Friday, December 19, 2014

Hamlet Part 8: The End's Not Near, It's Here

Yes, I just named this post after an episode of The O.C. Deal with it. That show was great and I will fight anyone that says differently. Actually, I've been Christmas shopping all day, so I'll pretty much just fight anyone. Anyway, welcome to the final Hamlet post! I'm finally done with this damn play. It has taken me exactly the same amount of time to finish as a full damn novel. Sorry about that. But
The end has come, my friends. Prepare for the deaths of everyone.
there's a lot to be said about Shakespeare. Alright, on to the text.

Act 4 Scene 7

Between this scene and the last, Claudius and Laertes had their little off-screen "trial" to determine if Claudius was guilty of killing Polonius or not. Apparently, it came out favorably for Claudius because he and Laertes are totally bros now. Laertes has come to the (correct) conclusion that Hamlet killed Polonius and asks why Claudius hasn't done something about him yet. Claudius says that it's because of Gertrude, who is, you know, Hamlet's mother for Christ's sake. Also, people generally like him and would be upset if he died. Laertes begins to plot his revenge on Hamlet, which Claudius fully encourages.

Claudius is given Hamlet's letters. You know, the ones he somehow sent from a ship while being held captive by pirates. Totally a normal thing. Anyway, Claudius is confused by his letter, which says that Hamlet will be back in Denmark the following day. Claudius thinks that it must be a trick. Laertes, however, is excited because he knows he will soon have his revenge on Hamlet.

Claudius and Laertes set about planning their cunning murder of Hamlet. Claudius says that it has to look like an accident. Laertes asks if he can be the one to kill him and Claudius agrees, naturally. Claudius makes a point of asking if Laertes's grief is genuine, whether he truly loved his father. Of course, Laertes says yes. I will be really glad when I can stop trying to spell Laertes. What a fucking nightmare of a name. Claudius asks Laertes what he would be willing to do to avenge his father. Claudius wants to slit Hamlet's throat in the church. Totally normal and not at all psychotic. Claudius, who I must remind you is Hamlet's uncle and step-father, is totally cool with this, but comes up with a different plan, too. They are going to rile Hamlet up with tales of how awesome and totally sweet Laertes is. Then, Claudius is going to make a bet on Hamlet concerning who will win in a sword fight. Laertes has some magic cream that he can put on his sword so that even the slightest poke will render the pokee dead in seconds, because I guess it keeps the blood from clotting. It doesn't say that, but it's what it sounds like. Claudius then adds that he is going to poison Hamlet's drink as well, just to be sure. Which is the very definition of overkill.

Gertrude enters the scene in a woeful manner. She relays the message that Ophelia has died. Apparently, she drowned herself in the river while singing hymns. Again, totally normal. Gertrude, in her infinite wisdom, watched this happen and did literally nothing to help her. Just stood by and watched her drown. Laertes cries and blames Hamlet. Claudius tells Gertrude that he tried to calm Laertes's rage (a total lie), but it didn't work and they leave.

Act 5 Scene 1

Hokay, Now, two clowns enter the fray. These two are digging Ophelia's grave in the church yard. They discuss the fact that, because Ophelia committed suicide, she should not be entitled to a Christian burial. There is a bunch of misunderstood and mispronounced Latin in this section, because they are clowns and playing at being higher status. They come to the conclusion that she is only allowed to be buried there because she was a gentlewoman. They talk for a while, making various jokes and having a generally witty time. Hamlet and Horatio enter and the first clown sends the second clown away.

The first clown sings a weird song while Hamlet and Horatio talk. The clown throws a skull out of the grave he is digging. What kind of church yard just has skulls laying about? How do they bury people in Denmark? Just randomly? Hamlet talks to Horatio about who the skull may have belonged to. The clown throws up another skull and Hamlet makes up a story for it as well.

