The Death of Hamlet (and why I cared)

Whether or not you like Shakespeare, you have to admit that he wrote some great lines. Gems like;

“To be, or not to be: that is the question.”

“Frailty, thy name is woman!”

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

“To die, to sleep – To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come… ”

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

Lines that all happen to come from Hamlet. That terribly morose play that I have fallen head over heels with. I don’t pretend to understand every word that was said, but the words I did understand I listened to with bated breath. At least, until Little Miss Ophelia opened her mouth. (get some brains woman!)

At first look, the play seems awful. All about a man who loses his father, and is trying to exact revenge upon his uncle (reverse Star Wars anyone?). There is death, madness, false friends, and lots and lots of self pity. Usually, I stay away from such melodrama. But hey, it was Shakespeare, and why not?

From the first word I was hooked. My eyes never strayed from the screen where the tale unfolded. You couldn’t have pulled me away with a team of horses until the final word was uttered and the curtain fell.

I had to ask myself, why would such a dark tale enthrall me so much? Why would I find my thoughts drifting back to the story again and again the next day?

The plot was not what drew me to the play. It was not so twisty that I couldn’t figure out what was happening next. (I also knew the end before I watched it *cough*) The characters around Hamlet varied from mostly interesting to groan worthy. It wasn’t their witty banter that kept me glued to my chair. It was the main character, Hamlet.

His struggle to bring about revenge on his father would not have been that interesting if he had not been such a compelling person. Hamlet was a hurting mess who procrastinated, blamed himself, wallowed in self pity, fell in love, and tried to do right by his father. He loved deeply and hated with all of his being.

Stripped away of all the wit, the ghosts, and the madness. Hamlet is a story of a young man whose father has died. A man he looked up to and adored with all of his being. Hamlet is hurting, and he cannot understand why the rest of the world is able to blithely go on like his father never existed.

Then he finds out that his father was taken away from him on purpose. Someone chose to do away with his father in order to advance their own ends. Much of the play is him asking why. Why on earth would anyone choose to do away with someone so wonderful?

You follow Hamlet through his inner struggles as tries to find a way to proceed. As he rages against those who did this to his father, yet feels helpless to do anything about it. Those struggles make him so real and raw that I could not help but be on his side. Whether I agree with revenge or not, I know what it is like to wonder why a loved one is so suddenly gone.

At his core, Hamlet is a person who wants answers to the hard questions. Why did his father die and his uncle live on? Why do we love one person and not another? How can the world forget a person so good so quickly? Why are men so afraid of death?

This vulnerability in a character is what drew me into the play and swept me through the good and bad of it. By the time the end of the tale had come and (spoiler alert) Hamlets death was near, I was rooting for him. Hoping that he would succeed in the goal he had worked so hard to grasp. He had lost everything in the pursuit of this one all encompassing thing.

By the end of the play, he truly had lost everything, including his own life. But he had completed his quest, and went to his final rest knowing that he had been a son worthy of his father. And that was all he had really wanted anyway.

Nope, I am not going to cry. I refuse.

I know this kind of play is not everyone’s cup of tea, so I won’t end with an entreaty that you go watch it right now. Instead, I will end with a bit from one of Hamlets monologues.

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death-
The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns- puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of?

Shaina Merrick

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