark (where they all live, which you probably knew) is at war with Norway. That sounds like a very polite, blonde war. The King of Norway was named Fortinbras, but he's dead. He has a son also named Fortinbras because one Fortinbras per play is simply not enough. He's a shady cat and is bad in a general sort of way. This why everyone is on guard, because they assume that Fortinbras Jr. is going to attack them. Just then, the ghost reappears and these people start making even more interesting choices. Horatio tries to speak with it again, but it won't reply, so Marcellus asks if he should stab it. For some reason, this seems like a logical thing to do, so Horatio says yes and they all start stabbing at a ghost. What the actual fuck? These people are nuts, I'm fairly positive. For some reason unbeknownst to them, this doesn't work as a means to solicit a response from a spirit, and it takes off. At this point, Marcellus makes the rightful conclusion that stabbing the ghost was probably not the greatest choice. Horatio says that it wasn't the stabbing, but the crowing of a rooster that scared it away. Yep, totally not the stabbing. That was still the best course of action. Horatio then concludes that they should tell Hamlet, son of the dead King about all this ghosty nonsense. 

Act 1 Scene 2

Here we see the New King (Claudius), Queen Gertrude, a few councilmembers, Polonius (councillor [sic] to the King), Polonius's son, Laertes (well done, Polonius, for not naming your son after yourself), Hamlet (the prince, not the dead king, and the actual fucking crazy main character of this play), and few of Hamlet's friends.

Claudius gives some back story of what the fuck happened to make him King. Claudius is the former king Hamlet's brother. He married Gertrude, who was Hamlet's queen in order to become King. He doesn't explicitly say that, but it's true. Why Prince Hamlet didn't automatically become King after his father died, I have no idea. He makes a long speech about how marrying Gertrude was both joyous and sad because of King Hamlet's death and couldn't sound more like a dick while doing it. Especially since he is in front of his stepson/nephew. He gives Hamlet's friends an assignment for the war and sends them away. Claudius then asks Laertes what's up with him. Laertes asks if he can go back to France, having only come back to Denmark "to show my duty in your coronation" (because I had to see you become King). I'm sure that's not intended to sound snarky, but from today's perspective, it really does. So I'm going to roll with that, because it makes this passage way more funny. Claudius asks if he has his father's permission and Polonius says he does. He then gives Laertes leave to go back to France.
This is why I shouldn't read with a hi-lighter in my hand.

Claudius now turns his attention to Hamlet, who is probably looking sullenly at the floor, mocking everything the King says under his breathe. He just seems like that kind of dude. Anyway, Claudius makes reference to the weird relationship he now has with Hamlet. Hamlet responds with a sarcastic "a little more than kin, and less than kind." He's making reference to the fact they are now more closely related, but he doesn't like the guy. It's also a pun on kind having dual meanings of affectionate and lawful. Not his greatest pun, but it works. Claudius asks why Hamlet is being sullen. Hamlet says he's not being "too much in the sun." The sun being the light of the king's favor. It's also a pun on sun/son. Hamlet loves puns. And who can blame him?

Gertrude then says that his sullen nature is because Hamlet is still mourning for his father. She then tells him to knock it off, that everyone dies that it's common. Hamlet then uses a pun on 'common' to
Sick burn, Hamlet.
call his mother a whore (common is often used as a euphemism for prostitute). Nice guy, that Hamlet. Gertrude doesn't respond to the insult, but asks why he's taking his father's death so personally. Hamlet goes on a pun-filled rant and concludes that he's sad. Claudius then tells Hamlet that he's sweet for being so upset of his father, but it makes him look weak and dumb. "...'Tis unmanly grief/It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,/A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,/An understanding simple and unschooled." Claudius could not be being a bigger dick about this.

Gertrude then asks Hamlet to not return to his schooling at Wittenberg. For some reason, Hamlet says he will stay. Probably because he makes terrible choices, but almost certainly because the rest of the play wouldn't happen if he left. Claudius tells him that he is a good boy and everyone but Hamlet leaves.

At this point, Hamlet is alone. He takes this opportunity to contemplate suicide, as he will again and again in this play. He goes on to say that it hasn't even been two month's since his father died, which makes everything that just took place so much worse. He curses his mother for being wicked and marrying her dead husband's brother within a month of his death. "Frailty, thy name is woman!" he interrupts his own thought with one of the most famous lines in the English language. He says that his new stepfather is nothing like his real father, but his heart is breaking because he can't say anything about it. Soon, he will change his mind on that last bit. 

Horatio, Marcellus, and Bernardo approach Hamlet and tell him about the ghost. Hamlet asks what Horatio is doing there. Horatio tells him that he came for the King's funeral. "I prithee, do not mock me, fellow student;/I think it was to see my mother's wedding." The claws are coming out. They talk about the dead King for a while and then Horatio tells Hamlet about the ghost and how it looked just like the King. Hamlet concludes that he will go see for himself that night. He says that, if it is the King's ghost, it will surely talk to him. I would love to know where these people are getting these ideas about talking to ghosts. He bids everyone farewell and then talks to himself for a bit. He says that, if his father's ghost is wandering about, there must have been some foul play associated with his death. He then leaves the stage.


I'm very excited about Shakespeare.
Obviously, Shakespeare is pretty dense. All this shit happened in the span of 6 pages. To be fair, they are huge pages, but still. There was a lot of information in there. Um... I don't really have much to say about what just went down. Once you unpack the language a bit, it's fairly straight forward. Unpack? Now I sound like every English Lit. professor. Well, does anyone have any questions? Comments? Small drawings of unicorns? Please let me know in the comments. 

I'm really excited to finally be able to talk about Shakespeare. I love this shit and most people just gloss over when I start talking about it. Now I have a captive, faceless audience whom I can more until my little heart is content. Lovely.

Until next time, Happy Reading.

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