Hamlet

Hamlet

I have lately listened to Hamlet on CD, saw the first half on video and read Hamlet: Poem Unlimited, by Bloom. Bloom calls the play and characters, at least the character of Hamlet, inexhaustible. I suppose he is correct. There are dozens of words and phrases, the must rudimentary meaning of which eludes me, mostly because they are archaic. Their secondary meanings and allusions lie at a further distance. I understood more this time than in previous attempts, though.

I don’t feel too bad. Many great writers have tried to pin down the character and the play, and they disagree. One place where I humbly contradict Bloom is at Hamlet’s “to a nunnery” speech to Opehlia. I see more meaning than madness throughout Hamlet’s speeches. Claudius, Gertrude, his chums, Polonius, Laertes, all could see much truth in his words, but they choose to see the madness. Hamlet loves Ophelia, but Bloom claims that Hamlet does not love her and could not, could not love anyone. I ask: Why could his not be the speech of excessive love, deranged and made disproportionate by sadness at having to lose her because of his calling? Hamlet cherishes her and admires her naive purity so intensely he begs her to save herself. She must not go rancid like Gertrude; she must not marry and beget men who are full of sins. A nunnery would keep her. He might even prefer her eventual insanity and suicide for her, rather than the sullying of motherhood and the dishonor that is Gertrude’s.

In all of Hamlet’s speeches, even when trying to feign madness, I hear more truth than stupidity.

There is so much misapprehending the truth. Claudius misjudges. Gertrude can’t see it. Polonius is the stock jumper-to-conclusions. They read into events and word swhat they want. Polonius gives good advice to Laertes, but advises himself awry. Claudius feigns love for Hamlet. They are all dishonest, except some of the minor characters. Gertrude is pathetic, carnal, silly, shallow. Things are not as they seem, but these people prefer not to see things right.

Hamlet wonders, questions, “what is man”? “What is death?” “What is duty?”

I should really memorize some of the lines of this play. I enjoyed the audio more than the video for its diction and pacing. The staging of the video did help organize the plot for me, though.

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