Ghosts, Murder, and More Murder – Hamlet Part 1

Hamlet, a play written by William Shakespeare between 1599 and 1602. Many consider this Shakespeare’s best work. It is his most famous and longest play. It has been performed since it debuted, that is a very long time. And the play lasts a long time as well, 4-6 hours. That is about the time it would take to watch Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame back to back.

There are many who get frustrated that Hamlet, the star of the show, can’t seem to make up his mind. A more apt approach would be to say he struggles to execute his vision, and by vision, I mean his uncle. While Hamlet does seem to struggle to make decisions, these aren’t decisions about what color to wear or what to eat, these are difficult, life-changing (and life-ending) decisions. Hamlet faces choices about justice and revenge and conscience and an individual’s place in the social order.

Hamlet returns from school to Elsinore. His father is, probably, murdered. His mother Gertrude marries his uncle Claudius, who immediately takes over the throne. But, Hamlet, as the son of the king, should inherit the throne. Hamlet grieves, enter the famous “To be or not to be” monologue. Then, his dead dad’s ghost asks Hamlet to avenge him by killing his killer, Claudius. So Hamlet, overwhelmed by this information (and seeing his father’s ghost and all), pretends to be insane. But then, he puts on a play, creating a play within a play. The play is supposed to guilt Claudius into confessing the murder.

After the play, Claudius is so overcome by emotion, he runs out of the play. Gertrude and Hamlet have a deep conversation in her bedroom. In the midst of the conversation, Hamlet stabs a person hiding in the curtain. Is it Claudius? No, it’s Polonius. Hamlet leaves, some more stuff happens, he returns to find Ophelia, Polonius’ daughter has committed suicide. Laertes, Ophelia’s brother is mad a Hamlet, blaming him for the death of his father and sister.

So Claudius decides Laertes and Hamlet will settle this via a fencing match. He poisons Laertes’s sword and Hamlet’s wine. Hamlet is stabbed, of course, but also is able to stab Laertes. Gertrude is the one who drinks Hamlet’s poisoned wine. So everyone is dead or dying and Hamlet finally kills Claudius. They all die.

The video gives some great historical context. The plot, without this context, would still be the plot, however, it does allow you to gain better insight into the deeper meaning Shakespeare might have intended. The video goes on to analyze that deeper meaning. It is very thoughtful and well done. John Green does speak fast, so students who have not read the play will be lost. This is in no way a replacement for reading the play, but rather a deep dive into the play’s meaning.

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