Hamlet finally asks the clown whose grave he is digging. The clown says it is his own. Hamlet then makes a spectacular pun, "I think it be thine, indeed, for thou liest in it." I love that line so much. Hamlet presses on, trying to get the clown to tell him who the grave is for. He establishes that it is for a woman, but they go no further. Hamlet inquires as to how long the clown has been a grave digger. He says that he has done the job since Prince Hamlet was born (obviously he doesn't know that he's speaking to Hamlet). The clown then says that Hamlet is mad and has gone to England. Hamlet, playing the fool, asks why he was sent to England. The clown tells him that it was because he was mad and he'd either recover there or no one would notice how mad he was. There is a pun filled conversation between Hamlet, Horatio, and the clown (this should come as no surprise). Hamlet asks how long a person lies in the ground before they rot (gross), and the clown says that it will take about eight or nine years, definitely nine if the corpse was a tanner. When Hamlet asks what he means, the clown tells him, "his hide is so tanned with his trade that 'a will keep out water a great while." I don't know why I find that bit so funny. The clown picks up yet another skull and hands it to Hamlet, saying that it has been there 23 years. Hamlet asks whose skull it is and the clown says that it was the former court jester, Yorick. That name should sound familiar. Hamlet lets out with the famous line, "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy." And yes, that is the inspiration for the title of the David Foster Wallace book. Hamlet talks about Yorick for a while and then tries to send Horatio to Ophelia's room and make her laugh. He asks Horatio if he thinks that Alexander the Great looks like just a skeleton now. Horatio says that yes, he totally does.  Hamlet then asks if he smells the same, too, and throws down the skull. That's not such a cool thing to do when you knew the guy, Hamlet. He was all waxing philosophical about the nature of life like six seconds ago and now he couldn't care less. Hamlet talks to Horatio about where people end up after they die, about how the remnants of their bodies end up being used. He asks, specifically, if the dust of Alexander the Great could somehow end up plugging a whole in a beer barrel. A noble resting place for anyone, I would say.

Suddenly, a funeral procession enters. Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, and a shit ton of other randoms enter with Ophelia's corpse. Hamlet doesn't know that it is Ophelia, he just knows that it was a woman who killed herself. Hamlet and Horatio hide as the procession draws nearer. Laertes talks to a priest. The priest doesn't want to bury Ophelia in the church yard because of how she died. We have been over this, but Shakespeare really likes to beat a dead horse. The priest says that it is profane and that her grave deserves to be desecrated. Kind of a rude and totally unchristian thing to say to someone whose sister has literally JUST died. During this conversation, Hamlet realizes that it is Ophelia who is being buried and is understandably upset. Laertes makes a big show of how upset HE is, jumping into Ophelia's grave to embrace her one last time (creepy). Hamlet comes out of his
Claudius and Laertes to Hamlet, probably.
hiding place to confront Laertes about how showy he is being and they get into a fist fight at the grave side. Totally a classy royal funeral. They are pulled apart and Hamlet tells Laertes that he loved Ophelia more than Laertes did and Hamlet challenges him further about his display of melodrama. Gertrude says that Hamlet is mad and Hamlet leaves. Claudius tells Laertes to be patient for the right time to kill Hamlet, then leaves with Gertrude.

Act 5 Scene 2

Cue the mood lighting and ominous music, it all ends here.

Hamlet and Horatio are chilling. Hamlet is telling Horatio about what happened with the pirates. He wants to tell the story in a specific way, so that people won't think ill of him. He wants to make it seem like he is the good guy, so that he will be remembered well. He tells Horatio that he was on the ship with R+G and that he found a letter from Claudius saying that Hamlet is to die in England. He then gives the letter to Horatio as proof. He tells Horatio that he then sat down and wrote he own letter from the King saying that R+G are the ones that should be killed, not Hamlet. He goes on to say that it was their own fault. He's making excuses for what he did. He wants so badly to be the good guy in this situation. They go on for a while about what a shitty person Claudius is, Hamlet calls his mother a whore, and Hamlet is just generally pissed off.

A courtier named Osric arrives with a message for Hamlet. He tells Hamlet that Claudius has wagered on a sword fight between Hamlet and Laertes. Remember, this is part of the plot to murder Hamlet. Osric goes on and on about how great and wonderful Laertes is (again, part of the plan). There is a lengthy exchange between Hamlet and Osric concerning the weather, where Osric agrees to whatever Hamlet says, regardless of how contradictory it is. Osric is being shown as a young Polonius - an up and coming yes-man. Osric tells Hamlet about what has been wagered (six horses from Claudius vs. three French swords from Laertes) and what the sword fight must consist of. Claudius has bet that in a dozen passes of sword play, Hamlet will not be hit more than three times. Hamlet agrees because he knows that Claudius is trying to kill him and wants to use this opportunity to do some revenge killing himself. Hamlet, despite being out of practice, says that he is ready to go whenever.

