(u3a) 8 Nov. : HAMLET

HAMLET  (by William Shakespeare)

Prince Hamlet  has come home to Denmark to attend his father’s funeral, and has found his mother Gertrude already remarried. The Queen has wed Hamlet’s uncle Claudius, the dead king’s brother.

When his father’s ghost visits the castle, Hamlet finds out that he was murdered by Claudius who poured poison in the old King’s  ear while he was asleep.  The ghost orders  Hamlet to avenge his death, but to spare Gertrude.

Prince Hamlet decides to devote himself to the task, but, because he is contemplative and thoughtful by nature, he delays, falling into deep melancholy and even apparent madness. But he is just pretending to be mad: in fact  he’s wearing  a mask to be able to observe the interactions in the castle

Claudius and Gertrude , trying  to discover the  cause of the prince’s strange behavior, employ a pair of  his  friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to spy on him. When Polonius, the Lord Chamberlain, suggests that Hamlet may be mad with love for his daughter, Ophelia, Claudius agrees to spy on Hamlet in conversation with the girl. But Hamlet tells Ophelia that he doesn’t love her and orders her to enter a nunnery.

Then, in order to test his uncle’s guilt, he  asks a troupe of travelling actors to perform a play called The Murder of Gonzago to which he adds a scene to portray the murder described by  the Ghost . When the moment of the murder arrives,  Claudius leaps up and leaves the room. Hamlet and his friend Horatio agree that this proves his guilt. Hamlet goes to kill him but since he finds him praying he gives up  because he believes that killing Claudius while in prayer would send his  soul to heaven,

But in his continued reluctance to kill Claudius, Hamlet actually causes  a lot of deaths. The first is Polonius, hidden  behind the tapestry  in the Queen’s private chamber  to spy on her conversation with her son. He’s stabbed by Hamlet through the fabric  because he believes it is the king who is hiding there.  Claudius exiles Hamlet  to England, with his friends  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,, who are instructed to deliver Hamlet into the English king’s hands for execution. Hamlet discovers the plot and arranges for the killing of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern instead.

Ophelia, distressed by her father’s death and Hamlet’s behaviour,  drowns in a river while singing sad love songs. The next to die is her brother, Laertes., who has returned  to Denmark from France to avenge his father’s death. Claudius, after receiving information  that the prince has returned alive to Denmark,  convinces Laertes that Hamlet is to blame for his father’s and sister’s deaths and must be killed in a duel.

During the sword fight, however, Laertes uses a poisoned blade. As a backup plan, the king has also decided to poison a glass of wine to be given Hamlet to drink.

Hamlet scores the first hit, but declines to drink from the glass . Instead, Gertrude takes the  drink and is swiftly killed by the poison. Laertes succeeds in wounding Hamlet,  but  then he drops his blade., which is retrieved by  Hamlet who cuts Laertes . As Laertes lies dying,  he confesses to Hamlet his part in the plot and explains that  Claudius is responsible for the queen’s death. Therefore Hamlet pours the last of the deadly wine down the King’s throat and  stabs him with the poisoned sword.                                                                                                                                       Claudius dies, and also Hamlet dies, immediately after achieving his revenge.

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