Today’s Classic of the Week is probably my favourite Shakespeare play, and certainly one of the most famous. One of the reasons I love it so much is that David Tennant (the best Doctor ever) performed as the lead character a couple years ago and did an amazing job. Also, I just love the style of play. It’s a revenge tragedy, but instead of having a blind desire for revenge, the hero is a university student who would much rather be studying than trying to kill his uncle. The play is….
Almost everyone will know the basic plot of Hamlet. Two months before the play starts, Hamlet’s Uncle Claudius kills his father and marries his mother, becoming king of Denmark. Hamlet isn’t very happy about this, but when his father’s ghost appears to him and tells him it was murder, he decides to get revenge. The problem is, he’s not sure if the ghost is telling the truth. So he gets some actors to put on a play of the murder to see if Claudius will look guilty. Claudius ends up leaving halfway because he can’t stand to hear it, so Hamlet is sure that Claudius is a murderer. Then, due to some complications that I couldn’t mention earlier, Hamlet ends up getting in a fencing match with another young man at court, and, thanks to a lot of poison, everyone ends up dying.
|Hamlet creeps up behind Claudius while he's praying|
Then it takes a good long while before Hamlet actually decides to kill Claudius. Hamlet has several opportunities to get revenge but he decides to wait for two main reasons. First of all, he’s not sure that Claudius did in fact kill his father and he wants to be sure before he kills someone. Secondly, he chooses not to kill his uncle while he’s praying because he wants the uncle to go to hell, not heaven. This may sound really cruel, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. After all, Hamlet thinks that his father was murdered without time for prayer, sending him to purgatory. If Hamlet kills his uncle only to send him to Heaven, then that’s not revenge at all.
|Hamlet and Ophelia|