Claudius, Gertrude, and Laertes enter with some other people and they get this show on the road. Hamlet gets the first point, and Claudius throws a poisoned pearl into Hamlet's wine and implores him to drink. Hamlet doesn't because he's busy. Hamlet gets another point, then Gertrude says that Hamlet is sweaty and tries to wipe his brow. She then drinks to him out of Hamlet's glass, inadvertently poisoning herself. Her husband, sitting right there, does nothing to stop her. Hamlet refuses to drink with her, again because he's in the middle of a damn sword fight. Laertes wounds Hamlet with his sword (which you will remember is poisoned with something that makes you bleed to death). They scuffle and somehow trade swords. Hamlet then wounds Laertes with the poisoned blade, dooming them both. At this point, Gertrude falls to the ground. Laertes notes that he has been poisoned by his own treachery. Gertrude tells Hamlet that the drink is poisoned and immediately dies. Laertes admits what he had done, that he has poisoned them both with the blade and says that Claudius is to blame for the poisoning. Hamlet, understandably, stabs Claudius with the poisoned blade saying, "Then, venom, to thy/work." The crowd chants treason at Hamlet, and Claudius asks the crowd to help him. Hamlet forces Claudius to drink from the poisoned glass and says, "Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane,/Drink off this potion. Is they union here?/Follow my mother." Claudius immediately dies.

Laertes asks for Hamlet's forgiveness and says Claudius's death was just. He tells Hamlet that his death and Polonius's death were not Hamlet's fault and that Hamlet's eventual death isn't Laertes's fault, then dies. Hamlet asks Horatio to tell his story, but Horatio has other plans. He tries to drink from the poison cup in order to stay with Hamlet. Hamlet takes the cup from him and they hear soldiers marching outside.

I'm really happy I get to use this gif.
Fortinbras has arrived just in time to see the entire Danish royal family dead. Hamlet tells Horatio that his vote for future leader of Denmark goes to Fortinbras. Now they vote for a king? I don't think that's how monarchy works.... Hamlet gives Fortinbras his dying vote, then dies on the best death line around "the rest is silence."

Fortinbras is understandably confused as to why everyone is super dead except Horatio. Horatio
begins to tell the tale of what just happened (per Hamlet's instructions). One of the dudes with Fortinbras says that they came to Denmark to say that R+G are dead. Horatio tells Fortinbras about how Hamlet said Fortinbras should be King. Fortinbras says the Hamlet was honorable and deserves a soldier's burial. Everyone who is still alive starts dragging the dead off stage as soldiers start a 1600s Danish 21 gun salute.


So a shit load of things just happened. Mainly, nearly all the main characters died. It is a Shakespearean tragedy, after all. This is how those tend to end. The main thing to glean from this is the way that everyone's planning and scheming came back to bite them in the ass. If Hamlet had just done something instead of planning and chickening out in the beginning, he would have survived the play. If Claudius had just punished Hamlet justly for killing Polonius, Claudius would have survived the play. If Claudius and Polonius hadn't been plotting again Hamlet from the beginning, Polonius and Ophelia would have both survived the play. Gertrude is the lone anomaly. She's the only one who was an innocent bystander. She just kinda died, much like Romeo's mother in Romeo and Juliet, which I'm not going to read for you because it's fucking awful. Worst play ever, mainly because people grossly misunderstand it. But back to the matter at hand. This is, for the most part, a cautionary tale about where inaction will get you. It will get you dead. Because these characters didn't act when they should have, they all died in horrible ways. Let that be a lesson to you.

I'm going to be taking next week off for Christmas (see, I warned you this time). I'm hoping to be getting a new book for Christmas. I asked for House of Leaves, because that sounds like an awesome, trippy book. So hopefully, we will start that in the new year! Everyone have a great holiday, whichever one you celebrate. Or if you don't celebrate anything, have a happy day. Enjoy yourself. Kick back. Drink some wine. Whatever. I'm not your boss.

Until Next Time, Happy Reading.

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